Newark — It’s puzzling whenever you check out Moneypuck’s Win O’Meter and see it says that the New Jersey Devils were 50-plus percent expected to win. On most nights, it feels like this is the case and yet, it doesn’t always end that way. That’s probably because the Devils do a pretty good job at 5-on-5. However, New Jersey is making some costly mistakes this season that are resulting in losses. Just last night, Jack Hughes made multiple, and it wasn’t the first time this season.
The Devils dropped a tight game to the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday, losing the extra point in a 3-2 overtime loss.
It was a pretty crushing defeat. The Devils are on the outside looking in when looking at the standings and losing to an in-division opponent hurt that much more. With the puck on his stick in overtime, Hughes attempted to drop a puck to his brother, Luke Hughes, in the neutral zone. With Owen Tippett on Jack’s tail, Hughes’ careless drop pass put the rubber right on Tippett’s stick. As a result, the rubber found the back of New Jersey’s net.
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It wasn’t even the first turnover Hughes gave up in the game. On the Flyers’s first goal, Hughes attempted to begin a rush with a breakout pass. However, the pass was intercepted as the cross-ice attempt ended up on the stick of Ryan Poehling. After a give-and-go with Joel Farabee, Poehling ultimately made Hughes pay by scoring following the intercepted pass.
It’s a tough pill to swallow for New Jersey when their best player directly cost them two goals. So what do you say to New Jersey’s franchise forward when he makes such detrimental mistakes?
“I think Jack knows,” Lindy Ruff said. “I don’t really have to say anything.”
Hughes wasn’t the only Devils skater to give pucks away on Tuesday. The Devils ended the tilt with 17 (!) giveaways through 60-plus minutes. However, zooming the lens out a little further, Hughes leads the Devils with 27 giveaways among all skaters, according to Natual Stat Trick. Next on the list has 10 fewer this season in Jonas Siegenthaler.
It’s not uncommon for a team’s top player and playmaker to commit the most giveaways. Naturally, it’s because they command the puck the most. For example, Nathan Mackinnon leads the Colorado Avalanche with 26 giveaways. Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid are first and second with 35 and 25 giveaways respectively.
The fact of the matter is players of Hughes, MacKinnon, and McDavid’s elk end up making risky plays due to their elite skill.
“We talked about puck management,” Ruff said. “You look at the number of great plays (Hughes makes), if he doesn’t try to make the play he did in overtime early on he wouldn’t have gotten in alone either. There’s an amount of rope that Jack needs to operate and he’s the type of guy that can make special plays.”
However, Hughes’ mistakes on Tuesday were costly and it’s not the first time this season he’s cost the Devils either. The 22-year-old forward will need to reflect on Tuesday’s loss especially, given that it was technically a four-point game with an in-division rival. New Jersey only sits a single point out of playoff position. If the Devils want to climb in the standings, they’ll need their best player to cut down on the costly errors. Especially if they’re not getting the saves to bail them out.
Ruff concluded, “(Hughes) knows, he understands, and he’s a young player who still has to learn too.”