The New Jersey Devils are not known as a power play threat, but a top penalty killing team. This year has been a disappointment for both.
The Devils have been frustrated on special teams this year. The power play is stagnant similar to last season and the penalty kill is putting up alarming numbers. They are ranked 26th in the NHL for penalty kill percentage with 76.5 percent, a very large decrease from the top ranked 89.6 percent penalty kill just a year ago.
Over the last nine games the devils have allowed 13 goals in 32 penalty kill opportunities (59 percent). What the Devils are continuing to do wrong is over committing to a side. For example, in last nights 4-2 loss to Winnipeg, Jacob Josefson over-comitted to one side leaving Grant Clitsome wide open at the point to take the puck and score. John Hedberg had little chance to make the save as the defense gave no help to the net minder.
This also happened in the very first game of the year when three Devils went down into the corner allowing New York Islander’s defenseman Travis Hamonic alone in the slot to score a goal. However, the Devils won that game unlike Sunday. This all comes with the understanding of taking chances to get the puck out of the zone, but the Devils have been doing this too much lately.
Teams are figuring out how to get open on the power play against the Devils, enabling them to score plenty of goals. Another problem the Devils are having is turning it over in the defensive zone. This is crucial for killing penalties. Turnovers are haunting the Devils right now, leading to many goals allowed.
The Devils’ penalty killers need to work on positioning and clearing the puck efficiently over the next few days. On a positive note, the Devils do lead the NHL in shorthanded goals again with four. The Devils led the NHL last year with a total of 15.
A weak spot for the Devils, the power play, has gone dry lately going 2 for 20 over the last five games (10 percent). The Devils just cannot get anything going on the power play. Some blame the loss of Zach Parise, or the lack of talent, but the problem is they are too predictable and look for the perfect shot. The Devils need to focus on putting the pucks on net during the power play.
Many powerplays have gone without a single shot. Instead of sitting there waiting for the perfect shot to open up. Another problem is getting set up. The Devils seem to have trouble entering the offensive zone and maintain possession. They are also lacking diversity, the Devils continue to look for the one-timer from Ilya Kovalchuk or the cross through the crease.
Movement of the puck, cycling, and continuing to shoot are all important for the Devils to do on the power play. With that said, New Jersey’s power play percentage has increased by one percent since last year (18.2 percent from 17.2 percent). Hopefully there are more improvements to come.
The Devils look to snap their losing streak and special teams drought as they play their second game of the home-and-home series against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday. The Devils should be well rested having three days of rest.