Tough Weekend Ends Tough November For New Jersey Devils

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 30: Nicklas Backstrom #19 of the Washington Capitals skates in front of Nico Hischier #13 of the New Jersey Devils during the second period at Capital One Arena on November 30, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 30: Nicklas Backstrom #19 of the Washington Capitals skates in front of Nico Hischier #13 of the New Jersey Devils during the second period at Capital One Arena on November 30, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /

The New Jersey Devils had a tough weekend to end a tough month of November. It was two elite teams that the Devils matched up against, and they didn’t get blown out by any means, as has been the case sometimes. There are some positives and negatives to take away.

It began Friday night in Washington with a 6-3 loss to the Washinton Capitals. It sort of looks like the Devils were handled here, but that wasn’t really the case. It was a 4-3 game until the Caps put two into the empty net. The Devils were down 4-1 in the contest, and showed resiliency and didn’t give up, as Nico Hischier and Marcus Johansson scored third period goals with under ten minutes left to make it interesting.

The following night was a game back in Newark, New Jersey to take on the Winnipeg Jets. Yes, it was technically December 1st, but it was the second half of a back to back with the game on the last day of November. The Devils were defeated in overtime 4-3, in another game at home in which they earned a point. They only have one regulation loss at home, but are now 0-5 in overtime periods. This game, like the Washington game, was another example at the very least, the Devils never quitting.

After being down 3-1, a goal by Jesper Bratt and a goal scored by Taylor Hall with Keith Kinkaid off for the extra attacker allowed the Devils to at least earn a point. An encouraging thing to go with the struggles is at least the team doesn’t quit. That is something the team can absolutely build on.

This weekend proves a lot of theories correct on home vs road successes. The Devils just seem to play better at home. They look more confident, and it appears that some bounces go their way at home in ways that they don’t on the road.

After the team stormed the gate in October, and looked like they were ready to take the next step, everyone looked at the November schedule and were able to notice that it would not be easy. There were lots of road games on the schedule for November. The team went 4-8-3 over the month, accumulating only 11 points. December has to be a solid month if this team has any intention of going anywhere this season.

There is reason to be positive however. Last season, the Devils made the postseason after having a January that was very similar to this years November numbers. They overcame that and played well down the stretch and made the postseason by one point. It is a hard league to be consistent,

Taylor Hall is on the same point pace as he was last season. He has 27 points in 25 games this season, which is on pace for 88 points, which is a number he and his fans can absolutely proud of. He also has the possibility of heating up even more in the second half of the season, just like he did last season. Taylor Hall is one of the elite players in the world, and anybody who denies it clearly isn’t watching.

Now it is time to say some nice things about the Devils top line center Nico Hischier. I love everything that I’ve seen from Nico this season so far. He is clearly coming along in his offensive game and his defensive game is strong as usual. The plays that Nico and Taylor are able to make in overtime are something special, and once they find a way to bury regurlarly, they will be a dynamic duo. They already are. Nico’s game is growing every single day, and we are witnessing it.

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Nico is also only 19 years old. He isn’t even in his prime yet, and it is apparent that he can turn into a very good player, if not an elite player. My only criticism is the shooting. Sometimes he passes to a teammate when he has a clear lane to the net and the pass is clearly the second best option. I’d like to see any of the Devils coaches screaming at him to just shoot it! He had a bit of an injury in November that costed him four games, but he seems to be all the way back now.

Jesper Bratt made his season debut in November, and he has been very good. Way better than I expected to be honest, and he seems to be getting better every game as well. He has 2 goals and 7 assists for 9 points this season in 12 games played. He hit a rookie wall last season, but he seems to be back and better than ever. The Devils need depth offense from the Swedish winger. A 162nd overall pick in the 6th round of the 2016 NHL Draft, he is an absolute steal.

A huge problem in November in my estimation was goaltending. Keith Kinkaid went 4-3-3 and Cory Schneider went 0-5-0. This is a serious problem that Cory is struggling that much. Keith has been only okay but without goaltending you simply can’t win. If you look at the top teams in the league, almost all of them have elite level goalies. The Devils need their two net-minders to get back to that level.

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The Devils overall made a lot of mistakes in November and have a lot to correct in the month of December. Their power play, scoring depth and goaltending need to get back to the way we know it can be. They can turn this around, there is a lot of season left, but they will need to correct all mistakes.

Now, in moving on to the rest of the December portion of the schedule, the Devils begin with a home game against their best friends in the Tampa Bay Lightning. Keith Kinkaid will likely get the start and Jesper Bratt is a game time decision due to illness. The Devils have not beat the Lightning yet this season, and this is their last chance to avoid being swept in the regular season series. The first two chances were at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay, so this is the first and only chance for them to redeem themselves at home. Expect the Devils to put on a good showing in front of their fans.