On the night they honored Sergei Brylin, the New Jersey Devils couldn’t provide their honoree with a victory.
The decision to put the 23-year-old goaltender in the Devils’ crease against the better team in a back-to-back situation speaks volumes to Ruff’s trust in Vanecek. However, that’s a conversation for another night.
The injured and depleted Devils team couldn’t change their fortunes in the second half of back-to-back games against Dallas.
Let’s dive into the Devils’ 6-2 loss vs. the Stars.
The Devils might have had the hot start but it was the Stars who struck first. On the power play, Joe Pavelski deposited his 19th goal of the season to give Dallas an early 1-0 lead. The second period did the Devils no better. Dallas smothered the Devils and scored an additional three goals, two by Roope Hints and another by Matt Duchene. Jesper Bratt and Tyler Toffoli each scored in the third period, however, it didn’t amount to much after Craig Smith and Wyatt Johnston put the Stars ahead by six goals.
Daws stayed in the entire 60-minute onslaught making 30 saves in the loss.
The Struggle is Real
It’s about time we talk about Luke Hughes and his struggles.
The youngest Hughes brother has certainly had his ups and downs this season. However, lately, it’s been more downs. We briefly touched on Hughes’ defensive and transition deficiencies back when the Devils played the Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 11th.
Hughes egregiously turned the puck over on the power play which directly resulted in a shorthanded goal for Luke Glendening.
On Saturday, Hughes almost did it again, and it’s become a recurring theme in his game.
The Stars iced the puck on their penalty kill which led to Hughes and the Devils regrouping on their end of the ice. Hughes began the transition out of the offensive zone, however, before he crossed the blue line, dropped a puck back for Erik Haula. Sam Steel, however, got a stick on the puck and broke up the pass. As a result, Steel gained free ice in front of him and turned the turnover into a high-danger chance.
Lucky for Luke, Daws stoned Steel and kept the Stars from increasing their lead.
The 20-year-old defenseman has certainly had his bright spots this season, too. However, this is one area of Luke’s game he’ll really need to clean up, especially with so many injuries on the blue line.
About The Other Rookie…
Don’t think Simon Nemec gets away unscathed.
The Devils’ other rookie blueliner was chewed up and spit out all night in the defensive end of the ice.
On more than one occasion, Nemec was outmuscled, pushed off pucks, pickpocketed while in transition, and defenseless in front of his goaltender.
Take the short-handed goal by Hintz, for example.
With speed, Hintz gained the offensive zone with the puck on his stick while on the penalty kill. Nemec was the man in Hintz’s way, until he wasn’t. Hintz snuck the puck under Nemec’s stick, stepped around the Devils’ rookie defenseman, and with the puck on his backhand, scored five-hole.
— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) January 21, 2024
Not for nothing, but it was a weak effort by Nemec. The 19-year-old was far too lackadaisical with his stick and in his recovery attempt. So much so that it turned the man advantage into a disadvantage. The trailing Dawson Mercer couldn’t make up the ground in time to provide backup.
This is one of those moments Ruff was talking about at the beginning of the year when he said you can get too young, too fast.
A Little Bit Goalied
If general manager Tom Fitzgerald never waived Scott Wedgewood…
Wedgewood’s record against the Devils coming into Saturday’s game was 2-0-0 with a .50 GAA and .984 SV%. It’s a small sample size, but that’s significant.
Following the 6-2 win, the sample holds up. Wedgewood likes playing his former club. The Devils put 31 shots on goal, so it’s not like they weren’t offensively engaged. The Devils even went up on the shot differential 4-0 in just the first minute of the game.
It was a hot start that was completely stifled by strong play by Wedgewood that ultimately deflated the Devils.
According to MoneyPuck, Wedgewood made 1.37 saves above expected.
GOOD. NESS. 🧱 pic.twitter.com/ujJBW69GAU
— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) January 21, 2024
Make no mistake, the Devils couldn’t muster up the ability to cut the Stars’ momentum and find a way to beat Wedgewood. However, it certainly didn’t help that the Stars goaltender had the extra incentive coming into tonight’s game to keep his record in good standing against the club that waived him.
Regardless, the Devils’ record in the second of back-to-back games is now a lowly 1-8-1 with six more to go. It’s extra concerning, especially this late in the season.
- Alexander Holtz was last on New Jersey as a minus-3, sorry Ryan.
- Cal Foote ended the night with 16 PIMs, including a game misconduct.