Horrific departures make life difficult for New Jersey devils

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It’s been a bit of a strange start for the Devils so far this season. As it stands, the team is 3-2-0, a 0.600-point percentage that projects a total of around 98 points for a season. In terms of underlying stats, the team is in the top ten in the league in terms of 5v5 shot attempts (52.9% – 8th) and expected goals (55.3% – 4th). They had good and bad periods of play, but overall the team performed quite well, especially in light of some of their early injury issues. They are a team in transition who have conceded a few points and seem to be feeling things at the start. All in all, this should be a perfectly acceptable start for a team in the Devils position.

And yet … the vibrations are all turned off in New Jersey. Anguish is at its height as people look set to jump ship for the season just five games away with the team sitting on a winning record. The reason people are so nervous about this team probably varies from person to person, but injuries to various players, including their aspiring star cross and the two halves of their goaltending tandem. , have something to do with it. The ghosts of the catastrophically disappointing Devils teams of years gone by are likely playing it as well. Special teams, a major concern as the year approaches, still stink strongly. Add in the fact that the rest of their stupid division doesn’t seem to want to lose a game, putting the team with the record 3-2-0 (again, a 98-point pace) in last place, and that’s a little more understandable that people become restless.

I think a lot of the concerns may just come from how the last few games for the Devils have gone. Put simply, the Devils were almost knocked out of the ice in the first period of their three games since Jack Hughes got injured. To go back and look at each of those three games, the numbers are sparse. While the Devils have taken an early lead in their first two games, the Devils have instead fallen behind in each of the last three, being pummeled to the tune of 7-0 combined in Game 1 of their games against Washington, Buffalo. and Calgary. The team performed nominally better in the second and third periods of each of those games (and arguably were dominant in the last 40 against Buffalo), but chased the scoring throughout game week. The streak / tied / lead breakdown is as follows for the last three games (via Natural Stat Trick):

  • Delay: 152: 44
  • Tied: 31:25
  • At the head: 0:00

They sure won the Buffalo game in overtime (one of Buffalo’s two losses in seven games this season), but watching 183 minutes of hockey without having your team in mind is inevitably going to raise eyebrows. It would be one thing if those slow starts could be attributed to poor rebounds or goalie disappointments, but the Devils were really crushed in the opening 20 minutes of those games. Let’s take a look at the Devils’ results in the first of five games and see how limited the Devils have been since the game against Washington.

Devils CF%, GF% and xGF% first period results so far
Data via NatrualStatTrick.com

As you can see, there’s a pretty stark difference between how the Devils started games the first two nights (great) and how they’ve started games since (horribly). That’s not a huge sample of hockey, but scoring about 25% of expected 5v5 goals in the first period over three straight nights (to go along with 0% of actual goals) is concerning and certainly won’t result in lots of fun times. Obviously, this change coincides with the retirement of the Devils’ most dynamic forward, but if the Devils want this season to stay on track, they’re going to have to figure out how not to get stuffed into a locker in the opening. frame when Hughes is not playing.

It’s understandable for a team to take a step back when their best player is arguably out of the lineup, but many teams face major injuries or absences and manage not to blow their doors down every night. . Especially given the early injury issues among goalkeepers, they can’t expect a goalie to keep them in the game every night while they hit the repeat button the entire time. first period of the match.

Problems have run from top to bottom throughout the programming of these games and Lindy Ruff and her team need to find a way to better prepare their players for energetic opponents in the early stages of games. Dougie Hamilton and especially Ryan Graves have at times weakened since a great pair of opener games. Michael McLeod was visibly overwhelmed and forced into a top six role. Other support players like Jesper Bratt and Yegor Sharangovich struggled with a few breakdowns early in games and were only effective in spurts (while receiving demotions and benches for their problems). The Mercer line has sometimes been beaten. Nico Hischier has been pretty solid (especially compared to his teammates) but not necessarily the gamebreaker they need in Hughes’ absence.

These issues were all particularly noticeable early in the games. Their top line maybe walking on the water while everyone’s in pants isn’t going to do that and the Devils have pursued each of those games from the start because of it. With a few days off and a road trip to maybe help clear their heads, we’re hoping to see a much more prepared Devils squad at the start of their next games. They have admittedly encountered some hot teams over the past week and the Caps have yet to lose a settlement game, with the Sabers shockingly effective at the start, and the Flames immediately crushing a few other rivals from the Devils in the metropolitan division. before and after Tuesday’s game. This is no excuse to score three times as many expected goals as you can muster in the first few frames of these games, especially with the benefit of resting between each.

Those rough beginnings were noticeable enough to generate a lot of audible growls around the fan base and fair questions as to whether this team can even remain relevant as Jack Hughes recovers from his shoulder injury. At a high level, a 3-2-0 start with generally decent underlying numbers is good for this young team, but the Devils need to figure out how to start games quickly or that acceptable start will quickly turn into a squad. watch a lost season by the time the holidays arrive. The depth of the metropolitan divide adds further urgency to this situation. We know it will likely be some time before Hughes returns, which means Lindy Ruff and this Devils team will have to question themselves and figure out how they plan to run games for more than 0% of the time over the course of of this period. I think they have the parts to compete even without their star center, they just need to get better performance from the top to the bottom of this list and this coaching staff.


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