The New Jersey Devils post-COVID are arguably worse than the Buffalo Sabres. Even Buffalo has managed to rebound to win five points and collect 13 points in their last ten games. New Jersey is 2-6-2 in their last ten which is the second-worst in the NHL besides the Columbus Blue Jackets’ 2-7-1 over this stretch.
New Jersey Devils’ Double Bagel
With the youngest team in the league not having Jesper Bratt and Pavel Zacha (their two best scorers), expectations were already low. Thursday night saw New Jersey fall behind 3-0 early and never truly recover. They lost 4-0 and were shut out again by the New York Rangers. That makes no goals scored on Igor Shesterkin in his last 170 minutes of play versus New Jersey.
Advanced stats are great but a lot of New Jersey’s numbers boil down to a lack of execution and fundamentals. Players standing around, players not finishing, and worse players not paying attention to detail. These are correctable mistakes that often get repeated.
Captain Nico Hischier said it as much after the game.
“It was not enough at the beginning. Saturday we’ve got to dig in there.”
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) April 16, 2021
Again, the quotes keep getting repeated. Furthermore, the song remains the same for New Jersey. It is easy to see why most fans are beyond frustrated. The last decade has seen one deep playoff run and then a short one. That’s it! Most of the time has been spent retooling, rebuilding, and spinning wheels.
Now, there is a young captain with not much veteran presence trying to lead the way. This is never easy. The season is lost and worse, New Jersey is only five points from the bottom of the league standings. Yes, even the Detroit Red Wings have more points than the Devils do currently.
That Damon Severson quote…
Damon Severson was a -2. For those that do not remember, there was that Severson quote:
— Chris Ryan (@ChrisRyan_NJ) April 9, 2021
The Zoom press meeting with Tom Fitzgerald last Wednesday summed up something else to note. “There will be opportunities. If those players do not step up, we will find players that will”. Let’s see if Fitzgerald follows through on that promise.
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The follow-up to the Damon Severson quote
That goes for veterans too. Let’s not kid ourselves. Severson likely has 30 to 40 point potential. The defenseman has two points in his last 15 games.
In three of his last four games, he has not managed a single shot on goal. He is supposedly an offensive defenseman or even a puck-moving defenseman. Too many times, Severson suffers from crucial lapses. For as good as he can be, there are just moments where one openly wonders. Everything has degraded. Veterans like Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac, for as professional as they were, could not get the job done. Nikita Gusev’s second year went so poorly that his contract was terminated (now in Florida).
Finally, some of the younger players like Jesper Bratt and Pavel Zacha are scoring at a better rate but now they are day-to-day as mentioned above. Even strength has been pretty good for the most part but the defense and special teams are a total wreck. Unfortunately, New Jersey’s penalty kill suffered after Andy Greene was traded to the New York Islanders last trade deadline.
Damon Severson was supposed to be one of the leaders of this team but maybe he just is what he is. Severson’s advanced numbers are mostly good but the execution is lacking. His PDO is 97.4 and some have said well it will bounce back. It has not. The previous two years were 97.6 and 97.4 respectively. Maybe, the defenseman is just not that offensively gifted. Two power-play assists on the season are not enough and neither is 13 points. Rookie Ty Smith leads the defense with 21 points and only two assists on the man advantage
As for Severson, all the talk and quotes in the world do not help. Actions do. Those actions have shown the defenseman not to quite be a solution. He has not stepped up enough.
What New Jersey needs to do Saturday…
Simply, this team needs to compete and execute. Most are not asking much. A power-play goal or two would be nice but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Simply, playing decent fundamental road hockey is not too much to ask. No one is saying win. Everyone is saying do not capitulate so easily and do not get shut out again.
There was too much retreating and surrendering on Thursday. Getting outshot two to one is not acceptable. Let’s see who steps up this weekend because those that do not may just be shipped out this summer.