The New Jersey Devils were behind the eight-ball before the puck even dropped against the Edmonton Oilers. As warmups got underway, forward Erik Haula was absent and announced out with an upper-body injury. It didn’t help that the Devils’ power play was stifled, either. More on that later.
Chris Tierney drew in on the third line next to Dawson Mercer and Alexander Holtz and Timo Meier slid up next to Jack Hughes and Tyler Toffoli.
It’s unfortunate for Haula as he’s put together a nice season in his 21 games collecting 13 points.
The Devils came into Sunday 1-3-1 in back-to-back contests this season, however, couldn’t improve that record suffering a 4-1 loss.
Let’s dive into the Devils’ Sunday afternoon contest with the Oilers.
Devils Quick Wrap
The Oilers believed they scored early as Connor Brown celebrated a puck crossing the blue line toward the beginning of the first period, however, head coach Lindy Ruff won a challenge for goaltender interference which kept the game tied. Derek Ryan got Edmonton on the board, anyway, as the Devils gave up a late-period goal in the first. A power-play goal by Evan Bouchard put the Oilers up 2-0 heading into the final frame. Connor McDavid struck early in the third period to put Edmonton ahead by three scores, however, Jesper Bratt quickly struck back to give the Devils a bit of life. Ruff pulled Akira Schmid with just over four minutes remaining in the third period and Evander Kane put the nail in the coffin scoring the empty-net goal.
Schmid was strong in making 26 saves. Pickard secured the win, also making 26 stops.
If you felt like you were having Deja Vu watching Sunday’s first period, you weren’t. The Calgary Flames controlled the opening 20 minutes of Saturday night’s contest. The Oilers did the same to the Devils on Sunday.
Admittedly, the Devils came out of the gate with a bit more pop this time. That was the lone difference between Saturday and Sunday. Yet, Edmonton began to take over as the period progressed.
The Oilers controlled the puck for the majority of the opening first period accruing a 59.09 CF%. According to Natural Stat Trick, Edmonton converted the control into a 7-6 chance differential, scoring on one of those chances on the stick of Ryan.
The NHL’s fourth-best power play went to work as a result of a slashing call on Nico Hischier. As Edmonton worked the puck in the offensive zone, Leon Draisaitl was left all alone in the right circle. As he received a one-time chance, Schmid made an excellent lateral save moving from post to post. The Devils goaltender stayed with the puck as the Oilers pursued follow-up chances, yet they were unsuccessful as New Jersey was able to clear the puck and kill the penalty. Schmid later stopped Draisaitl again at even strength, as the Oilers forward was in all alone.
Schmid was quite strong for New Jersey in the first period (and the remaining 40 minutes), much like Vitek Vanecek on Saturday. The Devils goaltender made seven saves on eight shots and was particularly strong on the penalty kill.
He gave up one goal, but Schmid was rather strong in the first period with the Oilers in pursuit.
A Taste of Their Own Medicine
The Devils got Deviled on Sunday afternoon. New Jersey and the Oilers are built relatively similarly. Strong on offense, decent on the blue line, and certainly questions in net. They certainly play a similar style to New Jersey, too, and that was apparent in their latest tilt.
What made the Devils so successful last season in their own end was their ability to limit their opponent to low-danger perimeter chances. Edmonton was able to do just that against the Devils, handcuffing New Jersey anytime they held onto the puck.
With the high-flying offense that consists of Draisaitl, McDavid, & Co., Edmonton didn’t necessarily control the even-strength play as New Jersey ended the night accruing a 53.85 CF%. However, they were more opportunistic converting on their chances, which Edmonton did control 26-24. What hindered New Jersey most was that despite slightly controlling the puck possession in the final 40 minutes, the Devils were only able to put 12 shots on net. In the second period alone, New Jersey only registered five shots.
Edmonton is also similar to New Jersey on their man advantage. Part of the difference in Sunday night’s tilt was the Oilers’ ability to convert on the power play, whereas, the Devils — who received just as many chances — could not.
Devils Power Play Stifled
Normally, the Devils are money on the man advantage. They came into Sunday night as the No.1 power play in the NHL converting on 34.2% of man advantages.
However, they couldn’t find their mojo against the Oilers who killed off four Devils power plays and 23 of their last 24 kills.
Similarly to even strength, the Devils were stifled by solid defensive play in the Oilers’ end. Edmonton erased any inside opportunities and relied on Pickard to make low-danger saves. Most attempts to set up in the offensive zone were met at the blue line and any dumped pucks were lost in battle.
It was a rare blunder on the power play as the Devils’ bread and butter this season couldn’t get the job done.
- Schmid had a really strong performance despite the loss. He made several big saves in big moments against elite talent.
- Hischier and Bratt extended their point streaks to four and five games respectively.