The New Jersey Devils slide to the bottom of the standings continued on Sunday as they dropped the second half of the back to back against the New York Islanders and an 11th straight game at home. They are currently sitting third last in the league, though they do have some games in hand on Anaheim and Detroit if they can pull off some wins.
Janne Kuokkanen and Yegor Sharangovich are really keeping up the strong pace and with a goal each on Sunday. They have been the most consistent producers for a while now. It is nice to see, but much like the game before, the rest of the team really needs to pick it up. As it stands now however they are the a part of the Devils best line.
Pavel Zacha may not have put up a point, but he was rolling again and had a few decent chances. His best play was in the first when he made a huge backcheck and leaped to stop a pass that would have likely resulted in a goal by Mat Barzal. His two-way play has always been good, but it is always nice to see a player in the middle of a massive losing steak not quit on a play, especially one that would not show up on the scoresheet. If he can continue this play over a longer stretch of time, as in up in till next season, he will work his way into the Devils future core with guys like Nico.
Wedgewood was a monster for most of the night and had numerous high danger scoring chances that he bailed the Devils out on. With a solid .941 save percentage he gave them all he could and more, his side to side movement and timing were on point for the night and besides the goal scored with a second left before the first ended it was near perfection. Without him the game would have been long gone and there would have been no point for the struggling team.
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Nikita Gusev only played 10:19, but he still looked timid on the ice and his deployment is beyond questionable at this point. He has done nothing for the team this season. While he is highly skilled, putting a guy you can barely trust to be in the line up on the ice at the end of the game or the powerplay is ridiculous.
When is come to the powerplay, which is not doing so hot lately, the deployment of Kyle Palmieri late is also something of note. Once again the man with the big shot, the former 30 goal scorer is standing in front of the net. While he could clearly knock the puck in from a foot away he is only 5’11” and the Devils have some big bodies with the tenacity such as leading goal scorer Miles Wood. A far better deployment would be putting the big shooter in the spot he has put in a ton of goals and letting someone like Miles or Zacha work the front.
The referees decisions at the end of the game were very questionable as Bastian took a penalty by drifting slightly off the faceoff in front of the Islanders winger. It was not an intentional pick, he did not grab the player and it cost the Devils what would have been the game winning goal. This continued into overtime when P.K. Subban scored and the play was reviewed for offside and the call was overturned. Weather the NHL had another view that was more clear or not is unclear but any angle shown it was impossible to tell if his skate was on or off the line and it was within a millimeter either way. Having a game decided in overtime on this when it had no impact on the goal is ridiculous and looks bad on the league especially when another NHL team can score with 6 player on the ice on an unreviewable play in the very same week.