This was not supposed to be a bad season for the New Jersey Devils.
This is not how it was supposed to go for the red, white, and black. The team was coming off one of their best seasons in recent memory in which they went from last place in the league in 2016-17 to a playoff team last year.
This is a team that was coming into the year with Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall, a supposed healthy and solid goaltending tandem in Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid, and hope that last year’s success was not a one off. The organization and their fans had every right to be pumped about this season.
Unfortunately for the franchise and their fans, this season has been absolutely awful. Things have not gone their way in any facet of the game and as of right now at least, they are playing like they did in seasons prior to last year.
As of this writing, the Devils are the third worst team in the league. What’s worse is that the worst team in the league, the Los Angeles Kings, are just two points behind them.
The first problem this team is having is that they are struggling to keep the puck out of their net. They are currently 27th in the league in goals allowed as they have given up 116 goals in 32 games, which means that on average, they are allowing just over three-and-a-half goals per game.
Clearly, the team’s goaltending has not been anywhere near as good as it was last season. It is apparent that Cory Schneider is not the same goalie he was three seasons ago and may not even be a shell of himself.
Schneider has yet to win a game this season. He is 0-5-1 with a 4.66 goals-against average and a .852 save percentage.
To make matters worse, the team placed him on injured reserve because of an abdominal strain. While the injury certainly stinks, one could only hope that it was an injury that was causing him to struggle this season.
Unfortunately for the Devils, Kinkaid has not been great either. He is currently 11-9-6 with a 3.00 goals-against average, a .902 save percentage, and three shutouts.
The three shutouts are great, but the goals-against average and the low save percentage is concerning. If Schneider is going to miss a lot more time, Kinkaid is going to have to really step up his game.
The team’s defense as a whole has been dreadful. Yes, the club’s goaltenders have not been great, but the team needs to start helping them out more if they want to cut down the goals against.
The Devils give up a ton of quality scoring chances, do not do a good job of clearing out the front of their net, and generally struggle to be in good position in order to prevent scoring chances. When you put all of these things together, you have a hockey team that has trouble preventing goals.
Lastly, this team struggles to come back in games. When the Devils get down early, they seem to take themselves completely out of the game and end up looking disinterested in what happens the rest of the game.
A good example of this was in their 7-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on December 18. The team was down was down 3-1 after the first, 5-1 after the second, and they lost the third two goals to one.
The Devils were out of the game after the first period. When you can’t play well defensively against a team like Toronto, it’s going to be a long night and the Devils certainly saw that in their embarrassing loss.
No one is quite sure where the team goes from here. They play in a tough Metropolitan Division, a tight Eastern Conference, and they have shown no signs of improving their play.
This team better figure out how to fix things fast or else it is going to be another playoffless season for the franchise and their fans.