Winners of two in their last ten, Devils fans are starting to inch closer and closer to slamming that panic button. Similar to the start we had seen out of the Devils last year, they started off hot, seeming to have turned the corner, only to fall flat on their face since then. Did anyone think the Devils were Stanley Cup Contenders this year? Obviously not. But were they expected to be better than this brand of hockey currently? Absolutely. This Devils team isn’t perfect. They once again have a bottom three powerplay in the league; their play among defensemen has dropped off significantly, and slow starts. I can’t tell promise that this team will rebound from this stretch, but I can make sense of the madness.

The Powerkill

In the two years with coach Mark Recchi at the helm, the Devils powerplay put together a combined 13.9% success rate. Surprisingly enough, the Devils have gotten worse on the powerplay, although having acquired Dougie Hamilton, one of the best powerplay quarterbacks in the league. Before their most recent game against Winnipeg, the Devils had been 0-18 on the powerplay. Their last goal came against the Rangers on November 14th. When watching the dysfunctional powerplay, the most noticeable flaw is the puck movement. You don’t have to watch the Oilers or the Rangers on the powerplay to understand moving the puck quickly on the powerplay is the biggest driver in success. Opportunity after opportunity, the Devils have no urgency. There is only one way to get players out of position, and it seems as if the Devils haven’t figured that out yet. Not to mention, their second powerplay unit has two guys in Severson and Subban who are momentum killers on it. P. K’s shot isn’t the same as it was, yet he continues to beg for the puck just to shoot a knuckler wide of the net. As for Severson, he has never had success on the powerplay when he’s on it, why continue trying him on it? The Devils need to switch it up coaching-wise. They may not have all the sharpshooters in the world, but the percent at which it’s operating now isn’t acceptable.

Defensive Liabilities

Just in the last week, each Devils defenseman has made a play or two that they’d like to throw in the incinerator. As for Ty Smith, he’d want to throw his whole season into it. The rookie phenom from last year is going through quite the sophomore year slump. Countless times this year has Smith made costly turnovers such as the one in the Blue Jackets or Kings game. On top of that, he’s been outmuscled multiple times in front of the net. As for the Subban Siegenthaler pairing, it seems as if it were only a dream. The play between the two has dropped off considerably, and Siegenthaler’s play is responsible for it. When the pairing was working, Jonas was carrying P.K. defensively, and Subban could take risks passing. However, the two have fallen down to earth because of Siegenthaler’s stretch of bad play. Even Ryan Graves has had a bad stretch, just look at the film from Thursday’s game in Minnesota, where he got burnt by Kaprizov. The Devils’ d-men have been allowing an excess number of chances around the net, and as a result, have given up 18 goals in their last three games.

What is a timeout

With Jack Hughes coming back, the vibe around the fanbase felt as if the Devils season was saved, and they were on their way to a fourth Stanley cup. Instead, they’ve been outscored 18-8 in the three games since his return. Also, in those past three games, the Devils have been down to start the game in a blink of an eye. Having been down 4-0, 3-0, and 3-0, at one point in all those games, not one timeout was called, nor was there ever any push back. In Saturday’s game against Winnipeg, they were down 3-0 not even ten minutes into the first. In this recent stretch, when giving up the first goal, the Devils are 0-5, with nine first-period goals allowed. Night in night out, we hear the same schpeel from Coach Ruff, claiming they got out-worked, but at what point does that lack of effort fall on either the coach, the leaders, and or the locker room culture.

A look ahead to next week

Next week’s slate of games for the Devils is much easier than last week’s. But that isn’t saying much if they’re going to give the same effort. In their upcoming three-game homestand, the Devils play the 8th place Senators on Monday, the 7th place Flyers on Wednesday, another John Hynes revenge game with the Predators on Friday, and a trip to the Islanders new barn on Saturday.

 

“Photo: James Carey Lauder USA TODAY Sports”

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