Down three games to one, with a chance to send the series back home on Saturday, the New Jersey Devils need to get their act together. The team has collectively allowed 21 goals in only four games against the Carolina Hurricanes, while only scoring 11 themselves so far in the series. Astoundingly, aside from Game 3 where they potted eight, every other outing has seen them only score once. The Devils will need to regain some of that Game 3 form if they want to send the series back home, but there should be at least one change from that Game 3 victory.
If the Devils are truly trying to ice the best goalie they have right now for this series, they need to go back to the guy who got them this far: Akira Schmid. I know some will see this and think, “Well wait, if they didn’t have Vanecek in the regular season, they may not have even gotten to the playoffs to begin with!” and yes, that may be true. However, once the playoffs rolled around, Vitek crashed and burned, much like he did in his small playoff sample size with Washington. If the Devils didn’t shift from Vanecek to Schmid for Game 3 of the first round, I don’t even think we’re here having this discussion right now. While Akira didn’t look much better in Game 1 or 2, at least he did pretty well in his Game 4 relief appearance, which is more than I can say of Vitek’s relief appearances in Games 1 and 2.
At this point in their respective careers as well, there’s not even enough games played separating them to try and justify Vanecek having an experience edge. In terms of NHL career appearances? Yes, yes he does, but for the playoffs you’re looking at one guy with 10 playoff games played in versus one guy with eight, and the guy with eight has played more games this postseason! I’m also going with Schmid and his .921 save percentage over Vanecek and his *checks notes* .825?!?! Again, I’m not saying Schmid has been good against Carolina, but he’s still almost a full .1 better than Vanecek right now which is possibly one of the craziest goalie stats we will see in these playoffs. To top it all off? Schmid has faced 70 more shots and let in six fewer goals than Vitek.
All of these stats and comparisons could be moot point if the defense doesn’t start...ya know, playing defense, but whether that winds up being the case or not, you have to go with the goalie who gives you the best statistical chance. Any logical fan chooses the guy with the save percentage in the .920s rather than the guy with one in the .820s, even if the guy with the lower percentage has the only win in this series, right? I’m not going to blame the goalies entirely for how this series has turned out, because when you get left out to dry and have to face a lot of high danger chances, the odds are never in your favor. Not giving the puck away 26 times will also improve the team’s chances.
As a final aside here, can we also stop making Frederik Andersen look like a Vezina candidate and stop making Jordan Martinook look like a top line forward? Neither has ever been either of those things, and if the Devils play their brand of hockey from this season, neither will look like that tonight.
Who do you think should be the Game 5 starter for the New Jersey Devils tonight? Is your answer based more on individual statistics or number of wins the team has in this series? Will we see at least one more game at the Rock in these playoffs? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!