New Jersey Devils Woes Continue Without Top Centers

New Jersey Devils Goalie Akira Schmid (40): Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports
New Jersey Devils Goalie Akira Schmid (40): Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports /

The New Jersey Devils have lost their third straight game on Tuesday night. It’s their fourth loss in five games since losing Jack Hughes to injury. They have only managed to beat the lowly Blackhawks, a game they should have won regardless. They haven’t felt like a threat to win any of these games, continually get scored on and play from behind, and just can’t get any sustained pressure going. So, let’s look in very brief form about what is going on.

First things first: center depth was and is a massive strength for this team when healthy. If any team in the league lost its top two centers, let alone centers the caliber of Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier, they would be in trouble too. That being said, Micheal Mcleod has done an admirable job considering where he should be and with three points in four games and six on the season. We should be giving the guy a standing ovation. He has been driving the net more and has been noticeable on the ice. While not at all a perfect stat, it is also worth noting that McLeod is one of only two players on this team in the positive this season in +/- (the other is Curtis Lazar).

The other guy who should be the #1 guy here is Dawson Mercer. He hasn’t been good. His three goals and points in this last stretch are his only of the season. While it is nice to see him scoring, he has been getting a ton of minutes and is invisible most of the game while still going negative in every single one. He was a good player on both ends of the rink before this season and the team needs him to be way better.

Being the best at expected goals for is awesome but eventually, it is just a number. The guys have to start to bury it.

Lindy Ruff clearly just doesn’t appreciate what Alexander Holtz brings to the lineup. Saying that he needed more from him and he needed to play better defense was pretty ridiculous. Maybe Devils fans here disagree, but most agree that he needs to be playing and should be in a bigger role while the roster is hurting. On top of this, Holtz has been better than Mercer.

Nathan Bastian has disappeared this season and with one assist and a -8 rating. It’s shocking he hasn’t been benched. The guy needs to get it going, stand in front of the net, and hit everything that moves.

On the backend, Jonas Siegenthaler has been looking lost defensively and should be getting third-pairing minutes. He has been far out of position on a lot of goals against and he did it yet again against the Jets tonight letting them get the first goal of the game by leaving half the ice in the defensive zone open again.

That being said, Brendan Smith is worse and he has been an odd player this season. He is pinching a lot, firing the puck a lot, and not being the defensive guy we expect. He really needs to stop trying to move the puck and just get back to trying to not get scored on. Bahl hasn’t been getting the most ice time either but on a more positive note I have liked his physical game and he is using his reach and positional play really well, especially when other defenders make mistakes and he is stuck alone in bad situations such as 2 on 1’s. On another defensive note, Nikita Zadorov asked for a trade from the Flames and is perfect for this team. The Devils are soft and need some guys who play physically. This dude loves to hit and he can defend far better than Smith.

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The goaltenders are playing decently well for long stretches but they are letting in too many goals and too many bad ones. It might be obvious but just making that one more save a game they are capable of would be a massive deal. Both are currently sitting in the 880’s for save percentage and while it certainly has not been their fault completely, we are getting into the thick of the season now. Its time to get that up to league average or it will sink the season come crunch time.