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Is the New Jersey Devils’ Defense Worsening Their Goaltending Woes?

The New Jersey Devils have not gotten quality goaltending this season, but should the defense be seeing more of the blame for it than they seemingly are?

NHL: New Jersey Devils at New York Islanders Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

The New Jersey Devils have had limited success to put it lightly in their 2018-19 campaign. What started out as a promising 4-0-0 start has quickly derailed into a team that sits 14 points out of playoff spot. The team was ruined this season by poor road play compounded by the fact that there were numerous games where the opposition would score anywhere from 5-8 goals excluding empty net tallies. There’s been a share of blame from talent issues, to defensive systems to management not doing more, but the goalies have been under the microscope for a large part of this season.

Now I didn’t come here to lie to you as readers and act as though goaltending is not the problem; Cory Schneider’s poor play has absolutely been a problem and Keith Kinkaid’s inconsistency has made it a mystery as to if the Devils will get a quality start on any given night or not. MacKenzie Blackwood was faring better than the above pair, but he was sent down to Binghamton for the AHL All-Star Game and was just recalled this morning. He will not be starting tonight, meaning the Devils will be looking at another mixed bag start.

How fair is it though to be focusing on the goalies for the issues that the team is having? While Schneider needs to be better when he plays (as he has stated himself) part of the issue when the other two are in net is the defense that is playing in front of them is letting them down.

We know the Devils do not have a complete competent NHL defense right now, and that’s something that will have to (hopefully) be addressed this summer. But take for example the goal the Devils allowed to Bryan Rust when they played the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night.

Could Keith Kinkaid have stopped this goal? Possibly. Was it fair that he ever had to face this shot in the first place? Absolutely not. While the Penguins were attacking in transition, it’s not as though they had an odd-man rush that this situation could or should have developed. Will Butcher simply didn’t pick up his man, and as a result, Evgeni Malkin was able to hit him with a pass and send him in on the goalie all alone.

Now if this were an isolated incident, I would say okay, bad play, let’s take it and move on, especially since the goal was essentially scored in garbage time. However, this is the 2018-19 Devils and it seems as though these kinds of plays are the norm, rather than the anomaly. The Devils defenders need to be helping to keep pucks out of their net, not opening up the freeway for the opposition and yet time and time again the same mistakes are made.

Earlier I made mention of blame needing to be shared, and so maybe it’s not the defense but the defensive system that’s in place. Maybe the staff needs to realize that they can’t play the exact style they want with the personnel that they currently have. Maybe they need to be actively teaching our players how to improve their defensive skill set. Maybe it’s simply that the goaltenders need to make the bail out save when their defensive makes an error that they haven’t been making this season. Whatever the case may be, the Devils need to figure it out between now and the start of next season so that history does not repeat itself.

What do you think of the defense’s woes related to the goaltending woes? Which side should shoulder more of the blame? What should be done with the defense and the goalies for next season? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!