Can the Devils put an end to this dreadful losing streak?
The New Jersey Devils have been one of the messiest teams in hockey, lately.
In addition to losing their captain, Nico Hischier, to another long-term injury, the team came into their game with the New York Rangers on Saturday afternoon on an ugly four-game losing streak.
Head coach Lindy Ruff played with the lines on Thursday in an attempt to remedy the situation, but to no avail. He changed them up again on Saturday with hopes of finding line combinations that would actually work.
Nikita Gusev, who had been a healthy scratch, was back in and would join Jesper Bratt and Pavel Zacha on the top line. Michael McLeod would sit to make room for Gusev.
Ruff demoted Yegor Sharangovich from the second line to the fourth and moved Andreas Johnsson up to replace him.
Miles Wood and Kyle Palmieri would serve as the third line wingers and Mikhael Maltsev would be featured at center on the fourth line with Nathan Bastian dropping down next to him.
MacKenzie Blackwood got the start in net with Scott Wedgewood backing him up.
1st period: Could be better, could be worse
Sami Vatanen was terrible out of the gate, committing a double-minor penalty, and that’s how the entire game would go for him and his fellow defensemen. T
he Devils had been slightly better on the penalty kill, but are still the worst in the league. They showed that when they conceded an early power play goal to Rangers defenseman Adam Fox, who caught the killers sleeping.
Gusev, whose struggles warranted a benching, showed why he was scratched. He had two good chances to shoot the puck, but opted to pass instead. These are issues he’s going to have to work on if he hopes to remain a mainstay in this lineup.
The Devils were lucky that they were taking on the Rangers’ backup goalie in Alexandar Georgiev: they were able to get two past him to tie the game.
P.K. Subban scored a much-needed goal to get things going and Maltsev continued his solid play as of late by adding another.The Devils did end up conceding another goal before the period came to a close, but 3-2 is better than 2-0.
The Devils had a serious problem turning over the puck in the first period, and terrible passing was a cause of that. They’d have to clean up that part of their game moving forward and would need to stop being on the receiving end of odd-man rushes.
2nd period: Where are the d-men?
The Devils’ defensemen had a bad game, but they were also very undisciplined.
They committed several penalties and while the Rangers never scored more than one power play goal, constantly being on the penalty kill prevented them from getting any momentum going.
The Devils conceded another goal this period, one that Blackwood probably should’ve had. His rough patch is coming at the worst possible time.
The top line had a great shift at the end of the period, the best of any Devils’ line so far, and brought the pressure in the offensive zone.
The Devils would head into the third down two, but if they showed more of what the top line did to end the second, this would be anyone’s game.
3rd period: Rock-bottom?
This game wasn’t over, but the Devils came into this game having given up a whopping 28 third period goals. This, coupled with an early penalty by Damon Severson, was not ideal.
Bastian, who had been great all game, scored a well-deserved goal, but the Devils conceded two more this period, including an empty-netter.
The Devils have now conceded six goals in back-to-back games and are on a five-game losing streak. Unfortunately, their schedule won’t be getting any easier, and the season is beginning to really slip away.
Key Moment: Superb goal for Subban
The Devils’ key moment of the game was Subban’s goal. He’s been having another rough season, both offensively and defensively, and really needed this goal. Maybe this will ignite him as his team heads into a difficult stretch of schedule.
This goal was also important because it gave the Devils a bit of momentum, as short-lived as it was, to score another goal not two minutes later to tie the game.
Player of the game: Nathan Bastian
Bastian was a legitimate bright spot in an awful game. He played well from start to finish and created multiple scoring chances while making big plays. He’s establishing himself as a solid bottom-six two-way forward on this team.
His numbers: 10:21 TOI, 1 G, 1 A, 0.08 iXG, 0.22 xGF, 0.26 xGA, 1.84 GF, 1.05 GA, 64.71 CF%, -0.22 defensive rating, 0.88 offensive rating, and 1.49 individual rating.
Stats are courtesy of Hockey Stat Cards and Natural Stat Trick.