New Jersey Devils Recent String Of Success Isn’t Sustainable Without Change


If last night’s whomping at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens was anything, let’s hope it was a wake up call to the coaching staff and the players. Those kind of beat downs are going to happen more and more if the New Jersey Devils don’t make some changes and start playing a better brand of hockey in front of their goalies. Yes, the Devils have had some nice success lately in the standings – 4-1-1 in the last six – but you need to look past the record and actually see how they are playing on the ice. The month of January is a good indication how you can play subpar and still succeed almost entirely thanks to goaltending.

Let’s look at the New Jersey Devils’ most recent five game homestand where they went 4-0-1. On the surface, it looks like they played some great hockey and got the results they deserved. However, if you watch the games, the Devils were lucky to be in most of them. Here is a tweet from Devils’ beat writer Tom Gulitti about that homestand:

How do you get outshot by 67 in five games and still manage to get nine of ten points? Cory Schneider, Cory Schneider, Keith Kinkaid, Cory Schneider and Cory Schneider that’s how. Devils’ goaltending has been carrying this team all season, even when they weren’t having much success. Schneider and Kinkaid have both taken their game to another level in recent weeks which has given the Devils an actual chance to win. On the homestand, Cory Schneider made four starts and gave up five goals… all that while facing 127 shots (or almost 32 shots a game). In those four games, the Devils had just 73 shots (or about 18 a game). Outshot by double digits most nights and still succeeding is not a sustainable practice.

Feb 7, 2015; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec (14) celebrates his goal against New Jersey Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid (1) with teammates during the third period at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The shots are nice to look at and see just how badly the discrepancy is, but it’s more than that. It seems to be an organizational philosophy to do as little as possible to win. The other day GM/Head Coach Lou Lamoriello talked to Tom Gulitti about the Devils not scoring much. You can read here what he had to say in full, but here’s what I took away from it. How can the GM/HC come out and say “We don’t worry about scoring here. We just worry about scoring more goals than the team we play against.”?? I get what he’s saying, that as long as you win then it doesn’t really matter if you score two goals or four. I just totally disagree with that. It’s fine to win a few games 1-0 or 2-1, but that’s not sustainable. Defense and goaltending are pillars to build your team on and a great way to win games, but in today’s NHL you need to score goals and to do that shots are paramount. Why settle for two goals on 15 shots when you can score four on 30?

The logic Lamoriello was talking about is relying on your goaltending to be perfect every night which it’s not going to be. Cory Schneider is on an amazing stretch right now, but he will get worn down if he doesn’t get some more goal support that allows him to breathe. Just because a team is offensive, that doesn’t mean they have to sacrifice defense to achieve that. The Nashville Predators are in the top five in both goals per game and goals against per game. Meanwhile the Devils are 17th in goals against per game (2.64) while they sit 27th in goals per game (2.33). Then there’s shots per game where the Devils are 29th (24.1) while they give up over 30 a game. It’s no secret why the Devils have had such a terrible season.

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On top of the poor play on the ice and the questionable organizational philosophies, there’s the lineup decisions that leave you scratching your head – well at least I am. First off, how does Jordin Tootoo get power play time over Adam Henrique? Am I living in a parallel universe where it makes more sense to use your enforcer on the PP over one of your leading scorers? Is it really a surprise they’ve scored just one PPG in the last six games? Then there’s the fact Dainius Zubrus is on a line with Mike Cammalleri and Jaromir Jagr, two of the Devils’ best forwards. Zubrus has seven(!!) points this season in 45 games. Finally we have Eric Gelinas getting scratched in favor of Peter Harrold and Mark Fraser, one guy who started the season with a demotion to Albany and another who wasn’t even a part of the organization in October.

Even with the putrid display on the ice, the “do as little as possible” mentality and odd lineup decisions the Devils were still able to find success. Goaltending is a wonderful thing to have, and the Devils have a great duo to count on, but you can’t rely solely on them. They need help and things need to change. If they don’t, they won’t sustain the bit of success they’ve been able to find.

Next: Patrik Elias Scores Goal #400