New Jersey Devils Lose Jack Hughes and Split Back to Back

Nov 3, 2023; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; St. Louis Blues center Jordan Kyrou (25) shoots as New Jersey Devils goaltender Akira Schmid (40) and defenseman Kevin Bahl (88) defend during the third period at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 3, 2023; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; St. Louis Blues center Jordan Kyrou (25) shoots as New Jersey Devils goaltender Akira Schmid (40) and defenseman Kevin Bahl (88) defend during the third period at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /
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The New Jersey Devils had a back-to-back before the weekend and picked up two points in the standings despite being down captain Nico Hischier. Unfortunately, they are now also down league-leading scorer Jack Hughes due to a fall in the boards, and depending on what the update is this could be dire for the team. Depth at forward was the number one thing that made this team look like a world-beater on paper and center depth was a big part of that. Hischier and Hughes are both legit number-one guys and on top of that they could throw out possibly the scariest top nine in the NHL. That, unfortunately, is not where the Devils stand now.

Now without those two their center depth looks like it will be Erik Haula, Dawson Mercer, and McLeod which inspires zero confidence if the two stars are out for any amount of time. Haula has been fantastic this season with five goals already. While McLeod was doing admirable top-six play is way above what he should be doing. Though the effort is there, he just doesn’t have the finish to put up points at the NHL level, especially against the higher competition.

This brings us to the guy who should be filling in; Dawson Mercer. 10 games 0 points -2 and generating nothing. He has been the biggest disappointment so far this season and this team might need him now massively. He has the skill to bring it and should be given an opportunity to center Meier and Toffoli.

Has he earned it? No, but he is the last center standing with the potential to put up any real points. Playing with guys who are on fire right now could be exactly what he needs to break out of this funk. Currently, he has 12 shots in 10 games which is far below his average and what we should expect so giving him a grade A passer will let him get some more opportunities at the very least.

That being said let’s look at the last two games quickly.

The Good

Nathan Bastian and Michael McLeod did some great work on the first night getting the gritty stuff done on Alex Holtz’s third goal in five games. The two have done their usual good job and McLeod has stepped up without Hischier and actually generated some good chances on night one playing way further up the lineup than he should while putting up a goal on the first night. Holtz also is showing that he can score at this level despite the somewhat limited ice time and skilled linemates but with a little streak here he should at least have gotten some attention from the coaching staff of this and it might lead to a promotion up a line.

Akira Schmid had a tough assignment with the depleted offense and he would have had to be perfect for the win. While that didn’t happen, he only let in two and played a great game that the Devils could have stolen with some lucky bounces.

Jesper Bratt continued his rise to superstar status with yet another big night in the first game scoring a goal and getting 3 assists pushing him to third in league scoring. He has been efficient and effective everywhere on the ice and it hasn’t really mattered who he has played with he just has been making it work and making everyone around him better.

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The Bad

Vitek Vanecek had a .880 save percentage and is under .900 this season. Despite this, he looked good in most games and has been complimentary of his play. Eventually, we just need to see some average numbers and the team can’t be letting in three goals every game.

We already covered Mercer. The team needs a ton more out of him as mentioned above.

John Marino and Jonas Siegenthaler haven’t quite looked like the defensive stalwarts they did last season and are making too many small mistakes. The opening goal in the St. Louis game was all on Marino as he left the middle of the ice at the blue line on the Blues break-in when Bahl was already there and an easy pass was feathered over to Jake Neighbours for a clear breakaway. This was the most egregious error that stood out but the two have both been leaving too many guys open or just not tying up the sticks in the middle of the ice on a nightly basis and it has led to a few goals and high-danger chances that could easily be stopped.