The New Jersey Devils are entering a two game home-and-home set with the Carolina Hurricanes tonight having lost their last two games. The success that had followed them out to the West Coast and continued on that trip, abandoned them in their last game, a lackluster performance against the Winnipeg Jets.
Now, I think it should be noted that the Devils have played well overall during this recent stretch of games, and they have definitely demonstrated many good qualities entering these next two pivotal games with the Hurricanes. I also understand that they have been dealing with the loss of players due to an assortment of injuries; which is difficult for a team with limited depth on the roster or in the minor league system to overcome.
However, every team has to deal with injuries at some point during a long hockey season, and they have to learn to adapt and move forward. The issues that have presented themselves in the loss to the San Jose Sharks and the loss to the Jets can be dealt with through some adjustments. The Devils will need to make some adjustments going into Carolina this evening to avoid a third consecutive loss.
In my view, the biggest issue for New Jersey at this point is that they fall behind very early in games and they do not have the offensive firepower to climb back into the game and shift the momentum with the time remaining.
We, as Devils fans, have seen it often in the games that they lose, they fall behind 2-0 or 3-0 and they end up losing by final scores of 2-1 or 3-2. New Jersey has to make some adjustments defensively to try to avoid going into a deficit so early in games. The goaltending could also be partially responsible in this regard as well, whether it is Martin Brodeur or Cory Schneider, it seems to have been an issue for both of them. I think they both can review the tape on the goals allowed and make adjustments accordingly.
The fact of the matter is that every team plays differently coming from behind than playing with a lead in a game. The Devils seem to press when they are behind and that leaves them vulnerable to a mistake that could break the game open for their opponent.
Then, at other points this season, New Jersey has become too tentative with the puck trailing in these games. The players are too patient and are trying to create the conditions for a perfect scoring opportunity which is not there. In attempting to do that, they are prone to losing the possession of the puck to the opposition with nothing to show for it. That has to change moving forward.
Dump and Chase
The Devils have employed the dump and chase method of the game so often in their recent games it is maddening. I know Head Coach Peter DeBoer is a proponent of this method, but you have to know when to change offensive methods to better fit the situation.
The dump and chase method cannot work when the Devils are a slower team than their opponent, the Jets are a faster team, and Evander Kane is one of the fastest players in the NHL. It did not make sense for them to utilize that so many times against the Jets, it led to turnovers on puck possession and Kane also eventually netted a goal.
The Devils need to be less predictable offensively and they need to make adjustments to attack the seams of the defense. They also need to get pucks down low inside the circles to press for scoring chances.
Power Play Woes
I have been critical of the Devils for this since last season, and it continues to be an issue: they over rotate the puck on the power play. New Jersey passes too much on the man advantage trying to set up the best potential scenario to score, and the opponent ends up clearing the zone and killing the advantage.
The Devils also pass the puck far too frequently back to the point position of the power play. They passed the puck to the point so many times against the Jets it was unbelievable. The strategy of the power play unit has to be adjusted where instead of passing the puck back to the point, the Devils need to get deeper into the defensive end of their opposition.
A variety of methods can be used to accomplish this adjustment, but they would convert more power play opportunities if they would be creative in attacking the net and shooting more in those situations.
The bright spot here is the play of Eric Gelinas on the power play, he is responsible for one of the points, and he seems to always make the correct choice with the puck. That is a great attribute for such a young player.
The Devils are showing a propensity for being a “shoot second” team. They are all looking to pass the puck during five-on-five situations as well. New Jersey passed up on so many open shots against the Jets, they all seemed very unsure of themselves offensively, with the exception of Jaromir Jagr. He has been fairly aggressive in taking shots and taking the lead offensively, which is a role the Devils need more players to embrace.
Jagr also carries the puck through the neutral zone very well, and maintains possession when exiting the Devils defensive third of the ice.
The unselfishness of the team can work to their advantage at times, but it also can be a detriment if they do not take advantage of open shooting lanes. The Devils ended up playing a style of game that accentuated everything that the Jets can do well, which is not the strategy you need to win a hockey game.
The Devils need to shoot the puck in even strength situations and crash the net to get rebounds for goals. They did that more often during the recent stretch of games where they had winning results, and they need to return to that approach.
The Devils are capable of winning at least one of these two games against Carolina if they play smart, do not fall behind early, and shoot more often rather than wait for the perfect scoring chance. Enjoy the game Devils Army and Happy Thanksgiving!