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Devils Postgame

Devils Takeaways: Devils Lack Details in 6-2 Loss to Capitals

Alexander Ovechkin and Connor McMichael score twice in Devils 6-2 loss as New Jersey lacks details to support Nico Daws.



New Jersey Devils
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

When the puck dropped between the New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals on Tuesday night, there weren’t any distractions like their last game.

We are back to your regularly scheduled programming as the Devils took their game back indoors against another division rival. Unfortunately, Devils defenseman John Marino was absent from the lineup due to illness. However, Jonas Siegenthaler made his return from a broken foot suffered on Jan. 6th.

Unfortunately, Siegenthaler’s return didn’t inject the spark the Devils had hoped. In fact, the Capitals rang the Devils up for five goals against which is just the fourth time this season they’ve scored that many, and the second time against New Jersey this season (6-4 loss on Oct. 25th).

Let’s dive into the Devils’ 5-2 loss to the Capitals.

Devils Recap

Opposite of Saturday, the Capitals jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on a goal scored by Connor McMichael. Alexander Holtz tied the game at one, however, before the opening 20 minutes came to a close. To open the second period, it was McMichael again who regained the Capitals’ lead. The remainder of the second period went scoreless.

In the third, Erik Haula netted a late goal, however, two goals from Alexander Ovechkin, and single tallies from Dylan Strome and Michael Sgarbossa sunk the Devils.

Nico Daws — who started his fifth game in a row — made 19 saves on 25 shots.


Wise Beyond His Years

Holtz may have scored the goal, but it was Simon Nemec that made the whole sequence.

For starters, the 20-year-old defenseman orchestrated the breakout quite well from the Devils’ end of the ice into the Capitals zone. He fed Holtz at the blue line and received the puck back when he joined the attack.

With the puck on the far wall, T.J. Oshie made a nice defensive play on Nemec to strip him of the puck. However, Nemec stayed with the play, lifted Oshie’s stick, and regained puck possession. Continuing to move his feet, Nemec forced Joel Edmundson to retreat further into Charlie Lindgren and fed Holtz back door for the easy tap-in goal.

The things that Nemec is doing as a rookie are quite remarkable and they seem to be happening more and more often.

Daws Needs a Breather

The Devils have been riding Daws for the past five games. Vitek Vanecek has been injured and unavailable due to a lower-body injury. In fact, the Devils placed Vanecek on injured reserve today, retroactive to Feb. 10th.

Regardless, Daws had done quite well for himself leading up to Tuesday night with a 3-1-0 record, a goals-against average of 2.02, and a save percentage of .942. In the Stadium Series tilt on Saturday night, Daws made 45 saves on 48 shots.

Tuesday night was a bit different. Granted, the Devils didn’t play their best in front of Daws, but the Devils goaltender didn’t have quite the same magic he’s had of late. Daws allowed six goals against for the second time this season (last on Jan. 29th vs. the Dallas Stars). By the end of regulation, he accrued -3.35 goals saved above expected, according to MoneyPuck.

Regardless of Daws’ night, it’s hard to point the finger at the Devils goaltender. He was provided with little support on the scoreboard and even less in front of him.

Expected by Whom?

Speaking of MoneyPuck, a gander at the expected goals in this one suggests that the Devils should have potted 2.81 goals. That’s more than the Capitals’ 2.65 xG.

The fact of the matter is we can sit here and dissect the goaltending, however, in a four-point game against a sputtering division rival, this was the Devils’ opportunity to step on their throats.

The Devils got no contributions from any of their stars. New Jersey received a combined zero points from Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Timo Meier, and Jesper Bratt.

Part of the problem is the power play woes still continue. There weren’t many on Tuesday, but they couldn’t convert on their two opportunities despite putting seven shots on Lindgren on the man advantage. It’s certainly concerning to see the young Devils unable to rise to the moment at a crucial point of the season which is hanging on by a thread.

“We didn’t finish, obviously,” Lindy Ruff explained. “Our second power play had a lot of really good looks. We just didn’t put pucks in the back of the net. You look at missed opportunities, we had a couple of rush plays, 2-on-1’s where we didn’t generate opportunities. You have to give them credit, when we gave them an opportunity they put it away. We didn’t put away our opportunities.”

Smith-Hughes Roughed Up

The Brendan Smith and Luke Hughes defensive pairing had a rough night.

Smith ended the night as a minus-3 and Hughes as a minus-2.

For the two goals they were on the ice together for, both were loose pucks in the crease cleaned up by a Washington skater. Both Smith and Hughes struggled to keep the Capitals to the perimeter, and when they were on the inside, neither could clear the puck or bodies from the slot.

The duo only accrued 1:07 of ice time together. Head coach Lindy Ruff recognized their struggle early, literally as McMichael scored 39 seconds into the contest. However, their little ice time together was still quite damaging and should be a pairing that Ruff stays away from in the future.

“We didn’t play well enough defensively,” Ruf explained. “Starting with the first goal against. Around the front of the net, we’ve worked hard to stay in front, don’t give up the inside chances… a couple of the goals were lack of details by our group.”

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