Devils’ Struggling Defense
If you weren’t watching the game last night, this is the moment when Damon Severson realized he had put the puck in his own net. William Nylander was off for a leisurely stroll across the Devils’ crease, to no objection of Mirco Mueller, and lost the puck for Severson to bat it in, ending the game 5-4 for the Maple Leafs. It was a Ben Lovejoy-esque play that highlighted what most fans already know about the Devils; their defense is bad. Severson isn’t that bad.
Actually, when you consider the fact that he’s 6-foot-2 and Canadian, you realize that already qualifies him to play on the Devils’ top pairing. However, he’s not good enough to make a pair work with Mirco Mueller, who left John Tavares wide open in front of the net on the game-tying goal. In case you missed it, here is the goal that caused this game to go to overtime in the first place.
Now you might argue that the “too many men on the ice” penalty call that preceded this goal was unwarranted, and I would agree with you. But what I find unsettling is the fact Alain Nasreddine sent Mueller out there to kill the penalty. Remember, we were playing the team with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and John Tavares. You might also say I’m being harsh on the Devils’ defense, but I’d hate to see another able-bodied Devils’goaltender kicked out of town because of the team’s defensive perils. And I can’t be told that these perils don’t regularly occur because on the Maple Leafs’ first goal, Severson left Zach Hyman wide open in front for a rebound goal.
On their second goal at the end of the first period, Will Butcher, who was removed in the third for an undisclosed injury, was outmuscled in front by Ilya Mikheyev for a tip-in. Luckily, the Devils responded early on in the second period, by the stick of Nikita Gusev on the five-on-three power play. Even later on in the second, when Kasperi Kapanen whistled by Butcher and scored from outside the dots, Kyle Palmieri responded with a snipe of his own to tie the game at three. And again to take the lead, feeding the puck to Jesper Bratt for a beautiful goal halfway through the period.
From here, you probably know how the rest of the game goes, because I mentioned it above and you’ve probably seen a Devils game this season. Despite intense, back-and-forth play, New Jersey blew the lead in the third and lost in overtime. Whether you want to blame the penalties, the defense, or Mackenzie Blackwood, we can at least agree that we got more than we bargained for in entertainment from this game. And if nothing else, it further highlighted the Devils’ issues for anyone that may not have been clear before.
With the game ending like it did, it’s hard to find any positive takeaways, but looking at their last two games, you have to like how the Devils’ offense has been performing. Despite some tough giveaways that we’ll put up with since he’s 18, Jack Hughes is starting to take the puck to the net with confidence. Also, it will be interesting to see if Nasreddine keeps Nico Hischier between Jesper Bratt and Kyle Palmieri. After all, I would like to see more of this.
The Devils will return to the ice tomorrow, traveling to Ottawa to face the Senators Sunday night at 5PM E.T.