#2. Devils desperately need to improve penalty kill and discipline
Bad refereeing be damned; the Devils desperately need to improve on the penalty kill. Further to that point, they should try staying out of the sin bin in general. New Jersey took eight penalties against the Coyotes and six against the Red Wings. That’s an average of seven penalties a game, equating to… 574 penalties over an 82-game season. This road only leads to one destination, and it’s not one where many hockey games are won.
Of course, many of the calls just weren’t good calls, but the Devils need to be observant enough to be aware of that fact and to play accordingly. They haven’t been, and the penalty kill has been worse for it. On 14 opportunities, they’ve allowed four goals, giving them a penalty-kill percentage of only 71.4 percent. That’s a very far cry from their 82.61 percent last season, which placed them well above the league average of 78.69 percent.
Sure, this is only a two-game sample size, but the shorthanded units just look lethargic and passive and just lack energy. The team lost plus skaters like Yegor Sharangovich and Jesper Boqvist and haven’t replaced them on the penalty kill. Time will tell, but that lack of balance and harmony may come back to bite them later, given the depth options they have.