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Devils Postgame

Devils Takeaways: Second Period Meltdown, Lacking Quality Chances

The New Jersey Devils drop another two points in California, this time to the Los Angeles Kings, and go home collecting two out of six points.

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New Jersey Devils
(AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

The New Jersey Devils did not get the job done on the road.

New Jersey set out for a three-game California road trip facing the San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, and Los Angeles Kings. They collected two points against the Sharks but failed to show up against the Ducks and the Kings.

This afternoon’s game in Los Angeles was by far their worst. The Devils started going well, however, completely melted down in the second period.

Let’s dive into the Devils’ 5-1 loss

Devils Recap

The Devils wasted no time in this one, getting the puck deep into the Kings’ zone, winning a puck battle, and Timo Meier roofed one over the shoulder of Cam Talbot 15 seconds into the first period. However, Phillip Danault and Alex Laferriere each beat Nico Daws in the opening frame to give the Kings a 2-1 lead by the end of the first 20 minutes. It was a total meltdown for the Devils in the second period. Danault scored his second goal of the game off an ugly turnover and Kevin Fiala netted a power-play goal for the Kings. Danault completed the hat-trick scoring an empty-net goal in the third period.

Daws made nine saves on 13 shots before he was pulled from the game in the second period. Akira Schmid stopped all eight shots he saw.

Takeaways

King Slayer

Coming into Sunday, the Devils had only scored first in 16 of 60 games this season.

However, when it comes to playing the Kings, Meier feasts like royalty.

The former Sharks forward has seen the Kings plenty of times over his career. In his 31st career game against Los Angeles, Meier registered his 15th goal and 24th point.

Meier’s goal was generated on a classic shift for the power forward. The Devils dumped the puck deep into the Kings’ zone and Meier laid a check on Kings defenseman Drew Doughty that took the Los Angeles defender out of the play. Meier made his way to the top of Talbot’s crease, found the puck, and backhanded the puck over the shoulder of the Kings goaltender.

Ever since head coach Lindy Ruff moved Meier from the third line to Nico Hischier’s line, the Devils’ highest-paid forward has suddenly found himself again. Over the Devils’ last five games, Meier’s potted three goals and six points in the most crucial part of the season for New Jersey.

Run Down or Figured Out?

You didn’t need more than the first period to realize this was probably a game Ruff should have started Schmid.

The Devils’ lead was quickly negated after the Kings sprung Danault for a breakaway and he beat Daws blocker side. Later, Lafferiere beat Daws with quite a low-danger shot from above the dots and outside the hash marks, also blocker side.

The stinker by Daws on Sunday begs the question — has he been figured out or is he run down?

Daws has been the Devils’ best goaltender by far this season. A quick look at MoneyPuck will show a negative goals saved above expected for Daws. However, it’s still better than what Schmid or Vitek Vanecek have provided. Add in a five of Daws’ 18 starts where he’s given up four or more goals, the numbers look a lot worse than they actually are.

Daws was pulled in the third period after giving up four goals on 13 shots.

Regardless, Daws has been relied on heavily since being called up to the Devils. The 23-year-old goaltender has started 10 of the Devils’ last 11 games which is probably not ideal coming off six months of recovering from hip surgery.

With Vanecek injured and Ruff’s clear lack of trust in Schmid, the Devils’ need for a goaltender ahead of the March 8th trade deadline becomes even more significant.

Lacking Quality Chances

Last week, Jack Hughes cited that although they registered 40 shots against the New York Rangers, it was more quantity over quality chances.

That trend continued on Sunday afternoon.

The Devils registered 31 shots on Talbot as opposed to the Kings’ collective 22 shots. Yet, they were outscored 5-1. Of those 31 shots, just nine of them came from the slot. That’s six fewer than the NHL average per game this season according to Mike Kelly of NHL Network and Sportlogiq.

“Yeah, we make it definitely harder on ourselves,” Erik Haula said. “It’s really frustrating coming on this trip, where we’re at in the standings, have a heartbreaker in Anaheim, and a little bit of the same today. At times, I don’t think it’s about effort, it’s more between the ears. We keep kind of shooting ourselves in the foot, we keep making similar mistakes.”

“At this time of the year, it’s gonna hurt you,” Haula continues. “Playing against a great defensive team like LA today, they don’t give you much. They’ve got four or five guys back, you really have to work for everything you get. If you catch yourself in a 4-1 hole, it’s a pretty steep hill to climb. You can keep talking about learning from your mistakes, but everyone knows we have to basically start winning out here to have a chance of making it. We can’t lose any more games.”

The Devils went from one of the most offensively dynamic teams last season to one of the least this season. As a result, they’ve dropped far too many points against inferior teams on paper.

The NHL Trade Deadline is five days away, however, it already feels too late.

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