The New Jersey Devils’ season has started out almost as bad as it could. After blowing a three goal lead to the lowly Edmonton Oilers, eventually losing in a shootout, the season could spiral out of control.
The team is at the start of a five game Canadian road trip that could bring the locker room together, or put them in a huge hole. The road trip seemed like it would be off to a great start at the beginning of the third period Monday night in Edmonton. Fast forward about five minutes and that’s when things began to turn.
Captain Bryce Salvador take a delay of game penalty, leading to a power play goal for young Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. A whole six minutes later the Devils and head coach Pete DeBoer watched a three goal lead evaporate to a one goal deficit. If not for a lucky bounce with Martin Brodeur pulled, the Devils don’t even earn a pity point.
Now instead of starting off the trip on the right foot, New Jersey has a daunting task of going to Vancouver on the tail end of a back to back trying to earn their fist victory of the season. In a season where losing is not an option, starting off 0-3 (0-1-2) is not going to cut it when you don’t have a first round pick (due to the Kovalchuk penalty).
Now the team leans on new goaltender Cory Schneider, in a much publicized game against his former teammates.
The question remains. What is wrong with these guys? The Devils have blown three leads, in three games. Monday night’s game comes as no surprise in the Pete Deboer era, as seemingly every big lead the team has under his guidance disappears.
Sitting in the press box for the first three games of the season is Mark Fayne, a solid young defenseman, who is big and can move the
puck out of the zone, better than anybody on the team, and near the top in the NHL.
Playing in his place are journeyman Peter Harold, who to his credit hasn’t been that bad, and Anton Volchencov. The pairing gave up a couple of goals in last night’s game to fuel the Oiler comeback. One can’t help but think, why are both of these guys playing? And why they are playing more than Adam Larrson?
Volchencov is the Devil’s highest paid defenseman, and easily the worst contract on the team. He can’t clear the puck, he’s slow and handles speed worse than anybody I have ever seen. Yet Peter DeBoer continues to go to him in crunch time and continues to give him playing time over Fayne.
Pete DeBoer has to make several more changes, including his system after holding a big lead. I get that you don’t want to change the whole system around, but it doesn’t work when playing with a lead. It results in giving up odd man rushes and leaves the forwards caught in deep.
Every team in the NHL plays back with a lead, including the highly powered Pittsburgh Penguins, so there is no excuse why with the Devils’ offense playing a system like that with a lead.
Another thing that has to change is the way he put together lines, and doesn’t have his best face off man taking them. Last night the Devils had a miserable 39% face off percentage. David Perron and scored the tying goal directly off a lost face off.
Another change that has to be made is the forward position. You have a guy in Jacob Josefson that is a first round pick and has played better than anybody on the team in preseason sitting next to Mark Fayne in the press box. next to them you have Radislav Olesz who also played very well in the preseason. Playing in their place is Stephen Gionta, who has not shown anything this year to this point.
Last year the Devils refused to make changes until it was too late, and they collapsed and missed the playoffs. That falls on the coaching staff, as well as blowing a three goal lead in six minutes, and not using your timeout.
Pete DeBoer and the Devils have to make some changes before it’s too late. They have no draft pick to lean on this year.