Things are not going as planned for the New Jersey Devils this season. Well, at least on the road. The Devils lost big to the Tampa Bay again, by a final score of 5-2. The Devils road performances are something to be ashamed of for the most part.
If the game doesn’t happen in Newark, or in the state of Pennsylvania, the Devils have laid an egg all season. Their two road wins are in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, losing the other nine opportunities this season. That is a disgrace. That is lottery team worthy. It is CERTAINLY not good enough to make the post season. Yes, their home record of 7-1-3 is stellar, but their road woes are drowning them.
I don’t want to hear about Cory Schneider. Could he make some saves to keep the Devils in it like he used to? Yes, absolutely. But is it his fault they only scored twice? Is it his fault Sami Vatanen shot the puck in his own net? No. Hockey is a team game. He needs to be better than he has been, there is no doubt about it, but the team needs to play better in front of him.
There was a point where Schneider was considered one of the best goalies in the NHL. He made Team USA in the World Cup of Hockey, and was always a Vezina Trophy contender after becoming a starter. Everyone used to say, once the Devils get some scoring the team, it can be scary.
Well, now there is offense. Schneider and the Devils need to figure it out the defense fast, especially on the road. I would give Schneider his next five starts at home, so he can build some confidence, and maybe the team in front of him will play better.
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Are there disadvantages to playing on the road? Yes. There certainly are. There is of course the crowd and energy. 90% of the crowd hates the Devils when they are playing anywhere in the league not called the Prudential Center.
There is also last change, meaning the home coach can play the matchup game. Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri see the opposition’s best defensive forwards and shutdown defenseman every single shift on the road.
That is no excuse. When the top line is being shut down, others need to step up. You need your best players to be your best players over the course of a season, and the top line has been just that, but there are situations that your depth players need to step up and produce. The road is no excuse for those guys. If they do not clean up their play on the road, it will be a season of what could have been, because they have been very very good at home.
The New Jersey Devils have another road test on Cyber Monday, as they are in Sunrise, Florida to take on their friends in the Florida Panthers. This could be a game where they get some road momentum, it is as close to a must win as possible in November. Keith Kinkaid will start in net for New Jersey.
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