New Jersey Devils On Trajectory To Miss Playoffs, and That Shouldn't Surprise You

The 2023-24 New Jersey Devils were poised to make another jump forward after a really successful 2022-23 season. In some instances, they have. Yet, after every jump, they seem to take three steps back. Now, the Devils are poised to miss the postseason, and you shouldn't be terribly shocked.
Dallas Stars v New Jersey Devils
Dallas Stars v New Jersey Devils / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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After the Stadium Series game against the Philadelphia Flyers, the New Jersey Devils and their fans were on cloud nine. They convincingly beat an arch-rival who was ahead of them in the standings, giving fans hope the Devils could get back into the playoff fixture. They celebrated and talked about how they would carry on the feeling of winning a big game into their next one, while Nico Hischier and Nate Bastian put their Sopranos costumes back on while talking to the media.

Did they carry on their winning ways to their next game against the Washington Capitals, a team behind them in the standings, while the Devils still chase the teams in front of them to stay relevant?

No. They got whacked.

In what seems like another case of deja vu, the Devils follow up a great effort with one of their worst of the season—losing 6-2 on the road to a team chasing them. When this team loses, they lose one of two ways. They either get blown to bits and get no goaltending, or they lose by one because they cannot score a big goal.

Well, what about the players themselves? Brendan Smith had a near-perfect game against Philadelphia. Surely, he built on his performance over the weekend. Nope. He put together what could be the worst individual performance of any player to put on a Devils uniform this season. Which is something he has done a lot this year.

Why is this team not up to getting key goals like last year? Is it because Dougie Hamilton is out? Is it because Lindy Ruff does not have them prepared for those situations? Is it because they do not have the 'clutch' gene? All of that could be true, but at this point in the season, it does not seem that any of those things will come.

This team is like clockwork. They seem to play down to opponents they should beat. They consistently struggle against goalies who they should not struggle against. Charlie Lindgren had almost a 4.00 GAA in his last six games before facing the Devils. The Devils scored just twice on 39 shots. David Rittich let in 5 goals in Buffalo and needed to be pulled. In the very next game, the Devils scored only once on him. Pyotr Kochetkov did not have a game where he had above a .900 save percentage in a month. Against the Devils? He shut them out.

How many times can a guy whom you have never heard of score a goal against the Devils? In that same vein, how many times must we hear "x player has not scored in a year" until they play the Devils? Kevin Rooney and Michael Sgarbossa had both not scored for a combined 1,589 days entering their games against the Devils. Both scored.

This team does not have what it takes to get into the playoffs as currently constructed. Even if General Manager Tom Fitzgerald makes a move, would it help? Would trading for a Jacob Markstrom help the team? Sure, it might. But they cannot seem to score when they need to. They occasionally break out for an offensive explosion. But the team is too inconsistent in the offensive zone and especially in net. Matter of fact, they are too inconsistent everywhere, how bad the defense has been should not be forgotten.

At this point in time, it just seems like a move would be too little too late whether it be on the roster or behind the bench. The Devils should really start shopping their pending free agents, including Tyler Toffoli. If Sean Monahan fetches a first-round pick, the Devils should absolutely start looking at teams who would be willing to trade a pretty penny for a 30-goal scorer. Vegas, who just put Jack Eichel and his $10 million salary on LTIR should be Fitzgerald's first call.

Well what about their schedule? That should lighten up. Wrong. The Devils have the hardest schedule remaining this season of any team in the league. The Devils have at least more than ten games against teams ahead of them in the standings still on their schedule. They have dates against Anaheim and San Jose, which should be games they win. With that said, the Devils were torn to shreds by the Ducks and Sharks on home ice in games we all want to forget.

All of these things add up to a recipe for disaster for the Devils. At the time of this writing, they are four points back of the Detroit Red Wings and five points back behind the Flyers. Is that impossible to overcome? Absolutely not. The Devils can easily win two in a row, Detroit lose two in a row, and the Devils are in, and this whole article is for nothing.

It just seems this team does not have 'it'. They cannot take care of business when they need to and surely should not be relying on other teams to not take care of their own business. Games in hand only matter if you win the games you have in hand. The Devils seemingly cannot stop shooting themselves in the standings foot.

Until the Devils can prove to the fans, management, and most importantly themselves that they can get things done when pushed against the wall, everyone should expect them to fail. So when it comes playoff time the black and red are nowhere to be found, you should not be surprised.

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