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Devils Takeaways: Devils Goaltending Leaky, Defense Poor in 5-4 Victory Over Islanders

Vitek Vanecek was pulled halfway through Tuesday’s tilt with the Islanders in the Devils’ 5-4 victory.



Devils Takeaways: Devils Goaltending Leaky, Defense Poor in 5-4 Victory Over Islanders
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Newark — The New Jersey Devils must be having Deja Vu. It feels like every puck that is thrown toward New Jersey’s net has a chance to go in. It’s certainly not a good sign for the Devils goaltending.

Earlier this week, we learned that general manager Tom Fitzgerald is keeping up to date on the goaltending market. Tuesday night was a good example of why.

The New York Islanders scored four goals in a period and a half on Vitek Vanecek. That forced head coach Lindy Ruff to pull him for Akira Schmid. The defense didn’t help, but the Vanecek well may be running dry.

Fortunately, the Devils battled back.

Let’s dive into tonight’s 5-4 victory over the Islanders.

Devils Quick Wrap

The Islanders gained early momentum scoring the first goal of the game. With the Devils on the penalty kill, Bo Horvat rifled a one-timer past Vitek Vanecek to give the Isles a 1-0 lead. However, Michael McLeod forced a turnover in the neutral zone and scored the other way on an odd-man rush. The second period started well for the Devils as Dawson Mercer gave New Jersey an early lead. However, the Islanders scored three straight goals by Mathew Barzal, Cal Clutterbuck, and J.G. Pageau to take a two-goal lead into the third period. A dominant third period by the Devils, however, saw Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier (power play goal) even the score, and with seconds to go, Curtis Lazar potted the game-winner.

Vanecek made 14 saves on 18 shots before he was taken out of the game. Schmid stopped all eight pucks he faced in the final half of the game.


Devils Goaltending Leaky, Again

Look, we’re really hammering down here on the Devils goaltending situation. However, it’s clearly become an issue.

Vanecek continues to get the majority of starts which is puzzling considering the fact that he gave up two goals on 12 shots on Saturday.

The Islanders were on the power play in the first period and granted, Horvat really put some mustard on his one-time goal. However, despite Vanecek getting across the crease and covering enough of the net to make a save, Horvat scored anyway.

It’s not like Horvat picked a corner. His shot went right above Vanecek’s pad and below his glove mid-slide.

Forget stealing saves, Vanecek isn’t fighting off stoppable pucks. In the locker room, the players tell us they left Vanecek out to dry. That may be true in some cases, but certainly not all. It’s not the first time Vanecek has been benched.

The Devils certainly aren’t going to be able to outscore their goaltending issues forever.

Sleepy Defense

Stop us if you’ve heard this before, but if it’s not the goaltending hindering the Devils, it’s the defense.

The second period alone demonstrated New Jersey’s mental lapses and unwillingness to engage in physical play.

With the Islanders defending in their own end, Colin Miller pinched too far up in the zone and lost his man. Much like Dougie Hamilton against Columbus, this time it was Miller who let his man creep behind him while in the offensive one that sprung a breakaway, and Barzal didn’t miss. Ruff benched Miller for the remainder of the second period following the goal.

Speaking of Hamilton, he was once again a direct result of another goal against New Jersey.

Following Barzal’s goal, the Islanders went back on the attack. With the puck deep in the Devils’ end, New Jersey failed to clear the puck from danger and Clutterbuck set up shop at the top of Vanecek’s crease. Hamilton could have opted to use his 6-foot-6 frame to move Clutterbuck from a scoring area, but instead tried to play the puck and lost. Clutterbuck swept the bouncing puck past Vanecek.

On Pageau’s goal, it was more of the same. John Marino lost his man in the defensive end, Pageau slipped behind him, received a pass, and scored.

The goaltending is bad, but the defense certainly isn’t helping, either. Although, it wouldn’t kill Vanecek to steal a save every once in a while.

A Silver Lining

It wasn’t pretty, but they got the win. If the defense and goaltending shows up like that most nights, don’t count on the result turning out the way it did on Tuesday. However, there’s a silver lining.

The Devils are still very much controlling the play at 5-on-5. It’s a sign that the poise and structure that the Devils played with in last season is still there.

Moreover, the power play continues to produce, and in timely moments.

According to Natural Stat Trick, New Jersey finished Tuesday night’s contest with a 64.13 CF% at 5-on-5. That translated to a pretty significant 27-15 chance differential in favor of New Jersey.

That resulted in three third-period goals in a dominant third period evening the score. Hughes and Lazar scored at even strength while Hischier tied the game on the power play.

In the third period alone, New Jersey heavily outshot the Islanders 15-6.

The Devils just need to tighten up in their own end and they need to get a save. The rest will sort itself out and they’ll look a lot closer to the team they were in 2022-23.

Quick Shifts

  • Hamilton did not come out for the third period. Upper-body injury, per Ruff.
  • Jack Hughes recorded nine shots on goal.
  • Akira Schmid has registered a lifetime .950 sv% in relief appearances.
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