There are too many recent Devils game where I watch the game, aghast at what I’m witnessing from the team.
Accurate passing? Never heard of her – the most I can give you is a clunk off the skates.
Decision making? I’ve seen that from the Devils! Only problem – it’s bad decision-making.
I don’t know what even to call it, or if there’s a stat to track it, but the Devils have to be the worst team in the NHL when it comes to corralling bouncing passes. When the puck is even a little bit hard to handle, the team constantly fails to control the puck.
Also, no-look passing works in theory, but only if your team knows where it’s going as well. Furthermore, no-look passes in the defensive zone seem just a bit more likely to harm the team compared to a normal exit.
Ken Daneyko, I wish to see the game from your eyes. I don’t know if your contract prevents you from criticizing the Devils in any way (In fact, I’d wager MSG may not allow him to criticize the Devils), but I assure you that the fans likely are not seeing the same games as you.
Trust me, I do understand that this team is extremely raw and not much is expected. In that aspect, I am excited for this team. I see bursts of potential and skill from this team, where we can compete with these teams like the Islanders and Capitals, who focus on rugged defense.
However, it’s the lack of adjustment from the coaching staff, the refusal to stray from the game plan, that frustrates me the most. While Hynes may have been critiqued for changing the lines too much, the same critique needs to be given to the Devils coaching staff for refusing to change. We keep trying to break out of the defensive zone the same time for games on end now with the same results – endless turnovers and tired Devils defenders. The Devils had 23 turnovers today, most of which came in their own defensive zone. The Islanders also took the puck away 10 times. Do you know how many turnovers the Islanders had? 8. I don’t even want to blame the players for these issues – yes, there is sloppiness involved in some of them. However, the refusal of the Devils coaching staff to acknowledge that the teams have figured out what they want to do is frustrating to me, and I highly doubt this will change anytime soon.
As for the game itself, it was what’s to be expected from an Islanders game – uneventful yet effective. Fans can critique how the Islanders choose to play, with those complaints being fair from an entertainment standpoint. However, from a performance standpoint, the slow cooker that is the Islanders is damn good. For 59 minutes, the Devils had about one high-dangerous opportunity, which Andreas Johnsson clanged off the post.
The first period was a snoozer, but set up what the Devils would look like today – giveaways galore. The Devils consistently failed to handle any pucks, whether it be through bad passing or lazy puck control, allowing the Islanders to control the puck.
Despite the similar numbers in terms of shots, the Devils offered nothing to Varlamov and the Islanders. The majority of the shots were seeing eye, and the Islanders had the better chances by far, including a one-on-one chance for Pageau and a blast of a slapshot which hit iron for Pulock. As such, the Islanders outshot the Devils 7-4, and had a higher Corsi of 15-8.
The second period was better for the Devils, but there were again a lack of opportunities. When I say a lack of opportunities, I wanted to highlight two of them in general. Jack Hughes showed why he may be a future superstar as he dove to send a puck towards Johnsson. Johnsson absolutely ripped a shot, but hit the post. A few minutes later, Kulikov took a shot from the point while Varlamov was blocked. Varlamov didn’t see the puck, but his stick did, and the Devils were unlucky to not score on that one. Besides these chances, the Islanders did what they do, and grinded the game to a halt as the game was still scoreless after two.
Unfortunately, the 3rd period saw the Islanders completely break through. A counter-attack from a failed Devils attack, where the Islander defenders successfully blocked all passing and shooting lanes, saw young forward Oliver Wahlstrom break in one-on-two. Devils fans may need to remember his name for years to come, as Wahlstrom absolutely blasted a perfect shot top-corner past Dell for a 1-0 shot. When I watched it live, I was both sad yet amazed at the quality of that shot.
Six minutes later, the Islanders had the Devils pinned in their zone, and Matt Barzal found Anders Lee in front of the net. Anders Lee, on his own, was stopped on the first shot, but was able to control the rebound and force it past Dell for a 2-0 lead. The rest of the period saw a typical Devils formula – shoot the puck at the net, draw a penalty, due absolutely nothing with the penalty, and then have Nikita Gusev score a consolation point. In this case, he was able to strip the puck, find Sharangovich, who then found Miles Wood in front of the net for a 2-1 too-little-too-late goal. And with that, the Devils lost 2-1.
Quick Thoughts: I love Sharangovich’s snapshot. It’s hard, deceptively sneaky, and he is relatively successful at using defenders to mask his shot. With Johnsson and Palmieri both struggling take advantage of the chances Hughes sets them up with, with Palmieri in particular seemingly getting all of his shots blocked, I wouldn’t mine promoting Sharangovich to the first line again while telling him to use his shot more often.
Gusev, perhaps fairly, gets criticized by Devils fans for his ineffectiveness this season. He likely is just trade bait at this point in the season, but I also don’t necessarily like the new system for Gusev. For a system build on speed and aggression, Gusev doesn’t fit a clear role for it anymore, even with his boatloads of creativity. Perhaps it will take more time for him to adjust, but things are getting concerning on his end.
With the season looking more and more lost, I’m a proponent for getting Kuokkanen and Merkley some more game time. Kuokkanen and Merkley have both showed flashes of potential for the Devils, where they contribute immensely for the team and helps them win. With the veterans not performing and potentially feeling the effects of a condensed schedule, it may be time to start shifting those players into the lineup more.
Your Thoughts: Let me know what you think in the comments below. Were the Devils outplanned today? Which players performed well? What do you want from the Devils in the season? Let me know in the comments below, and have a good night.