The New Jersey Devils had a great series against the New York Rangers, beating their rivals in seven games. The Carolina series went pretty terribly, but the Rangers series is what holds true from this playoff season. It was a success that the Devils made it past the first round for the first time in a decade.
Dougie Hamilton had his moments, but there was something lacking at even strength in the postseason. The Devils excelled as an offense, but they could not finish. They beat their opponents in both chances, high-danger chances, and xG%. The Devils should have dominated with Hamilton on the ice. Yet, it was the opposite when it came to the results.
Hamilton was on the ice for six goals at 5v5 according to Natural Stat Trick. He saw the other team score 13 times on him. He wasn’t able to stop the bleeding, and it had a lot to do with the do-or-die style Hamilton plays. The Devils can usually overcome the mistakes with their speed, but the playoffs are fast for everyone.
It was a rough series against the Hurricanes. Hamilton was on the ice for eight goals against at even strength. He was on the ice for five goals against in Games 4 and 5. The Devils had their backs against the wall, and Hamilton did not show up. He was especially bad in Game 7, allowing a ridiculous 38 chances against while only being on the ice for 14 chances and no goals.
Who knows what the reason for Hamilton’s disappearing act in the biggest series. He was facing his former team, so one would think he would have extra motivation to succeed. It didn’t work out that way, and the Devils were knocked out in five games.
Hamilton cannot do this same disappearing act. The Devils have him signed for five more seasons at $9 million per year against the salary cap. Nobody will care about his salary if he plays in the playoffs like he did in the regular season. He didn’t, and now it’s time to demand more of Hamilton.
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With Luke Hughes joining the Devils, and Simon Nemec not far behind, the Devils have offensive defensemen coming in droves. Hamilton has to also be a top defender if he’s going to earn that salary.