Special teams is an immediate focus for the New Jersey Devils’ late struggles, but find out what Jersey’s lineup really needs.
NEWARK, NJ—The New Jersey Devils dropped their fourth-straight loss on Thursday night, after losing 4-3 in a shootout to the Edmonton Oilers and are winless through their first four games for the third time since 2013-14.
Not only are the Devils 0-2-2, but head coach John Hynes’ squad has also surrendered consecutive third period leads on home ice. Keep in mind that the Devils are 0-for-11 on the power play and have the worst penalty kill in the league (7-for-13, 46.2%).
Coach Hynes addressed some strong points during his postgame press conference on how the team can “rectify” its unproductive power play, which is too talented not regroup and transform into one of the better man advantages in the league.
Hynes: “If you look at the way we competed and the way that we played 5-on-5 we played a lot to our identity.” pic.twitter.com/N8rjolPsTT
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) October 11, 2019
The fifth-year coach explained that the Devils weren’t “establishing any shot from the top” (shot from the blue line in the offensive zone) and that there needs to be a “mentality change.”
Hynes was referring to the fact that the team needs to generate more offensive scoring chances by “kicking the puck back” to the point and receiving a big and heavy shot from a skater such as P.K. Subban; which would lead to more traffic in front of the opposition’s net, plus quality scoring chances for forwards such as Wayne Simmonds.
— Kyle McKenna (@KMcKenna_tLT5) October 10, 2019
Unfortunately, Devils fans haven’t witnessed just how effective Subban and Simmonds can be on a power-play unit together – due to those reasons mentioned above.
The puck movement is there for Jersey on the perimeter, but it’s just a matter of properly utilizing its strengths to execute.
While adjusting the team’s special teams is one answer to fix the Devils’ early-season woes, something else is missing from the lineup.
New Jersey needs a “true” No. 1 defenseman.
As offensively talented as defensemen Subban and Sami Vatanen are, neither is an NHL caliber No. 1 defenseman who can be the backbone for a team’s blueline while shutting down the opposition’s top skaters consistently.
Now, that’s not a negative point thrown at either. Both are great commodities to have in a lineup, but rather each as a No. 2 caliber defenseman.
Yes, the days of having a skater such as the great Scott Stevens are long gone in the NHL, and true top dogs on the blueline are hard to find. But it’s a unique presence that’s been missing from the Devils’ lineup for far too long.
The Devils need a blueliner who’s known first for his All-Star defense first. Is the hope that Vatanen and Subban together can blossom into that aspect missing on the team’s blueline? Possibly.
They’re small steps in the right direction, but forward Jack Hughes appeared more comfortable and confident on Thursday night than he did through the team’s first three games. By “comfortable,” it appeared that Hughes was starting to dictate the flow of the game, especially in the offensive zone.
He was never quick to get rid of the puck and looked hungry to show some of his finesse moves to create scoring chances and set up his teammates.
New Jersey finished above 50% in the face-off circle for the third time this season – something to keep an eye on moving forward and on the team’s power play.
After hearing the critics through three games, defenseman Damon Severson finished the night with an even plus/minus rating, logged 25:02 on time on ice and netted his first goal of the season; which was oh so close to the game-winner.
New Jersey heads to Boston this weekend to visit the Bruins for the Original Six franchise’s 2019-20 home opener at TD Garden on Saturday night (7:00 P.M. ET, MSG).