New Jersey Devils Have To Stop The Slide

New Jersey Devils head coach Lindy Ruff watches the action against the Detroit Red Wings during the third period at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
New Jersey Devils head coach Lindy Ruff watches the action against the Detroit Red Wings during the third period at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports /
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The New Jersey Devils, after the incredible start, have started to slide. Fans should be worried. While they are not in danger of falling out and into the basement thanks to the record-breaking run from November, this is still a young team that likely has confidence issues and is now behind the Hurricanes in points percentage.

On top of this, the division is solid and tight like always. With the Devils’ only being three points ahead of the Penguins and Rangers and six up on the Capitals, they are in for a fight for the rest of the season. To finish up the month of December, the Devils have three more games, but they are all against very strong teams, with two against the NHL-leading Bruins. This is a massive test, and hopefully, they can pull off a pair of wins, but their play has to improve.

What is causing the slide, and more importantly, what can they do to stop it?

The goaltending isn’t very good, but it has been good enough to keep them in some games. They can’t rely on massive saves every game, so they must suppress shots better and stop giving up big chances. The next thing they need to do is flat-out stop with Blackwood. Fortunately, the team is coming off a good performance from Mackenzie Blackwood, but once again, the team is getting sub-.900 goaltending. That makes it hard to win. At this point, if a team wants him, the Devils could trade him or send him to the AHL and keep Akira Schmid up so they can get good goaltending in 9 out of 10 games.

The Devils should promote Yegor Sharangovich to play with Jack Hughes and Dawson Mercer. This line was great at the end of last season, and they have got such little time together this season for unknown reasons. Sharangovich has been a legit defender. With eight goals and no powerplay time, he should be looked at as a guy exceeding expectations based on his deployment. He has one of the best shots on the team and fits perfectly with Hughes, so why not let that line thrive instead of putting two-goal Erik Haula on the line or trying to load up with Jesper Bratt, who also needs the puck on his stick a lot.

Since Nathan Bastian went down, the team has been bad. While this clearly is not the whole issue, it is a more prominent part than some fans think. The fourth line was on absolute fire and on pace for between 30-40 points each. Since being apart, everyone has slowed down. While it won’t be perfect, make sure Mike McLeod and Miles Wood are together and try to put someone with them who plays fast and physical like Haula.

The team faces accusations of being soft in years past. Most players try not to engage they can’t always do this. Captain Nico Hischier got pushed around against the Florida Panthers. It took a long time for the team to respond. The team might not need to fight, but guys like Wood and Ryan Graves (when healthy) are big and tough, they need to hit people back, and when it gets chippy, they need to get in people’s faces.

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The team has let in way too many goals right as the period starts or ends. This came out of nowhere, and the guys need to get fired up quicker and play the whistle or horn.