February 13, 2024

Bryce Salvador

Hey, everyone!

I look forward to tonight's opportunity for the Devils in Nashville, where they can string together three very strong showings in a row. A combination of their new-look defensive structure (with tweaks to the center being the main down-low guy in both corners vs allowing the winger autonomy to do so) and the buy-in to that new system, along with the overall attention to detail they've exhibited lately, has allowed them to limit those odd-man rushes, breakaways, and Grade A chances against that they were conceding beforehand.

Coming off their best defensive performance of the season, that being in CAR back on Saturday night, the Devils almost followed it up to perfection last night. I especially loved that 2nd period (which is easy to say because the Devils didn't even give up a shot on goal for the first 14:23 of it!) and the way Jack Hughes broke open the floodgates with his first and second points since returning from injury. Ultimately, though, it was another complete effort that got the Devils the 2 PTS they desperately needed — in front of an almost perfect performance from Dawsy in net (I believe he’d like another crack at Borgen’s shot!).

Now, looking ahead to tonight's game in NSH, it's no secret that the Devils have struggled with those second-half games in back-to-back sets all season long (1-8-1 in the second half compared to 10-1-0 in the first half). However, it does feel like there could be a turning point coming here, due to the discipline within the Devils' structure that has allowed them to play with more consistency over the last handful of games. As long as they are defensively sound again tonight in NSH, I'm confident that the Devils can get rewarded with their first 4-point back-to-back set of the season!

I have given so much credit to the way the Devils are defending at 5v5 — ending plays quickly, not allowing second or third-chance opportunities, clearing rebounds, getting in shooting lanes — but equally deserving of credit right now is the Devils' PK, which is a perfect 17/17 over its last 17 kills. As the penalty killers get more and more reps with each other, they start to have better instinctual reads on where the other guys on the ice will be as to when to pressure and support each other. There has become far less hesitation within the PK structure compared to back in October and November, and, for me, that and improved goaltending have been the most significant differences with the PK since its positive regression in December.

I'll show some video examples of the PK's efficiencies during the pregame show. Hopefully, that 84.3 PK% since Dec. 1 (#6 NHL) continues to trend in the right direction against a Preds' power play that scored twice in their last game vs. ARI. On the note of special teams, it would be great to see the Devils' PP execute again tonight should they have opportunities. Finally, they were able to get back on the board last night vs. SEA after an 8-game goalless drought!Tonight's game is an 8 PM start time, so, Erika and I will be live at 7:30 PM for the pregame show. We'll chat about NJD's defensive buy-in over the last 4 games, dive into the Devils' PK dominance, and break down the decision that went into tonight's starting goaltender. Join us on MSG!

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