Coming off of their embarrassing 7-3 loss to the New York Rangers at Yankee Stadium, the New Jersey Devils set off on a three game Central Time zone road trip that included games in St. Louis, Dallas, and Nashville. The Devils earned three of a possible six points, but the trip as a whole certainly was not the type of bounce back effort that they had hoped for.
The road trip got off to a poor start with a 3-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues. The Devils came out flat at the start, and it continued throughout the entire game. It’s possible that they were still suffering a hangover from the fallout of the Stadium Series. Combine that with traveling to play against a very good team who was out to get revenge for the 7-1 loss a week earlier, and you have a game that never saw the Devils even come close to winning.
They had stronger efforts in the next two games against the Stars and Predators, and some of that can be credited to the fact that both teams are not as good as difficult to play against as the Blues. Each game saw the Devils blow one goal leads with less than a minute remaining, and only against Dallas were they able to overcome it to win in overtime. The 3-2 loss to the Predators was especially disappointing because the Devils controlled the play for a majority of the game. The Predators are a middle of the road team, and with the playoff race so tight gaining two points against them was crucial.
Cory Schneider started all three games in net for New Jersey, and it appears that he will be the number one goalie going forward for the rest of the season. Coach Pete DeBoer has not officially come out and stated that Schneider is the clear cut starter, but it is apparent in watching him play this entire season that he is the goalie that should be in net for the Devils’ most crucial games the rest of the year. Schneider has the second best goals against average among starting goaltenders in the NHL behind Minnesota’s Josh Harding, and the loss to Nashville was the first time in 10 games that Schneider allowed more than three goals in a game.
The last three games have continued to show the flaws that the New Jersey Devils have. They have been at the bottom of the league in goal scoring the entire season, and that puts added pressure on both the defensive corps and the goaltenders. Giving up tying goals in the last minute of games is inexcusable, but the offense should have been able to score an insurance goal or two in either of those games. This isn’t the 1990s and the Devils cannot have the mindset that they can win every game 2-1, the NHL is no longer shaped that way. Their style of play is conducive to winning in the playoffs, evidenced by their run to the Stanley Cup final in 2012, but that style is very difficult to translate into winning over the course of an 82 game schedule.
By no means are the Devils are bad team and hopelessly out of contention, they still only remain one point out of a playoff spot. They have three games remaining before the Olympic break against the Avalanche, Oilers, and Capitals, and they won’t have to play a game outside of the Eastern Time zone for the rest of the year. But time is running out on the season, and they are going to need to make some sort of roster move to try and find a way to score more goals. The Devils have tried various options from within the organization without much success, so they are going to have to seriously consider being active in the trade market to try and acquire a proven goal scorer before the March 5th trade deadline.