December 9, 2019 • NEW JERSEY DEVILS NEWS & CLIPS
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The Devils will face-off against the Dallas Stars Tuesday night at 8:30 PM ET at American Airlines Arena.
2) LOCAL PRINT/WEB
- Why goaltending continues to be 1 of Devils’ biggest issues
by Chris Ryan, NJ Advanced Media
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Devils have themselves a classic “chicken or the egg?” conundrum.
Has their goaltending been their biggest issue, or is it the defense in front of them that has led to inconsistent performances between the pipes?
Saturday saw net minder Louis Domingue surrender six goals on 37 shots in a 6-4 loss to the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. After a pair of decent starts to begin his Devils tenure, where he allowed four goals and went 1-1-0, Domingue has now given up 11 goals in his last four periods of play.
Mackenzie Blackwood has been the Devils’ most consistent option in net, but even his numbers have been below that of a league-average goalie. He has a 3.05 GAA and .899 save percentage in 21 games, though he does have an 8-8-4 record.
Between Blackwood, Domingue and Cory Schneider, the Devils have allowed 3.62 goals per game this season, trailing only Detroit for most in the NHL. Their team save percentage of .882 is better than only the Red Wings and Los Angeles Kings.
“Sometimes you need saves. I’m sure that Louis would like to get a couple back, especially I think that fifth one that went short side,” Devils interim coach Alain Nasreddine said. “But even when you look at that goal, there’s a breakdown by us, as far as our system. And I don’t want to get into the details, but we have two guys that are out of position. It’s easy to blame the goalie, but it’s a five man unit out there with the goalie and two guys miss their assignment, and the goalie, he didn’t make the save.
“But if we do our job, if we’re better systematically, that shot never even happens. That’s one example, and I can say the same thing on three other goals. So there’s good players in this league, there’s good teams, but at the end of the day, we have to get better and our attention to detail has to improve dramatically if we’re going to start winning games.”
On that short-side goal reference by Nasreddine, Predators forward Nick Bonino found himself all alone near the inner half of the left circle during a long Nashville possession. He took his time and picked the upper corner over Domingue’s shoulder for a goal, even though Domingue had the shooter squared up.
So the simplest answer is that the Devils’ struggles to prevent goals have been a result of the goaltending and the defense.
“We scored four goals, and normally you score four goals, you should be winning games,” Nasreddine said. “It’s been the story of the year. But we just have to get better. We have to cut down on those mistakes and get back to the video, and we have a couple of days now. Get better and should be better next game against Dallas.”
- NJ Devils’ Monday morning (power play) quarterback: Breaking down all the goaltenders
by Abbey Mastracco, NHL writer
NASHVILLE — To say it’s been a tough week for the New Jersey Devils would be an understatement. John Hynes was dismissed as head coach after two embarrassing losses. His longtime assistant coach, Alain Nasreddine, has taken over in the interim and gone 0-2-1 in three games to extend the team’s losing streak to five games.
Maybe the good news is that if this is rock bottom, they can’t get any lower.
The Devils have been steadfast in their belief that they can turn things around this season, and there is still time. The team has only had one practice and three games under Nasreddine and no one was expecting an immediate turnaround.
But it’s become clear this roster isn’t where it needs to be.
Here’s a roundup of some Devils-related issues and what to expect this week as they continue their four-game road trip.
Cory Schneider in Binghamton
The issues start with the goaltending and work out from there. Cory Schneider, the Devils’ $6 million American Hockey League goaltender, has made three starts for Binghamton and the results have not been good, though his .833 save percentage is deceiving. I don’t think it’s worth fixating on his 5.00 GAA because GAA tends to be a worthless stat and it doesn’t account for the awful play he received in front of him.
I don’t want to say it’s all bad right now, but the situation in Binghamton isn’t any better than it is in New Jersey. The Devils have lost six in a row, and according to a few scouts who were in attendance this weekend in Providence, the blame can’t fully be placed on Schneider.
There were breakdowns in the defensive zone that led to big gaps being exploited. Schneider was hung out to dry by the defensemen, and he exited after allowing five goals and making just 11 saves.
Schneider may not have been sharp, but it’s tough to know whether this is the right situation for him. If the team in front of him isn’t doing him any favors then it may not be worth leaving him down there, especially since Louis Domingue hasn’t fared well at the NHL level.
New Jersey’s goaltending situation
It’s tough to gauge Domingue’s game. Like Schneider, he hasn’t had much to work with in front of him. The New Jersey defensemen had a particularly bad game in Nashville on Saturday night and there were some bad bounces, including one puck that pin-balled right through Domingue’s legs.
In the past, Hynes has protected his goalies. He didn’t like to call them out publicly. Nasreddine didn’t really call anyone out either but he did elaborate on some systematic failures that didn’t help the goaltending. No one executed in front of Domingue on Saturday, but he also didn’t make the saves he needed to.
“Sometimes you need saves and I’m sure Louis would have liked to get a couple back, especially that fifth one that went short-side,” Nasreddine said after the 6-4 loss to the Predators. “But even when you look at that goal, there was a breakdown by us as far as our system. I don’t want to get into the details but we had two guys that were out of position. It’s a five-man unit out there with the goalie, and two guys missed their assignment. The goalie didn’t make the save, but if we do our job and we’re better systematically, that shot never even happens. That’s one example, and I can say the same thing on three other goals.”
Mackenzie Blackwood cannot start 80 percent of the Devils’ games this season. I wrote about this during training camp. Martin Brodeur did what he did in another NHL era, and the way the game is played right now you need two quality goaltenders.
Ideally, the Devils were hoping to have one goalie take about 60-70 percent of the starts this season and another 20-30. There is too much speed and skill to have a goalie start 60 or 70 games. It’s a much more taxing game than it once was.
Scoring is up, and there are other factors, such as the way the pads have evolved.
Blackwood has already played in 21 of the Devils’ 29 games and he is admittedly still adjusting to the workload.
So, what do the Devils do?
Maybe they bring back Schneider, maybe they wait to claim someone off waivers. They passed up a chance to claim former New Jersey netminder Keith Kinkaid.
Butt another backup goalie isn’t the answer.
The Devils’ .882 team save percentage is preventing them from progressing.
P.K. Subban on the ice
Speaking of the play in front of the goalies, P.K. Subban’s return to Nashville didn’t exactly go as planned. He was burned by Rocco Grimaldi late in the third period, with Grimaldi poking the puck away from him and beating Domingue on the breakaway. It wasn’t pretty.
Subban has gone 17 games without a point. However, he should benefit from the way Nasreddine is emphasizing offensive contributions from the defensemen.
“It’s when to do it and when not to do it,” Subban said. “I think at some points this year I’ve erred on the side caution side and not taken as many chances. But there are times when you have to jump and they’re important to generate. Teams are so prepared now defensively that it’s hard to generate offense. Having that fourth attacking, having the D jump in and be like that fourth forward can be the difference in a game.
P.K. Subban off the ice
I said it’s not all bad, right? It’s not.
Seeing Subban in Nashville interacting with every single Bridgestone Arena worker and members of his Blueline Buddies program, it was very clear the positive impact Subban had on the Nashville community. The team honored him with a tribute video that featured heartwarming footage of him with kids and other members of the community.
His work in children’s hospitals and his work trying to grow the game in the Nashville and Newark communities can’t be understated.
People genuinely appreciated his contributions in the Nashville community and you can tell he enjoys giving back.
Defenseman Connor Carrick (right pinky surgery) started a conditioning stint with Binghamton this weekend and it didn’t quite go as planned. He was hit in the chin with a puck and needed stitches. It’s still unclear when he will be able to join the Devils, but we should know more this week.
Nico Hischier sat out the last two games with an illness but is on the trip.
- BLOG: Devils at Practice in Dallas
by Marc Ciampa, newjerseydevils.com
FARMERS BRANCH, TX – The Devils are on the ice for practice at the Dallas Stars practice facility one day prior to Tuesday night’s game against the Stars.
We will have updates for you, including line combinations with articles and videos to follow.
- PODCAST: Devils Captain Andy Greene Joins Matt and Amanda on the Podcast
by Marc Ciampa / NewJerseyDevils.com
For the 10th ninth episode of the Devils Official Podcast, our guest is Andy Greene
The Devils captain touched on a variety of topics with host Matt Loughlin and co-host Amanda Stein.
One topic he couldnt avoid as captain of the team was the recent team performance and coaching change.
“Whenever a coaching change happens, it’s not a good situation. Usually you’re not in a spot where you need to be or where you were aspiring to be,” Greene began. “But at the same time, it’s on us in the locker room. You never want to see that because of your actions as a team that someone else gets fired.”
Greene also talked at length on some off-ice topics, including friendships gained growing up in the small town of Trenton, Michigan.
“It was awesome. I grew up in a town of about 20,000 people. Huge hockey town. Tight knit community. Everyone knew each other. Everyone played sports together kind of type thing,” Greene stated, adding that he had a group of friends that he played multiple sports with.
“For basically about 10, 11 years, there was four or five of us at all played on the same hockey team and in the summer, same baseball team, all the way through high school.”
- SUNDAYS WITH STAN: Enter Lou, Enter Changes
by Stan Fischler StanFischler / Special to NewJerseyDevils.com
During the spring of 1987 scant attention was paid to rumblings in East Rutherford as medium eruptions were being felt in the Devils front office.
Club President Bob Butera left the high command on April 24, 1987, and owner Dr. John McMullen searched for a replacement. No big deal; since few expected his find to cause volcanic results.
But there would be; and then some.
Replacing Butera seemed simple enough. As in the case of general manager Max McNab’s hire, there always was a long list of executive candidates comprised of former NHL front office leaders.
Many came knocking at Doc Mac’s door but none got a tumble. Turning his back on tradition, McMullen was steered in the direction of Providence College where Lou Lamoriello had become an institution in the university sports realm.
Over a period of two decades, Lamoriello turned the Providence College hockey program into a national success. He was head coach for 15 years beginning with the 1968-69 season, In 1982 Lou was named Friars athletic director.
A year after the Devils were born in East Rutherford, Lamoriello became Commissioner of Hockey East. Slowly, but relentlessly, he began turning inquisitive heads among the pro hockey leaders. Doc Mac was one of them.
Ignoring potential NHL types, McMullen selected Lamoriello to take the Devils reins. While the choice turned some quizzical heads in the hockey crowd, Doc Mac explained his thinking.
“In Lou Lamoriello, the Devils have a hockey man who has earned respect for his accomplishments at and away from the rink; and for his hockey and business acumen.”
The figures supported the choice. Lou had guided the Friars with impressive numbers (248-179 13) and ten post-season tournaments. He would later turn Hockey East into one of the country’s most prestigious hockey conferences.
Leaving such a comfortable situation was not an easy decision for Lamoriello but New Jersey’s big-league hockey prospects were too tempting to ignore.
Lou: “The Devils have always impressed me with strong ownership and unlimited potential. After meeting and getting to know Dr. McMullen, I’m convinced of this and his commitment to winning in a first-class manner.”
According to the high-level game plan, McNab was promoted to executive vice-president while Lamoriello was designated as general manager. Those who understood the team’s inner workings knew that Lou had become THE boss.
“Right off the bat,” McMullen acknowledged, “I knew I had hired someone who would be the hardest-working general manager in the entire NHL. I got my money’s worth.”
Lou never looked at the clock — and often worked ’round the clock. One of his first moves was to trade underperforming Czech forward Jan Ludwig to the Buffalo Sabres for Jim Korn.
This was not an idle trade-for-the-sake-of-trading move. Rather it revealed everything one would get to know about Lamoriello. He traded for Korn because Jim was someone he knew well and liked for good reason.
Korn had played for Providence when Lou coached the Friars; plus Jim was a big, rugged forward coming to a club loaded with many smaller skaters.
“We want to get respect from other teams by having some players who will play a physical role,” the new boss explained. “This will ensure that our skill players wouldn’t be intimidated. We want an aggressive team. If that fills seats, good!”
One by one — with head-turning speed — Lou revolved the Devils roster upside down. Although Lamoriello was a rookie NHL executive, he acted with the confidence of a g.m. who had been around for a decade.
Examples of that were his earliest moves. To the surprise of many, he traded New Jersey’s leading scorer, Greg Adams, and popular goalie Kirk McLean to Vancouver for center Patrick Sundstrom and a fourth-round Draft choice.
It was a brazen shakeup since Adams was considered an untouchable after a season in which he totaled 35-42-77. Adams deserved to be a candidate for the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s top freshman although he didn’t get it.
To the curious fans, Lou unswervingly had an answer to why he was willing to unload a fan favorite with solid numbers:
“We have to do something to get to the playoffs. Everything we do is designed to get this team into the post-season. Sundstrom is a quality player and we had to give up quality to get him.”
But Lamoriello also had a trick card up his sleeve; Brendan Shanahan. At the 1987 NHL Entry Draft he plucked a 14-carat-gold gem in big Shanny.
Knowing that Brendan would make the big team, Lou was unconcerned about the gap left by Adams departure. To Lou’s Argus eyes, talent was written all over Shanahan’s 6-3, 206-pound fuselage.
“I’m not making these decisions on my own,” Lamoriello added. “If I don’t consult then I’m not a good administrator. I’ll be relying on Max (McNab) more than ever.”
That said, Lou was not going to mess with his young nucleus; especially Ken Daneyko, Kirk Muller, John MacLean and Joe Cirella.
Looking backward, Daneyko observed: “We were a tight group; a bunch of young guys trying to live a dream. The chemistry got good because we were sprinkled in with the veterans and we learned as we went along.”
Lou knew that he had to decide whether to stay with his inherited coach, Doug Carpenter, or bring in his own man. His final decision was made after consultation with McNab and others, including me.
Invited to lunch by Lou, I understood that he wanted to hear from someone like myself who had been around the team for a long time. Likewise, I was willing to give him info that I thought would help.
His last question for me had to do with Carpenter. “What do you think of Doug as a coach?”
I should have anticipated the query but I had not; which meant a quick, impetuous answer was given — with some care.
“You’d better wait until Christmas,” I said. “See for yourself.”
He was content with the answer and I was content with his contentment; especially after Lou picked up the check.
A bit later a reporter asked him how he felt about Carpenter; or, more specifically, was a replacement in the works? “I have no such plans,” he asserted, and that was the end of that.
At first, the team’s solid play early in 1987-88 made it easy for Lou to support Doug. In the Meadowlands home opener, New Jersey beat Pittsburgh, 6-3 behind Alain Chevrier’s 29 save effort.
By the start of November Carpenter’s skaters were tied for first place. Players who previously had been wary of their relationship with Doug now found him more relaxed and easier to appreciate.
One of them was defenseman Randy Velischek who had played for Lamoriello at Providence College. “The communication with coach is better,” said Velischek, “and so is the atmosphere. That comes from Lou.”
Another gift in the Smile Department was the new, improved defense. The coach was especially pleased with the one-two combo of Ken Daneyko and Bruce Driver.
“They stay together better,” said Carpy, “have better discipline and have cut down on giveaways in our zone.”
Chevrier, who suffered with the worst goals-against average in the NHL in 1986-87, had improved to a healthy 2.72. “The defense is letting me see the puck better,” Alain allowed.
While Lamoriello was imposing a new Providence College-type discipline on the team there were occasions when a couple of the stickhandlers were acting like freshman collegians.
During a game in Pittsburgh, both Shanahan and MacLean were doused with beer by a couple of fans. Since no ushers were around to help, the Devils duo attempted to climb into the stands to point out the suds-tossers.
Shanny and Johnny Mac were fined and suspended but only after New Jersey came away with a 5-4 win and a pithy comment on the episode by red-haired rookie Doug Brown. “This team has character!”
That it did; no question about that. but would the club exhibit staying power? Seasoned Devils-watchers remembered the mid-season El Foldos of past seasons. Could it happen again?
Apparently, yes. The almost inevitable annual slump arrived in November and the Devils began slipping in the standings. Pushed about the decline, Carpenter offered a rationale.
“A baby needs time to mature,” Carpy defended. “It’s no different building a hockey team from scratch. It requires a certain amount of time to develop.”
Meanwhile, Lou was checking his calendar. What it told him was that time was fast running out on his head coach!
LISTS: FOUR MAJOR CHANGES MADE BY NEW BOSS LAMORIELLO
- DISCIPLINE: Following his stint as Providence College athletic director, Lou borrowed from his past and imposed strict new rules that created a new discipline in the dressing room
- BE PRO-ACTIVE: Once Lou got behind his desk, gung-ho was the rule of the day and trades were immediately made, starting with the acquisition of Patrick
- SHINING SHANNY: Lou’s first Draft pick was a brilliant one. Brendan Shanahan would become one of the team’s early offensive cornerstones.
- POSITIVE VIBES: From the stickboy to the highest level of the general staff, Lamoriellos’s accent on the positive was pushing the club forward. For a change, there was a sense that the playoffs actually could be attained.
(NEXT WEEK: THE AXE FALLS ON DOUG CARPENTER. NOW WHAT?)
3) TV/VIDEO LINKS –
- PLAYS OF THE WEEK | Week 10
- POST-GAME | At Predators
- DEVILS STILL SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS AS THEY FALL 6-4 TO PREDS
by MSG Networks
4) RADIO LINKS –
5) NATIONAL PRINT/WEB –
- New Jersey faces Dallas, seeks to end 5-game skid
New Jersey Devils (9-15-5, eighth in the Metropolitan Division) vs. Dallas Stars (17-11-3, fourth in the Central Division)
Dallas; Tuesday, 8 p.m. EST
BOTTOM LINE: New Jersey aims to end its five-game losing streak when the Devils play Dallas.
The Stars have gone 11-4-1 in home games. Dallas has converted on 18.2% of power-play opportunities, scoring 16 power-play goals.
The Devils have gone 5-8-0 away from home. New Jersey has scored 15 power-play goals, converting on 14% of chances.
The teams square off Tuesday for the first time this season.
TOP PERFORMERS: Roope Hintz leads the Stars with 11 goals, adding two assists and totaling 13 points. Jamie Benn has scored four goals over the last 10 games for Dallas.
Taylor Hall leads the Devils with 25 points, scoring six goals and adding 19 assists. Blake Coleman has five goals and four assists over the last 10 games for New Jersey.
LAST 10 GAMES: Devils: 2-7-1, averaging 2.4 goals, 4.2 assists, 3.9 penalties and nine penalty minutes while giving up 3.8 goals per game with a .880 save percentage.
Stars: 6-3-1, averaging 2.6 goals, 4.6 assists, 3.2 penalties and 6.7 penalty minutes while giving up 2.1 goals per game with a .937 save percentage.
Stars Injuries: None listed.
Devils Injuries: Kevin Rooney: out (upper body), Sami Vatanen: out (upper body), Nico Hischier: day to day (illness).
- Predators take the win over Devils
by: Alex Corradetti
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN)– PK Subban was back in Nashville Saturday night for the first time since being traded to the New Jersey Devils.
However, his old team did not take it easy on him.
About 40 seconds in, Daniel Carr netted one.
A minute later, Dane Fabbro scored.
Now, the Devils didn’t leave those two goals unanswered.
They scored two goals two minutes after that.
So, if you are keeping track, that was four goals in four minutes.
Things did slow down, but the Preds were still able to take the win.
The final score was 6-4.
- Nine observations from Alain Nasreddine’s first week in charge of the Devils
by Corey Masisak, The Athletic
NASHVILLE — When Alain Nasreddine first addressed the media as the interim head coach of the Devils last Tuesday, he spoke of the circumstancesand that it was not how he envisioned getting this opportunity.
Mostly, he was talking about that for him to get this chance, his friend and mentor, John Hynes, was fired. He’s also dealt with plenty of other circumstances that are not ideal for a first-time head coach.
Nasreddine was in his sixth day in charge Sunday, when the team traveled from Nashville to Dallas. He’s had more scheduled off days (two) than practice days (one) to this point. There have been as many game days (three) as not.
For a first-time head coach and a long-struggling team, there hasn’t been much time to regroup, and the losses are still mounting.
“I like the energy. I like the style of play,” Nasreddine said after his club’s 6-4 loss to the Predators. “But it is a lot of the same mental mistakes that we have to find a way to get better with. We’ve got to play winning hockey and right now, there’s a lot of things we’re not doing in order to be winning.
“There was a lot of positives, but there’s also a lot of things we have to fix. It’s a process. It’s not going to happen overnight.”
Nasreddine’s second week in charge isn’t going to be any easier. The Devils have two scheduled practice days, at least. But they also have three road games against three of the top six teams in the Western Conference standings.
Here are some observations from Nasreddine’s first week in charge, which gave us a glimpse of how he plans to handle certain situations and what type of coach he wants to be:
- The Devils have had one full practice and one optional morning skate. Nasreddine said before the Chicago game that he hadn’t had enough time to make any significant Xs and Os changes. He did say there will be some tweaks, and they could come as soon as this week.
One of the Devils’ most obvious issues this season has been with getting the puck out of their defensive zone cleanly and giving themselves a chance to create more offensive zone time. Nasreddine was asked if he feels the problem has been Xs and Os-related or has fallen on the players either making bad decisions or poor passes.
“I think it’s both,” Nasreddine said. “I don’t want to reveal all the secrets, but that’s definitely something we’ve talked about. We realized that it’s been an issue, and sometimes fans just want to blame it all in the D because usually you think of them as breaking out, but it’s a five-man unit and that’s not just the D and it’s not just the forwards and it’s not just the goalie. I think it’s both. It’s execution and Xs and Os. We’re looking to maybe making a few tweaks. Maybe not (against the Blackhawks and Predators) because you’d like to practice if you’re going to make some system changes, but it’s something that we’re definitely looking into.”
- One point of emphasis in the first few days was to play faster and with more energy. Without time to implement large-scale changes, Nasreddine noted that the team’s overall pace and energy had seemed to dip in recent games before the coaching change. New Jersey played well in the first period against Vegas and Chicago, but then was down 2-0 in less than three minutes.
- Another point of emphasis is to rebuild the team’s collective psyche. This goes hand-in-hand with asking for more pace and energy. Nasreddine has been Hynes’ top lieutenant, but the change means a new voice at the top; Nasreddine preaching that everyone has a fresh slate is part of his attempt to combat the frustration and “here we go again” mentality that is bound to creep in when the losses pile up in the manner they did.
If this were Game No. 29 for Nasreddine, he might not have been looking for a list of positives from a mostly ugly loss in Nashville. But it was Game No. 3, and he’s looking for small things the club can build off of.
- That said, Nasreddine has established a willingness to be blunt in his assessments. He said during the introductory press conference he is someone who “tells it like it is” and that’s been true.
“(The Predators) are a great team and they made great plays, but I look at it at least three goals we basically served it on a platter for them,” Nasreddine said. “We scored four goals. If we score four goals we should be winning games and this has been a story of the year. We have to cut down on those mistakes.”
He also mentioned that some players were not ready to play at puck drop and that some of the mistakes were repetitive from earlier in the season. So, has he had time to think about what he wants to do as the head coach when the mistakes are part of a pattern and not one-offs?
“Yeah, I have an idea,” Nasreddine said in Nashville. “This one stings. For a back-to-back, I thought the effort was there by the majority of our team and I thought it was there for the taking. There will be some one-on-one meetings over the next couple days and some individuals will have to pick up their game.”
- Two of the most-used words in the Devils’ universe this season are “system” and “execution.” System is typically a catch-all phrase that encompasses the Xs and Os plan, the style of play and the game plan. Execution, or a lack of it, is also often more of a general term. If the players don’t execute within the system, bad things happen.
Given the results, New Jersey’s system has earned plenty of scrutiny from the outside, while they have consistently pointed to execution being the chief problem. The loss in Nashville was an example of the different kinds of execution breakdowns that can lead to big problems.
“It’s something that has been killing us a lot this season. It’s execution,” Kyle Palmieri said. “We’re taking ourselves out of plays by simply not executing, and whether there was easy plays or plays that we should be making, it’s still an execution thing.”
Palmieri is talking about making the right decision, but he’s also talking about making (and receiving) passes. Hynes mentioned on a couple of occasions that it’s tough to generate any kind of offense when players are struggling to complete simple passes, by NHL standards. GM Ray Shero reiterated the point when discussing the 7-1 Buffalo disaster — “We couldn’t complete a five-foot pass,” he said.
The other kind of system breakdown is essentially what happened when Nick Bonino had enough time to move into position and pick the corner for his shot on Nashville’s fifth goal Saturday night.
“I don’t want to get into the details, but we have two guys that are out of position, and it’s easy to blame the goalie but it’s a five-man unit out there with the goalie,” Nasreddine said. “Two guys missed their assignment, and the goalie didn’t make the save, but if we do our job and we’re better systematically, that shot never even happens. We have to get better and our attention to detail has to improve dramatically if we’re going to start winning games.”
Will the coaches be able to coach some of the execution mistakes out of the players? There’s no coaching fix for NHL players not completing simple passes. But whether it’s tweaking the plan, rebuilding confidence or making lineup/playing time changes, improving the overall execution is going to be one of Nasreddine’s biggest challenges.
- The staff hasn’t made any major changes on the power play, other than Pavel Zacha replacing Nico Hischier on PP1 when he missed two games. Zacha moved into the net-front role and helped Taylor Hall score a goal with a strong screen against the Blackhawks. Zacha is also in that spot to try to win faceoffs.
“All I asked from them on the power play is be threatening and bring energy to the team,” Nasreddine said after the Chicago game. “I thought they did a pretty good job. I was hoping they’d shoot maybe a little more, which they did on the third opportunity and we ended up scoring.”
- That game also went to overtime, offering the first look at how Nasreddine would handle the situation. Hischier was not in the lineup and Sami Vatanen had left the game with an injury.
“You have a plan going in, but you also look at who is going that game, who is really feeling it,” Nasreddine said of his overtime deployment philosophy. “Going in, you have tandems and players you know you’re going to use.”
Palmieri hasn’t played much in 3-on-3 situations this year, but it was noteworthy that he and Nikita Gusev were not in the rotation (and that P.K. Subban played so little despite Vatanen’s injury). Zacha was one player who seemed to benefit from Nasreddine going with “who is really feeling it” — he had played a strong game in regulation.
- Nasreddine has mentioned the fine line between trying to create more offense while still protecting the defensive end and limiting chances. There are two critical components of this team that the balance affects.
One is Subban, who has shifted into the crosshairs as the high-profile player who is not producing up to expectations — a place that Taylor Hall has resided for much of this season.
“In today’s game, all of the defensemen have to be involved in the offense,” Nasreddine said. “We’ve talked about this, and this includes P.K. I’m sure he’d like to have more points, but to me it’s not about the point today. Are we creating chances? Are we shooting the puck? We’re not shooting enough pucks, and that includes P.K. I’d like to see more shots, more shots going through and more of a shooting mentality.”
Subban played well in his first trip to Montreal this season, but his pseudo-homecoming in Nashville on Saturday went poorly. He also played his fewest minutes of the season, at 18:20. Four of his six games with lowest ice time have come in the team’s past six, dating back to the second trip to Montreal on Thanksgiving.
“I’m going to let people assess (my production),” Subban said before the game in Nashville. “I’m still getting to know my teammates and their tendencies, and I think we’re starting to build some chemistry. My role hasn’t really been consistently on the power play, so that’s a big part of it, but I accept that. We have a young team with a lot of players who deserve to play on the power play.”
- Here’s Nasreddine on Mackenzie Blackwood after the 2-1 overtime loss to the Blackhawks:
“He was very solid. We had some breakdowns and he was there to shut the door,” Nasreddine said. “If we’re going to get out of this and start winning games, your goaltender is probably your most important player and I thought tonight he was very, very good.”
Fast forward 24 hours and Louis Domingue allowed six goals on 37 shots against the Predators. As Nasreddine mentioned, the Devils broke down in front of him on a few of the goals against. But Domingue’s save percentage is now .858, and .827 in his past three appearances. Cory Schneider was at .852 when he was sent to the AHL and he’s off to a rough start with Binghamton.
Blackwood has shows flashes of No. 1 goaltender potential, but he’s been too inconsistent and is sitting at .899. At some point, the Devils could waive the proverbial white flag this season and give Blackwood more starts to see if he can find more consistent play at this level. With Domingue and Schneider having fared worse, it’ll be tough for the Devils not to overplay Blackwood the rest of the season.
The breakdowns in front of the goaltenders are also making it difficult to assess how much of the blame they deserve. Better play in net might ease some of the tension in the Devils’ overall game.
It also might make it easier to assess how the new coach is doing as the Devils move forward.