After the New Jersey Devils returned from their COVID outbreak, they haven’t looked as good as they had earlier in the year. It’s all thanks to two things the Devils are struggling with: penalty killing and offense. Sure, they had terrific games against the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers on their returns, but it’s after those games where they struggled. It all began when the Devils faced the Buffalo Sabres last Saturday.
They felt outplayed and couldn’t get anything done until the third. Then they traveled to Washington to play the Washington Capitals the following day. Then the Devils just recently fell victim to the Sabres again on Tuesday. It’s been clear to see that it has been the penalty kill and offense ruining the Devils the past three games.
The Penalty Kill is New Jersey’s Main Achilles Heel
While it may be more noticeable now, the Devils’ penalty kill has been a big problem for the Devils since the season started. The Devils are the worst team this season when it comes to being on the penalty kill. One season ago, New Jersey was the 7th best penalty-killing team in the league. To go from 7th to 31st in a matter of one year is aggravating for New Jersey. It feels like the Devils will automatically lose every game once they have taken a penalty.
The penalty kill’s biggest problem is the fact the Devils spend most of the time in the defensive zone. New Jersey never tries to fight and get the puck out of the zone, but instead are just sitting there watching the other team on the power play, continually pushing and getting chances. In their mind, it feels like they are waiting for a team to make a mistake before getting the puck.
Leaving players wide open doesn’t help either. Against the Capitals, three out of the four goals scored were on the Capitals power play. Not having any defense on that kill and allowing players like Alex Ovechkin to be wide open like that shows this is a complicated thing for the Devils to figure out. If Alain Nasreddine doesn’t fix it soon, he will be out of a job.
New Jersey’s Offense Looks Inconsistent Against Different Teams
While the penalty kill is a huge problem with the Devils, the offense also has significant trouble. At the beginning of the season, the Devils had an offense that would seem to fight every game. New Jersey would use speed on their young core to generate offense. Now, it seems there is no offense there at all. Even if there was an offense, it seems the Devils don’t finish their plays either.
There isn’t any fight from this team, and it feels like the goalies are doing all the work trying to keep New Jersey in these games. To have the offense have a fantastic game against high-powered offenses is one thing, but to have that same offense play poorly against weaker teams is a big reason why the Devils are in a struggle right now.
In the last two meetings against the Boston Bruins, the Devils shut down players like David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand for most of the game. When the Devils played the next game against the Buffalo Sabres, who have been having injury troubles, the Sabres just overpowered New Jersey. In the first two periods, the Sabres seemed to be everywhere, while the Devils looked slow and could not provide much offense. Buffalo applied a lot of pressure on New Jersey, and it worked out big time as they went up 3-0 going into the third period.
As I mentioned earlier, it was only then in the third period where the Devils finally woke up and played a game. While they managed to get two goals, it wasn’t enough as Buffalo held on and won. While they played a little better against Buffalo on Tuesday night, it wasn’t enough as the Sabres won 4-1. Having New Jersey being good against good teams and horrible against bad teams like Buffalo is a big problem. If the Devils want to keep proving themselves, they have to make sure that every offense is involved in every game they play.
While the team slowed down expected in New Jersey, it’s just upsetting that they’re losing streak despite the strong start. It seemed that the Devils were about to show how fast there are rebuilding, but it looks like they’re still stuck down there in rock bottom. New Jersey better figures out their offense problems and their penalty-killing problems soon. I’m sure the Devils would be able to figure out how to fix these issues. But if they don’t, the fans of the Devils are going to feel even more frustrated.
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