Do you want to know an example of a team that doesn’t try hard to fight against their rivals? The New Jersey Devils got scheduled to face the New York Rangers in a home and home series. Both teams would play two games in New York, and both teams would play the other two in New Jersey. When these two teams met after the last time they met, you would think the Devils would try to play better. They played even worse. The Devils got swept all four games between them and the Rangers and showed who has the better rebuild between the two. So, what exactly went wrong for the Devils in this series?
No Offense Allows Shesterkin to Lead the Rangers to Two Shutouts
One part of a rebuild that is always tough to watch is to watch a team look completely dead when it comes to offense. The Devils were in that exact position Tuesday and Thursday in both those games. It seemed the offense looked like it didn’t want to be there. With little effort as possible, the Devils managed to get shutout twice by Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin.
There have been many issues with the Devils’ offense this season, like not having enough goal scorers or finishing problems. Both of those issues were present here, even though sometimes the offense was nowhere to be seen. However, when the offense did have chances, Shesterkin was right there to cover up every chance the Devils had.
Also, the Devils were missing key players to their offense. After Pavel Zacha and Jesper Bratt had missed some of these games due to their injuries, the offense fell apart. Yes, they had several playmakers who can set up plays and shoot well, but they never showed up in the first two games. There was no leadership during those first two games, even though Nico Hischier is the new captain. But thankfully, the Devils ended Igor’s shutout streak on Saturday thanks to Michael McLeod. They even came back from down 3-0 on Sunday to tie the game, including the first NHL goal from Marian Studenic and the first point for Nolan Foote.
Rangers Easily Score Many Goals Due to Many Devils Mistakes
The Rangers are becoming a better team out of a rebuild due to the chemistry of their team. They have several good playmakers and young players who can compete on the same level as the rest of the team. This series shows what this Rangers offense can become when it’s just perfected as the Rangers outscored the Devils in this series 18-6.
When the Rangers had the puck most of the time, they could capitalize on most of their chances. Due to the lack of defensive capability on the Devils, the Rangers’ offense took advantage of it and made them suffer from their offense. Whether it was the speed of Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad, or the finishing skills of Pavel Buchnevich, the Rangers managed to find any way to score goals.
Even if the defense played horribly in this series for the Devils, what made it worse was how many turnovers the Devils had. Whenever the Devils had the puck either in their zone or not, the Devils made awful attempts to pass the puck around to make changes happen. It led to a lot of turnovers which meant more chances for the Rangers to get more goals. A great example was in the final game where Jonas Siegenthaler, who was acquired from the Washington Capitals, turned over the puck and allowed Vitali Kravtsov to score his first NHL goal.
It also didn’t help that the Devils didn’t try to defend on the many odd-man rushes the Rangers had throughout the series. With a lot of speed plus many talented goal scorers, it could be tough to stop them with a team with a lot of speed. If the opponent makes any mistakes, they will take advantage and make you pay. That’s how the Rangers were able to dominate this series altogether. But there is one more issue that buried the Devils in this series.
Devils Taking Penalties Seals Their Fate Against the Rangers
Everyone knows by now how bad the Devils penalty-killing unit is. It just never seems to get anything done. That’s why the Devils are last in the NHL on the penalty kill. Whenever teams play the Devils and get a powerplay, it’s like getting a gift on your birthday, as teams will score almost every time they get one. For the Rangers, it’s no different. Even if the Rangers are ranked 15th in the NHL for powerplays, it doesn’t matter. As stated earlier, the Rangers have many offensive weapons, and those weapons can be beneficial when on the powerplay.
Having players like Panarin and Zibanejad on the powerplay makes the Rangers’ powerplay much more dangerous for the Devils to stop. While the Devils penalty kill hasn’t necessarily been the main reason why the Devils lost this series, it wasn’t indeed the most significant issue the Devils couldn’t figure out.
The final two games are perfect examples of how bad the Devils penalty kill is. First, Damon Severson takes a holding penalty, followed by a too many men penalty 46 seconds later. Rangers go on the five on 3, and they execute it well for Ryan Strome to get the goal. While continuing on that same powerplay, Buchnevich would score his first of 3 goals on his birthday, no less. The Devils would go onto lose that game 6-3. Even after the Devils came back from 3-0 to tie the game, the next game would end up losing the closest game in that series thanks to their penalty kill.
Ryan Murray takes a high sticking penalty against Kaapo Kakko, then on that powerplay, another Ranger celebrating his birthday, Zibanajed scored the leading goal. The goal killed any momentum the Devils had of attempting to come back, and the Rangers would take the final game 5-3 and sweep the Devils 4-0.
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