The New Jersey Devils are a goalie away from being at least competitive on a nightly basis. It’s true, and this weekend’s disaster doesn’t change that. They have a team with some serious flaws. Nobody is denying that. Name a team without flaws. There’s maybe the Colorado Avalanche, but maybe one could argue they rely too much on power-play goals that might not come in the playoffs (they lead the league in power-play goals when there aren’t as many penalties called in the playoffs). Still, all teams have flaws. Some are just more than others.
The Devils have three major flaws. Number one on the list, and it’s not close, is goaltending. Andrew Hammond is the team’s seventh goalie this season, and combined the Devils have given up 41 more goals than expected according to JFresh. The other two issues are power play and game plan. They are both huge issues that need to be addressed, but it’s nowhere near what’s causing this team to lose like goaltending.
Then, this weekend happens. The Devils allowed eight goals to the Bruins, seven goals to the Panthers (five of which came after the start of the third period), and then four goals to the New York Islanders. The goalies were bad in all three games, and there’s no end in sight to the dread.
However, it wasn’t all the goalies this weekend. Damon Severson had an especially bad run where he was on the ice for nine goals against. Dawson Mercer was the only one on for more, and he saw eight against him at 5v5. Nico Hischier looked listless at times as the Devils losing seems to be getting to him. Michael McLeod was benched for his recent play and inability to get his offensive game back. Dougie Hamilton is struggling at times, although his play isn’t as bad as it seems.
The Devils also seemed to mail it in during the second period of the Bruins game, the third period of the Panthers game, and the first two periods of the Islanders game. Lack of effort is unacceptable for a team this young. They need to at least try every single period. It’s hard for me to equate effort from behind a computer screen, but the appearance was not good.
That doesn’t change where the Devils are in terms of their future. There is an amazing core here. Jack Hughes getting hurt for a second time this year wasn’t great, but he’s still the best player in the world under the age of 21. Jesper Bratt turned into a very good player this season. Nico Hischier is well worth his price. Dougie Hamilton is a top defenseman. Luke Hughes has all the makings of the next great defenseman.
This team has played like the worst team in the league this past week. I can’t convince anyone otherwise because saying anything else would be a lie. Acting like this is the future for this franchise is another issue. The Devils have played terribly. They showed no fight against Boston, sat back as Florida erased a four-goal lead, and then they lost to Cory Schneider. It’s a terrible week. It’s not the future.
As long as the Devils get a goalie and make other moves to formulate this roster, then this shouldn’t happen again. Could it? Sure, but this core is good. No matter what happened this weekend, there is something here that can be built. It’s not bust after bust like some of the more negative people want to think.
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This weekend sucked. There’s no changing that. That shouldn’t change how we look at this roster moving forward.