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Devils Postgame

Devils Takeaways: Sloppy, Defensless Devils Lose 6-3 to Oilers

The Devils lacked structure and defense against the Oilers in their third loss in as many nights.

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New Jersey Devils
(AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)

Newark — The New Jersey Devils might not care a whole lot about the NHL’s rules against specialty jerseys and tape. However, fans likely wished they cared a little bit more about the game in front of them.

Akira Schmid received the start on Thursday night for New Jersey. Unfortunately, the Swiss goaltender lasted just 5:24 after surrendering two goals on six shots.

The Devils played with very little structure, were sloppy defensively, and had no punch in the offensive zone. How much longer can this go on without an upgrade on defense and/or goaltending?

Let’s dive into the Devils’ awful loss to the Oilers.

Devils Recap

The Oilers struck fast in this one. Within the first 30 seconds of the game, Michael McLeod’s brother, Ryan McLeod, was set up for an easy back-door tap-in to give Edmonton an early 1-0 lead. The first-period woes didn’t stop there, however, as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins padded the Oilers lead exactly five minutes later. Fortunately, the Devils found themselves on an odd-man rush and Dawson Mercer cut Edmonton’s lead down to 2-1. New Jersey started the middle frame much better and as a result, Jonas Siegenthaler tied the game at two. With just under four minutes left to play in the middle frame, it was finally Timo Time as Meier gave New Jersey their first lead of the game.

Following the second intermission, however, the Oilers scored three goals in the opening 2:49 of the final frame. Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Adam Erne all struck 1:09 apart to give the Oilers a 5-3 lead. Ryan McLeod scored his second of the game to put Edmonton up by three goals. Schmid made four saves before he was pulled for Vitek. Vanecek stopped 28/32 pucks in relief.

Takeaways

Defensive Woes Haunt the Devils

The Oilers were seemingly much more prepared to start Thursday night’s tilt than the Devils were. In no time following puck drop, Ryan McLeod gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead on Schmid’s back door. It took just 24 seconds for Edmonton to get on the board as McLeod became the fastest player to score an opening goal.

The goal was completely a result of a defender being out of position. That defender’s name is Brendan Smith. The 34-year-old defenseman was caught puck-watching, glided behind New Jersey’s net and onto Luke Hughes’ side of the ice where three Devils stood watching Sam Gagner with the rubber. A nifty backhanded pass got by all three and thus, it was 1-0 Oilers.

Remaining asleep at the wheel, Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 2-0 lead on the very same mistake by the Devils. This time, John Marino was caught puck-watching, pinched too high in the defensive zone, and left Nugent-Hopkins all alone at the top of the crease to bat in a rebound chance to extend Edmonton’s lead.

Too often this season has the Devils’ defenders been caught out of position. It happened again on Thursday and forced New Jersey to play from behind.

It didn’t help that the entire Devils roster was sleepwalking with just one shot on net through the first eight minutes of the game. They eventually woke up and ended the first period with 12 shots on net.

Fortunately, Mercer was able to salvage the Devils from complete disaster, but these defensive lapses are no longer just a trend. It needs a serious tune-up.

Vanecek Saves Devils in the Second

Although Siegenthaler and Meier were the ones who scored the goals, they weren’t the ones who saved New Jersey in the middle frame.

The Devils might have been the only ones to get on the board in the middle frame, but it wasn’t from a lack of effort by Edmonton. The second-period shots were 17-6 in favor of the Oilers. Yet it was the Devils who headed into the second intermission with a one-goal lead.

New Jersey can thank Vanecek for that.

The Oilers peppered Vanecek for 13 shots at even-strength and an additional four on the power play.

Through the first 40 minutes of play, just 34:36 for Vanecek, the 27-year-old netminder made 1.33 goals saved above expected.

The best part about Vanecek’s performance in that span is that he looked confident in the crease. Contrary to previous starts, he didn’t bobble pucks, he tracked rubber through traffic, and he controlled his rebounds. It was certainly a performance unlike the rest for Vitek so far this season.

But Not the Third…

Unfortunately, the third period started where the second one ended. The Oilers controlled the pace of play and quickly tied, then took the lead.

Between McDavid, Draisaitl, and Erne, the Oilers needed just 1:09 to score three goals and completely take over the game.

Each goal against was brutal in its own right. On McDavid’s tying tally, he was left all alone in the slot, untouched and with time, to recover a rebound chance with five Devils bodies surrounding him. Displaying great patience, McDavid waited out a flopping Vanecek and buried the puck with the net wide open.

You cannot give the best player in hockey that much time and space.

Then there’s Draisaitl’s goal. The Devils literally gave away the puck on Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers and they did it again on Thursday. Kevin Bahl recovered the puck in the defensive zone and attempted to clear it through the middle of the ice. However, Draisaitl intercepted the weak attempt and quickly roofed the puck past Vanecek giving the Oilers the lead.

Lastly, Smith was caught out of position again. In the offensive zone, he challenged a loose puck along the boards, lost the puck battle, and it was chipped behind him ensuring an Oilers odd-man rush. Erne opted to take the shot himself, faking Vanecek short-side and depositing the puck far-side.

No defense, no saves, and no effort for the Devils in the third period of a winnable game.

It was truly a tough scene in Newark as The Rock crumbled Thursday night.

Quick Shifts

  • Timo Meier scored his first goal in 10 games, his sixth of the season.
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