The Detroit Red Wings certainly didn’t look like a team that just returned home from playing overseas in Sweden. Perhaps, that’s because the New Jersey Devils made it easy for them, traveling to Motor City just to put together a lifeless effort.
We’ve now arrived at American Thanksgiving and the Devils find themselves out of playoff position, although, they’re far from being out of the hunt.
Regardless, this isn’t the Devils team that put together 112 points as the third-best team in the NHL last season.
For the first time since April 24th, 2022, the Devils were shut out in a game.
Let’s dive into New Jersey’s 4-0 loss to the Red Wings.
Devils Quick Wrap
The Red Wings took it to the Devils in the first period striking in bunches. Three quick goals by Lucas Raymond, Dylan Larkin, and Robby Fabbri gave Detroit a 3-0 lead heading into the middle frame. With Detroit on the power play in the second period, Moritz Seider gave Detroit a 4-0 lead with a blast from the point on the power play. The Red Wings locked things down for the remaining 30-plus minutes in the contest, shutting the Devils out for the first time in over a year. Vitek Vanecek played the full 60 minutes making 24 saves. Alex Lyon recorded the shutout that only required 16 saves in the performance.
The Devils might not have started a game worse than they did on Wednesday.
Early on, Vanecek had to be sharp in order to keep Detroit off the board. However, that all quickly fell apart when the Red Wings put together three goals in the matter of just 1:11.
Raymond, Larkin, and Fabbri all took advantage of a New Jersey team that looked out of sorts defensively, or the Devils’ goaltender was out of position.
Detroit’s first goal certainly can’t be held against Vanecek. In fact, it was John Marino who was out of position that allowed the odd-man rush to take place. Raymond, a sniper on the rise in the NHL, made no mistake 2-on-1.
Just seconds later, the Devils were sloppy in their own end, turning the puck over to Alex DeBrincat. The turnover left Colin Miller on an island all alone, however, Vanecek was in position to make a save on a relatively low-danger opportunity. Unfortunately, Vanecek opened up the five-hole and allowed Larkin to sneak the puck past his pads.
Another Cat + Captain connection. 👌 pic.twitter.com/0I8ofaiTq6
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) November 23, 2023
When it rains it pours. To wrap up the third period, another lost puck battle in the neutral zone turns into a scoring chance for the Red Wings. Fabbri capitalized on a blocked shot that ended up on his tape. Out of position from the unexpected redirection, Vanecek couldn’t recover and New Jersey trailed 3-0 early.
According to Natural Stat Trick, the Red Wings put together five high-danger scoring chances as opposed to none for the Devils in the first period.
It was a combination of awful defense, being soft on the puck, and a lack of saves that ultimately unraveled the Devils in the opening frame.
Even with Jack Hughes in the lineup on Wednesday, the Devils still looked off.
It’s abundantly true that injuries have derailed the start of the season for New Jersey. However, head coach Lindy Ruff has remained consistent in saying that the Devils will need to be “a little different” due to some key injuries.
However, the Devils have Jack back, plus they still possess Tyler Toffoli, Jesper Bratt, and Dougie Hamilton, all plenty capable of driving offense.
Perhaps line combinations are more important a factor than initially anticipated. New Jersey started the game with Hughes skating between Erik Haula and Curtis Lazar. However, their chance share was relatively even with the opposition.
Ruff switched things up and front-loaded his top line, skating Bratt and Toffoli with Jack. That trio of Devils forwards certainly looked a lot closer to a scoring threat than the other combinations. The problem is the depth that follows the trio created little to no offense.
New Jersey made a living on constant puck pressure in all three zones during 2022-23. They were also one of the best teams at generating shots off the rush and generating goals in the process.
However, too often — especially against the Red Wings — have the Devils been stifled while on the attack this season. They’re struggling to win puck battles and when they do, they’re not turning them into scoring chances.
What’s most concerning is the Devils’ third period. New Jersey was only able to muster up two shots in the final frame against the Red Wings.
Perhaps when the Devils get Nico Hischier and Timo Meier back, these issues resolve themselves. Until then, New Jersey will need the likes of players such as Dawson Mercer and Ondrej Palat to be a lot more relevant in the absences of the aforementioned.
Not only could the Devils not generate anything at 5-on-5, but they hurt themselves even further playing short a man too often.
The Red Wings came into Wednesday night ranking 14th overall in the NHL, converting on 20% of chances. It’s good, but not great. However, the Devils took far too many penalties which saw them shorthanded five times.
Detroit only scored once, a howitzer by Seider from the blue line. However, the Devils’ lack of discipline forced New Jersey to play short a man far too often, diminishing any time or momentum they could have had to turn the tides of the contest.
What got the penalty train started was an unfortunate bench minor for too many men on the ice. It’s now the second consecutive game in which New Jersey has committed the infraction.
It just goes to show you the lack of cohesion within the Devils right now. From behind the bench to on the ice, nothing seems to be clicking.