February 24, 2024

Bryce Salvador

Hey everyone,

It’s no secret that the Devils find themselves soul-searching right now after dropping the last 2 games by 4 goals a piece. At this point in the season, the fact of the matter is that there's no time to dwell on losses. You have to be looking toward the next game and ONLY the next game. So, hopefully I’m talking about a rejuvenated Devils team, post-game after a big W today vs MTL, going into a huge game vs. TBL tomorrow. No excuse for anything but 2 PTS!

The biggest storyline surrounding the Devils right now is their lifeless power play, which has now scored just 4 goals on its last 62 opportunities since Jan. 5. 

For me, the lack of PP success in the last 36 GP is now psychological and compounding its downward spiral from the best PP% in the league through the first 20 games of the season to the worst over its last 36. It's no coincidence that this timeframe I'm discussing (of the previous 36 games) goes back to Dougie Hamilton's injury on Nov. 28, when he tore his left pectoral muscle vs. NYI. 

Just look at the PP execution since Dougie’s injury:

With Dougie out, you lose the ability to shake up your units and bring your experienced anchor/shooting threat to QB things on PP1 — which opposing teams would then have to respect and be wary of in their PK pre-scout. Without discrediting the tremendous job Luke or Nemec have done (which I'll get to!), it becomes much easier to take away lanes and limit those patented seam passes between NJD#86 and NJD#63 when there's no real shooting threat at the blue line.
The reality is that the Devils have no choice but to ride with what they've got right now and continue to work at injecting life into this PP. Optimistically speaking, today’s matchup could be exactly what the Doctor ordered and a confidence booster for the Devils’ PP, considering they scored 2 of their last 4 PPGs vs. MTL 15 games ago back on Jan. 17. One can only hope history repeats itself today, and the Devils get on the board with a PPG (or two!).

Now, to reiterate what myself and coach Ruff have each talked about a lot this season including two nights ago, nobody intends to ever discredit the outstanding job Luke & Nemec have done this season — not just on the PP, but at 5v5 as well. They've both been exceptional with the unorthodox hands they've been dealt as 20-year-old rookie defensemen. To this point, I went back as far as 2000-01, when TOI was first tracked by the NHL, to highlight just how unorthodox their ice time has been at this age. Unsurprisngly, it turns out that the Devils’ usage of both Luke & Nemec is unprecedented! Since the 2000-01 season, no other team has ever used two defensemen more in the same regular season games, for at least 35 consecutive games, each averaging 20+ minutes per game, and who are both in their 20-year old NHL season or younger!Big game today!!!

During this afternoon's pregame show, I'll show some video examples regarding the PP struggles, the grind of Luke & Nemec's rookie seasons, and break down NJD needing to convert on their scoring chances. Join us at 1:30 PM on MSG!

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