The New Jersey Devils won a game solely on the back of superstar center Jack Hughes. Sure, Nico Daws had a nice night stopping 33 of 35 shots against the Montreal Canadiens. And yes, Yegor Sharangovich technically had the winning goal in the shootout. Hughes was still by far the most important player, and arguably, the Devils would have no chance to win if he wasn’t on the ice.
Actually, it’s not arguable. Hughes scored the Devils only two goals, took a team-leading seven shots, had more time on the ice than anyone not named Damon Severson, had four takeaways, and even drew a penalty. On top of all that, he scored a goal to keep the shootout going in the Devils eventual win.
It’s been a trend that Jack Hughes will take over a game and it leads to a win. He scored two goals against the New York Rangers, which led to the Devils beating them for the first time since *checks notes* the Devils got goals from Will Butcher, Nick Merkley, and Mikhail Maltsev en route to a 5-2 win. Those three players are gone now, and the Rangers won eight head-to-head matchups with the Devils since then.
It’s great to see that Jack Hughes has this in him. We don’t want him to stop taking over games. It’s just untenable to ask him to do it every single night or the team loses. There are going to be nights where Jack Hughes doesn’t get a point. It’s happened 11 times this season. The Devils won just two of those games. The rest of this team needs to step up more often offensively. They can’t lose 85% of the games that Hughes doesn’t get a point.
It’s not like nobody is contributing offensively this season. Jesper Bratt has 65 points in 61 games and at times was the player to take over games for the Devils. Nico Hischier will likely have a career high in points and is once again going to be a 20-goal scorer for the first time since his rookie season which happened to be the same season Taylor Hall won the MVP. Yegor Sharangovich is back to scoring, putting up 16 goals in 60 games. Even the defense has been helping the offense with Dougie Hamilton, Damon Severson, and Ryan Graves all putting up points.
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It just feels like it’s on Hughes to win these games. That’s what happened on Sunday when the Devils were desperate to get a win against the worst team in the Eastern Conference. Hughes took the game over, but it’s not a sustainable model for the future. If the Devils truly want to be a playoff contender next season, they need to show sustained offensive threats up and down the lineup.