The New Jersey Devils didn’t show up. That’s all that can be said about the team’s Game 1 loss to the New York Rangers. They did everything wrong. We chronicled three key points to beat the Rangers in this series. The Devils did the opposite of that. Everything the Devils should have done, they did the literal opposite of that.
It led to a 5-1 loss. The only goal for the Devils came on a Jack Hughes penalty shot, which really came when the game was all but over. It did keep the lack of shutout streak alive, but that’s all it did. Vitek Vanecek was bad. The Devils penalty kill was bad. We won’t even get into the power play, which had its worst performance of the season.
Still, we’re not worried. This performance was awful, but it’s a best-of-seven series. This is just one game. Here’s why we still have confidence in the New Jersey Devils.
1. The Devils Beat Themselves
Rangers fans are going to hate this one, but the Devils lost this game way more than their opponents won it. Zero shots on a power play isn’t only the impact of a good penalty kill, it comes from complete incompetence.
Vitek Vanecek was not good in net. He allowed four goals on just 23 shots. That’s unacceptable. It has some Devils fans calling for Akira Schmid, but it’s too early for that. Vanecek will get the start in Game 2 on Thursday night, as he should.
Still, even with Vanecek’s struggles, the Devils provided no real offense that would get past a goalie like Igor Shesterkin. There were a few good chances by Hughes. Nico Hischier had a few of his own. Some others stand out, including one by Tomas Tatar coming between the circles and a rebound try by Nathan Bastian, but nothing of real substance.
It’s hard to imagine the Devils would play like that again. It’s more likely than anything that the Devils won’t play like this again. The layoff between games and the nerves from the postseason mixed to turn into this. Now, the Devils have to bounce back.