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Devils Postgame

Devils Takeaways: Poor Goaltending, Opportunity Squandered in 4-3 Loss to Ducks

Nico Daws is pulled after two periods allowing four goals on 14 shots.

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New Jersey Devils
(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The New Jersey Devils losing Friday night’s game to the Anaheim Ducks was absolutely inexcusable.

The Ducks were on the second leg of a back-to-back after defeating the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night. New Jersey, a team that’s trying to claw their way back to playoff position and cannot afford to leave points on the table, did just that when the Ducks — a non-playoff team — took the points and ran.

The loss stings a little extra given the fact that the Washington Capitals defeated the Philadelphia Flyers earlier in the day, allowing the Devils to inch closer to them in the standings.

Alas, the Devils — off from game action for the last two days — can’t squeeze out a win in a “can’t lose” scenario despite putting 53 shots on Ducks goaltender Lukas Dostal.=

Let’s dive into the Devils’ 4-3 loss to the Ducks.

Devils Recap

The Devils played the first period well, however, they were still scored on first in the opening frame. Frank Vatrano and Adam Henrique each scored early for Anaheim, however, Timo Meier netted his 12th goal of the season in between the pair of Ducks goals. The second period copied and pasted the same blueprint. Max Jones and Vatrano (his second goal of the game) each tallied a goal while Jack Hughes scored on the power play in between. Tyler Toffoli scored a second power-play goal in the third period to cut the Ducks’ lead by one. However, the Devils couldn’t tie the game before the clock ran out and dropped a crucial two points.

Nico Daws through 40 minutes of play made 10 saves on 12 shots. Akira Schmid made 9/9 saves in relief during the third period.

Takeaways

Playing Small

The Devils acquired Kurtis MacDermid earlier on Friday, seemingly to add some grit and toughness.

If only they had someone earlier this season who was as big as MacDermid at 6-foot-5, 230 lbs to add a physical element.

Oh right. Kevin Bahl was signed by the Devils to a two-year bridge contract this summer to essentially step into Ryan Graves’ role both physically and defensively.

However, Bahl has proven time and time again this season that his inability to utilize his size physically negatively impacts his game defensively.

Take his first-period turnover that led to Vatrano’s opening goal for instance. The puck was below the Devils’ goal line and Bahl attempted to retrieve the puck. However, Mason McTavish — standing at 6-foot-6, 213 lbs — somehow easily outmuscled Bahl that the Devils defenseman coughed up the puck to the Ducks forward while tumbling to the ice. Bahl’s turnover gave McTavish enough time and space to find Vatrano in the slot and shoot the rubber past Daws for the lead.

Given the fact that Bahl is a whole six inches and 17 pounds bigger than McTavish, the physical advantage surely should have gone to Bahl. Alas, the Devils defenseman struggles to use his size to his advantage, and, in fact, is often the victim of lost puck battles.

As a result, those very struggles haven’t made Bahl as reliable as the Devils had hoped he would be this season.

Keeping it Simple

The Devils’ power play is starting to come back to life after they’ve now scored in three out of their last four games.

Part of what’s working for the Devils is they’re keeping things simple. The Devils are certainly using a 1-3-1 system where they have a power-play QB, a man on each wall, one in the slot, and one behind the net.

Typically, the job of whoever is in the slot is to make life a little, or a lot harder for the opposition goaltenders. Tyler Toffoli did a good job of doing so, standing at the top of Lukas Dostal’s crease and drawing his attention.

That allowed the remaining four Devils skaters to rotate the puck and create a shooting lane, ultimately until Jack Hughes found a lane to gain a little more ice and fired the puck past Dostal and in the net.

The Devils’ power play works much more efficiently when they don’t try to make too many cute plays but instead opt for the simple ones. More often than not, it should work as the Devil’s power play is skilled enough to convert regularly that they don’t need to overcomplicate the man advantage.

Not Daws’ Night

In New Jersey’s defense, the Devils were able to limit the Ducks to just 23 shots through 60 minutes of regulation.

However, they probably could have netted one of two more putting 53 shots on goal.

Regardless, Friday night was a night where the goaltending didn’t come through. Daws has been playing excellently ever since he was recalled to the Devils this season. However, it wasn’t Daws’ night as the 23-year-old goaltender yielded four goals on 14 shots.

“Our goalie struggled a little bit,” head coach Lindy Ruff explained after the regulation loss.

Daws surrendered -3.09 goals above expected as opposed to his opponent on the other end of the ice who made 2.65 above expected.

Opportunity Squandered

The Devils received a penalty shot with two seconds left on the clock and were down a goal.

Due to the nature of the penalty, the Devils were allowed to have anyone take the penalty shot as they pleased.

Of course, Ruff chose Jack Hughes to battle Dostal one-on-one. Unfortunately, Hughes tried one too many moves, didn’t even get a shot off, and the opportunity to tie the game was lost because Hughes mishandled the puck.

Following the loss, it sounded like Hughes knew he tried to do a bit too much.

“(It was) just a bad play by me,” Hughes explained.

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