New Jersey Devils captain, Nico Hischier, wants his team to play pissed off.
On Saturday night, the Devils dropped two points to the Tampa Bay Lightning making the same errors they’ve been making quite often.
After going down two goals in the second period on Saturday, the Devils fought back in the third period to cut the Lightning’s lead to one goal. However, mistakes in their end of the ice mounted, and the Devils couldn’t complete the comeback.
Following the Devils’ defeat, the captain was asked what he was feeling after their second loss in as many games.
“I’m embarrassed, to be honest,” Hischier responded.
Two losses in two games isn’t season-altering. However, seven losses in 12 games this month is for a team that expects to be a Stanley Cup Playoff contender. New Jersey’s 3-6-1 record in their last 10 games certainly doesn’t help.
Injuries undoubtedly play a factor. The Devils’ blueline features two rookies and an AHLer. Missing from the back end are Dougie Hamilton, Jonas Siegenthaler, and Brendan Smith. However, it’s the lineup locks such as Kevin Bahl who aren’t helping make life on the Devils any easier.
Now, New Jersey will have the next 10 days off for the All-Star break. As a result, they have the opportunity to get healthy and look themselves in the mirror.
“I hope everybody goes and rests up a bit,” Hischier explained. “Then, think about what team they want to be a part of coming down the stretch. If we want to be a playoff team, we have to figure something out.”
The Devils’ problems in their own end undoubtedly stem from a lack of physical engagement. Their inability to clear the crease squandered the opportunity to climb the standings on the back of Vitek Vanecek’s quality performance. Hischier chiefly explains that the Devils need a bit more fire in their game that he’s not seeing on the ice or the bench.
“It’s just all around not a good game for us. We need the emotion on the bench. We were dead…I think we have to play with a little bit of emotion. Be pissed off. We were soft tonight in front of our net. That’s where they scored the goals.”
As of Saturday night, New Jersey sits six points out of the wild card in the Eastern Conference. This time last season, the Devils sat promptly at the top of the Metropolitan Division, and the NHL.
Something needs to change for the Devils, and fast, before it’s too late. Perhaps general manager Tom Fitzgerald will have some time over the next 10 days to assess the Devils’ biggest need and address it. Otherwise, New Jersey will have an early summer if they continue to suffer losses like Saturday’s.