New Jersey Devils Learning Curves and Sabres Preview

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The New Jersey Devils are a young roster that is learning to play together. Head coach Lindy Ruff may need to bench some players against a Buffalo Sabres team that has gotten off to a hot start.

Defensive Miscommunication

The New Jersey Devils can expect coach Ruff to bench a few players, and mix things up a bit in time for Saturday’s game versus a hot Sabres team that likely will catch a dose of reality versus a very battle-tested Devils team looking to bounce back. The team has made additions to the defensive core going into the 2021-22 season.

Offensive Conundrums

Yesterday the forward core for the most part doing an excessive “dump and chase” tactic that was a way of surrendering puck possession. It’s like saying to your wingers go fetch but you’re giving up on a play. What needs to be done is to replicate similar plays similar to what the Devils did versus the Seattle Kraken. Tape to tape passes, and not rushing the pass so much.

Another criticism is that the Devils need to not over-pinch in the offensive zone where a few odd-man rushes. The Daniel Sprong goal was a bad read and proved to be a big misread on the Devils offensive strategic miscommunications.

Not enough bodies down low was another variable to take into consideration. Given the benefit that Vitek Vanecek had enough room to read the offensive breakouts, and made a few sprawling saves that could’ve made it four to three or four to four.

Progressing Against Tough Opponents

Yes, the Devils lost to the Washington Capitals in a semi-blowout, on the other hand, last season the Devils would’ve been blown out seven to one vs. a four to one loss. There was a lot of grit, snarl, and some chippiness where the Capitals did not take the Devils seriously. Players like Mason Geertsen, and Ryan Graves were flexing their physical edge and pretty much giving that next time you’re not gonna push us around.

Playing without Jack Hughes in a tough game did show some players came to play with a lot of energy, grit, and perseverance. The guys that will see less ice time, benched, or sent to Utica will be sent a message under Ruff and general manager Tom Fitzgerald‘s orders.

Yes, players like Dawson Mercer got the experience of playing a Stanley Cup contender very early on in the season. This will only help build that game-day experience for a rookie like him. Janne Kuokkanen also looked pretty good yesterday after scoring on the power play.

Underlying Numbers In a Positive Light

Per The Score, the Devils are 14th in the NHL in goals, 12th in shooting percentage, 19th in goals allowed, shots on goal fourth overall, and The Penalty Kill is 15th of 32 teams.

What does this mean going into the next stretch of games is that simply the new line combos on defense, and offense is beginning to gel sooner and becoming more fortified. The Devils are scoring above the 16-32 teams in the NHL which is a positive sign. Goals allowed is a work in progress over last year but needs more of a tune-up and that can all change with Ty Smith coming back very soon to balance out the left side.

Shots on goal allowed is something very positive and fans need to understand the team adding guys like Vesey, Graves, Hamilton and adding more shot-blocking, boxing opponents to mid and low danger scoring areas increases the Devils odds of keeping pucks out more often.

The Areas of Improvement

Offensively you are looking at the Devils being 22nd in shots on goal and needing to shoot more frequently. The power play is 20th right now at 16.7% but that can all improve when Smith jumps in and having guys like Sharangovich, and Mercer to name a few begin clicking offensively more often. Faceoffs at 47.3% at 21st of 32 teams need to be the main focus after losing a guy like Hughes on the injured reserve.

Defensively Lindy’s penalty kill is above average with 76.9% at 15 over 32 other teams at this time. It’s a work in progress and having that improve with guys like Jonathan Bernier returning soon in the net, and potentially Nico Daws taking over Wedgewood’s spot with a few defensemen jumping in to help kill off penalties.

Buffalo Sabres Matchup

The Buffalo Sabres surprisingly have the top goals allowed an average of 1.33 per game. The question about Buffalo’s hot start would be because Buffalo beat a young and upcoming Red Wings team, and Montreal doesn’t have that much firepower right now early in the season isn’t where it should be.

Before the Sabres play at The Prudential Center. How good can the Sabres handle playing against the Boston Bruins? They’re going up against either Jeremy Swayman or even former Buffalo goaltender Linus Ullmark in the net. The additional issue prevails how will Buffalo’s offense handle the likes of Matt Grzelcyk, Charlie McAvoy, and Connor Clifton (Long Branch, New Jersey native) on defense?

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Former writer for Pucks and Pitchforks and The Puck Authority. I cover New Jersey Devils hockey and NHL Draft prospects. I have a podcast called Heads Up Hockey on Also I write for Full Press Hockey.