New Jersey has been a pleasant surprise in their ability to stay around .500 this far into the season. As we head further into December, the level of production from the top-six forwards has been very solid still. However, some severe concerns about the bottom-six and the bottom defensive pairings have created more problems.
The Devils and Tuesday seemingly mix together like oil and water. Specifically, the New Jersey Devils have home issues, Averaging around two goals per game when compared to 2.73 goals per contest on the road. The team is 5-6-2 in the not-quite-as-friendly confines of the Prudential Center.
The question is why are Tuesday’s not kind? There are some factors to consider but first of all, they have won once on Tuesdays and that was in overtime. Arizona was a team they should have put away and yet needed overtime to do so. There have been six losses including some absolute stinkers where they were not blown out but just should have played better. Here is a quick breakdown.
- 10/13 — 3-1 loss to Nashville (H)
- 10/20 — 3-2 OT win over Arizona (H)
- 10/27 — 3-1 loss to Columbus (H)
- 11/3 — 2-1 loss to NY Islanders (A)
- 11/10 — 2-0 loss to St. Louis (H)
- 11/17 — 3-2 loss to Calgary (A)
- 12/1 — 2-1 loss to Colorado (H)
There is a lot to digest here from so little. The crystal clear conjecture is that New Jersey is bad on Tuesdays and that very much is true. However, they show moments in these games where they should win. That is the quirky part of this run. New Jersey is 11-4-2 in games the rest of the week. They have only scored nine goals which is an abysmal 1.29 goals per game.
Tuesday night games are the new cursed thing for the New Jersey Devils like shootouts used to be
— anthonybarberio (@antbarberio1) December 2, 2015
Alas it sounds lie a joke but it has some relevance. The Prudential Center was built on burial ground and one has to wonder why it always seems to be something. Consider that five of the seven games were at home. New Jersey was 1-4 in those games and yet 4-2-2 during home games the rest of the week. Normally, this would be dismissed idly by most because of the sample size but that shootout streak a couple years back raises red flags.
When you look at other teams, look at how the Anaheim Ducks are still struggling in second periods this year. The reasons have been fundamental mostly. That long line change hurts a power team like the Ducks more than others. Confidence helps mitigate this sort of thing but even then, Anaheim still has a few second period issues in December.
Has it hit New Jersey in the mental aspect? Yes. the Arizona game is the only time they executed early in a contest. Every other game was marred either by a slow start or a complete lack of finishing. Excuses can be established honestly but here are some slow start nuggets.
- Nashville — two shots in first ten minutes
- NY Islanders — four shots in first 19 minutes
The pattern of slow start is nothing new but the lack of first period scoring is more disturbing. This is where the lack of execution gets factored in. Teams tend to fare much better at home when scoring first and earlier in those contests. Do you sense a theme here?
Ah, this is making sense now. If you saw a lot of goose eggs there, your eyes were not deceived. New Jersey has had problems scoring first and early at home this year. However, when it starts to get openly asked by fans and even some media, the questions and restlessness gets louder.
Part of this is because after the top six scoring, what is there? Lately, goals have been almost coming exclusively by the top six or the top three defensemen in New Jersey. Where are guys like Eric Gelinas or Jon Merrill lately? Exactly! Even Damon Severson is underperforming in his second year. The defense when it comes to creating offense has been spotty to say the least. However, there is a bigger fundamental problem.
The Colorado game on Tuesday revealed that over 90% of the time, New Jersey simply dumped pucks in and chased. Colorado has enough problems playing defense but if you do not come in with speed, most teams can defend that approach. Yes John Hynes has a transitioning team but more often on Tuesdays (Devils dump rate is significantly higher than on other days). How much higher? A stat of 15-20 percent higher than the league average is probably enough to suffice. This is with a team that’s average age is now almost three years younger than it was last season.
These are problems that can be somewhat rectified. At some juncture, players will need to be benched to send messages. Jacob Josefson has zero goals on the year. Too many players have one or two goals. The bottom half in New Jersey has to help the top half some way, somehow. Yes this is a Devils team that is still pretty slow but the speed is light years above what last year’s team was.
If the coach has to bench guys like Stephen Gionta then so be it. Players have to carry the puck more and support the puck pursuers more. The system that Coach Hynes is preaching apparently gets forgotten on long stretches when it comes to Tuesday games. New Jersey has to find its way as even special teams often take a weird vacation on this day. Both rank below their season numbers (top ten in both penalty kill and power play).
This all comes down to execution. The message must be sent that execution is vital and must happen at a basic, satisfactory rate. Let the thoughts exit from the mind is a legitimate method that should be used. Nothing else has worked at all for New Jersey. It is time to go a little outside the box. The case of the Tuesdays can be corrected.