The New Jersey Devils started the New York Rangers series 2-0. As much as some might not remember it now, it felt very similar to where the team is now, down 2-0 to the Carolina Hurricanes. The team looked lethargic, inexperienced, and outcoached. Nothing was working, and they were headed for a certain sweep as the Rangers were spending the next two games in MSG.
Then, Lindy Ruff made the move some other head coaches wouldn’t dare to do. He went with a rookie to save his team’s season against its biggest rival. Akira Schmid came in and immediately shut the Rangers down. He held them to one goal through overtime, and Dougie Hamilton scored to finally put the Devils on the board in the series.
Schmid is the reason the Devils are currently playing in the second round. Well, at least we think they are playing. After two straight no-shows, the Devils once again find themselves in an 0-2 hole. This time, the Carolina Hurricanes are handing out the beating.
This one feels a little different. Schmid is getting destroyed, although he can hardly be blamed for allowing goals with how the team plays in front of him. The Devils actually played well in the first period. Then, the Hurricanes scored in the second period. It seemed like the Devils had a hard time getting back into the game after that.
This is all to say that, after some very rough periods, the Devils are making very big changes to the lineup. For Sunday’s Game 3, we expect to see the debut of Luke Hughes.
Lindy Ruff makes it official in the above video. The youngest Hughes brother will be making his playoff debut. Just a few weeks ago, Hughes made his NHL debut. A few nights later, he scored his first goal. It came in overtime to beat the Washington Capitals in the last game of the season.
While it was one of the most exciting plays of the season, a play that undoubtedly showed the best of Luke Hughes’ skill, most didn’t think it would change the Devils playoff lineup. Well, that changed after the Devils got nothing done over the past two games. The defense is not playing well at all, and now it appears Ryan Graves is injured. That opened a spot for a left-handed defenseman. Insert Luke Hughes.
The Devils’ defenders are key in breaking through the Hurricanes’ forecheck. Breakout passes are especially important. They need to get out of the defensive zone and get into the offensive zone with speed. The latter has been the hardest part. Even if the Devils get the puck into the neutral zone, they can’t keep possession to produce a high-danger chance.
The strategy kept Jack Hughes out of the offensive zone. In fact, Hughes only had three faceoffs in the offensive zone at even strength. A large majority of his faceoffs came in the neutral zone. If the Devils are going to match offense with the Hurricanes, Jack Hughes needs to be the catalyst of the outburst.
We expect Jack Hughes to get a jolt from his brother being added to the lineup. Honestly, the Devils needed something to push them after two embarrassing losses. They return home to a crowd that is still coming down from an insane Game 7 win against the New York Rangers. They also needed a spark, and Luke Hughes is exactly the right piece to do it. Not only does it make sense to get the fans in the game, but he fits into the gameplan. The Devils need to drive offense, and despite his age, there are few better than Luke Hughes.