- The Devils have made a habit of embarrassing themselves in November, especially after a cruel 5-3 loss to their biggest rivals just days ago.
- With every one of their flaws clear and defined by fans, broadcasters, and the coaching staff, the Devils made no adjustments that helped their performance or cut down on defensive and neutral zone mistakes.
- After surrendering three goals in under ninety seconds in the first, the Devils crumbled under the pressure. They packed their bags during the intermission, boarded their plane, and the Red Wings held an impromptu scrimmage against themselves with the remaining ice time they’d booked for the night. No refunds were given.
- New Jersey lost 4-0 to the Detroit Red Wings.
The Red Wings began with a jump in their step and seemed half-a-pace ahead of the Devils on plays, leading to an uncharacteristic giveaway by Hughes in the defensive zone that eventually led to a scoring chance. The puck never quite made it to the net—thank traffic, and pokechecks from Vitek Vanecek and Jesper Bratt for breaking up the play. The Devils picked up the pace from there, generating a few shots of their own, but Detroit had the better of them through the first six minutes. Something I noticed on one of Detroit’s scoring chances: Luke Hughes had an unfortunate giveaway that led to Alex DeBrincat with the puck on his stick. He tried to find Christian Fischer on the back door—but Colin Miller was already there covering for Hughes. It’s a far cry from Hughes and Smith, where Smith is often making just as many (if not more/worse) defensive mistakes as Luke.
Then the Devils took a too-many-men penalty near the halfway mark of the period. Bench minors like these are failures in communication and the absolute last thing they needed so early in the game. Even Bill Spaulding was frustrated, accidentally saying “Well how does this happen almost every game,” on a hot mic. Luckily the penalty killers were solid, and Detroit never truly had an opportunity to set up in the offensive zone. The Devils escaped the first half of the period, lucky to have a tie score after ten minutes.
Vanecek had made some positive saves by this point, stopping all seven the Red Wings sent his way.
Tyler Toffoli had maybe the best offensive chance for the Devils this period. He worked his way into the slot, delayed on his shot to open a passing lane, and rocketed a wrister that unfortunately Alex Lyon deflected away with his body. I wanted to point this out and feel happy about Toffoli because it’s the last positive remark I have for the Devils’ first period.
They had four minutes left in the first period. It wasn’t the strongest period. They were lucky to have a tie score, but they weren’t embarrassing themselves, and Toffoli might’ve scored to put them up 1-0 just moments before. All that’s to say, they were not out of the game. Four minutes left. 240 seconds. The one thing you don’t want to do in the last few minutes of a period is give up a goal. It shifts the momentum away, demoralizes the team, and then you go and stew over it for twenty minutes while the crew resurfaces the ice.
But I guess nobody told this Devils team to not give up three goals in the final minutes of a period.
The wheels completely came off the bus in one of the more embarrassing collapses I’ve witnessed in recent memory. This team is supposed to be a contender and the Red Wings are not, supposedly. But you wouldn’t know it from the last few minutes.
All right. Let’s break down these goals real quick. It’ll probably take you longer to read about them than it took for the Red Wings to score them. The first goal was—who would’ve guessed it—a short odd man rush. Marino got caught trying to break up a play in the neutral zone, which left Lucas Raymond and Robbi Fabbri on a two-on-one with Smith back as the lone defender. Raymond and Fabbri executed a perfect tic-tac-toe pass, ending with a one-timer goal past Vanecek’s blocker. Smith sprawled, fell, and tried eventually to take Fabbri but accomplished little if anything. Marino was backchecking but fell short by two or three strides. A brutal goal. They know the odd man rushes were a problem. They’re still a problem. Whatever adjustments they’ve attempted aren’t working.
START US OFF, RAY! pic.twitter.com/8ZxUQdg8Ju— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) November 23, 2023
The next goal came twenty seconds later. Jack Hughes tried some sort of drop pass—or the puck deflected strangely off his stick—that went right to DeBrincat. DeBrincat found Larkin in the slot, who skated toward the far post and slipped the puck under Vanecek’s pad with a backhander. The defense once again did Vanecek no favors. Luke Hughes and Curtis Lazar were within stick reach if not body reach of DeBrincat. I’ll defend DeBrincat’s toughness and strength in plenty of circumstances, but as someone who has stood beside him countless times, DeBrincat is very much under the 5’7” stature he’s listed at. Meaning two Devils should be able to strip him of the puck. They did not. But if the defense did Vanecek no favors, he did the same, lifting his left pad for some reason just as Larkin shot the puck. I initially thought this was bad timing and that Vanecek lifted his pad to prevent himself from sliding out of the net. But nope. Thus, I’m not sure what that was.
Another Cat + Captain connection. pic.twitter.com/0I8ofaiTq6— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) November 23, 2023
The final goal of the period was once again an odd man rush, a three-on-two. Veleno passed through Devils traffic to Sprong, who shot—but the puck bounced off Siegenthaler’s skate, which was angled to perfectly set up Fabbri for a one-timer. Three goals in 1:12. Three goals on three shots. Three goals in the final three minutes of the period. The Devils entered the second 3-0.
User cmcd303 summed it up below:
The Devils tried to bring back some momentum their way in the first couple minutes of the second. Jack Hughes almost had a breakaway alone on Lyon, but the puck was just a step ahead and Lyon sticked it away. Some back and forth through the neutral zone occurred. Minutes of the game and our finite lives passed by. During an enterprising offensive chance from Detroit, Vanecek made a good save, but he swatted the airborne puck away with his stick. Naturally, the puck landed out of play. The Devils headed to the penalty kill.
They almost escaped. They almost escaped the penalty kill only down three. It was a game of almosts. On the cycle, Seider took a wrist shot from the point that found its way through a screen, through Vanecek, and into the net. So the Devils hit the halfway mark of the game down 4-0.
They managed to create some offensive pressure at the right end of the ice shortly after, but with their top offensive players on the ice, nothing came from their verve. At least nothing on the scoresheet. Vanecek made two difficult saves in the final minutes of the second period. Other than that, I saw nothing from the Devils that warranted a sentence and five seconds of your precious time, other than to write that I saw nothing from them.
No fight back. No will. No pride.
Even the power play, which closed out the period, was anemic. They generated no chances, one shot, negative momentum, and a shorthanded breakaway against. They headed toward the tunnel with their heads down, four goals away from even tying their opposition.
Jack Hughes and Holtz showed minor signs of life early in the third, but Haula caught his stick around Jake Walman’s legs and got sent to the box, putting a Devils team four goals away from even footing on the penalty kill. While they killed the penalty, Hamilton took another shortly after. On the delayed touch, the Red Wings lackadaisically passed the puck back and forth without a hint of urgency in the world. As they should’ve. The Devils did pretty much nothing to take the puck away. When the whistle blew and the Devils ‘regained possession’, it was more because the Red Wings played it into their sticks. The Red Wings generated little on their power play. It didn’t matter: the damage was done. Detroit knew the game was won, New Jersey knew, the fans and broadcasters knew. All that was left was to dot the i’s and cross the T’s.
The broadcast replayed Larkin’s goal midway through the third. Even Daneyko and Spaulding went quiet.
With eight minutes remaining, they finally looked like they were trying when they headed to the power play—for about twenty seconds. Hughes had two opportunities to score, the second on the back door. Lyon robbed him by reaching over his blocker at the last second. They might’ve lost anyway due to bad puck luck and decent opposition goaltending, but they certainly did not have to look so miserable in the losing.
The Devils lost 4-0 to the Detroit Red Wings. The 101-game streak without a shutout against ended.
There’s no more space for excuses
Performances like these should come with consequences. Because performances like this could cost the team real money in ticket sales, merchandise around the holiday season, and coveted playoff revenue come April if things continue going sideways.
If the game thread is anything to judge by, these are the kinds of games that cause fans to tune out and put something else on. Time is valuable. There are other things people can do with their time. Many, many fans stuck through a decade and two rebuilds, and they deserve better than this. Last season cannot be a repeat of 2017-2018’s false spring. Whatever small faith they—the front office, the coaching staff, and the players—have earned, they’re losing fast.
I know one thing: they need a shakeup. A shot across the bow. Waive a veteran. Fire a coach. Trade a well-liked player who hasn’t performed. Be a little ruthless. This season is still salvageable, but time is growing short. I would like to not read draft coverage in February, or know who is likely to go in the top ten picks.
Whatever you think about the individual mechanics of the roster as constructed, I hope we can all agree that this team should be a playoff-bound group. They certainly have more talent than the Philadelphia Flyers, who sit second in the division after a five-game winning streak. When expectations are not met as seriously (and as early) as this, then they must take action.
Injuries are not causing them to lose
I kept seeing the infographic shown on the broadcast of all the guys the Devils are missing: Hischier, Meier, Nosek. Hughes only recently returned. Yes, they have suffered far worse injury luck than last year, when they were remarkably fortunate. Other teams have suffered injuries too, and the good teams kept on rolling because that’s what contenders do. It pains me to say contender and Rangers in the same paragraph, but when the Rangers’ star—Igor Shesterkin—was injured, they won plenty of games with the ghost of Jonathan Quick and former New Jersey Devil star Louis Domingue. Tampa Bay is rolling along just fine without their starting goaltender. Carolina is missing both goalies due to injury, the Leafs are missing half their defense corps, and the Capitals top center recently announced he was stepping away from the game. They’re all winning. You can win without the most talented goaltenders. You can win with injuries. You cannot win like this.
It’s not the injuries. It’s regression from too many players. Here’s a noncomprehensive list of guys who have taken steps back: John Marino, Jonas Siegenthaler, Vitek Vanecek, Akira Schmid, Dawson Mercer, Dougie Hamilton, Ondrej Palat. You could make arguments about a half-dozen others. When it’s one or two players, that’s expected. All athletes experience down seasons here and there; some cycle between up and down years like clockwork. But when it’s half the team regressing, that’s a trend.
Things to be Thankful For
- Jack Hughes is a New Jersey Devil.
- A community like AllAbouttheJersey exists to commiserate with.
There are only so many ways to write the team was bad and needs changes. I’m appreciating Chris, John, and all the work past and present previewers, recappers, and writers put into this website during the bad seasons. Alas. What’re your thoughts on tonight’s game? Any positives? Is it finally time to ‘fire Lindy’, or has he earned a longer leash than 17 games? Let us know in the comments below.
Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate and have a safe holiday. We’ll see you back here on Friday.