The Devils started the 2022-2023 season by showing us absolutely nothing has changed since last season.
Wow, that was brutal. Defense, goaltending, power play, even strength, the Devils did nothing well in their first game of the new season. Honestly this just felt like game 83 of last season. Starting with the goaltending, Mackenzie Blackwood absolutely has to be better. The first Flyers goal was the result of poor rebound control from Blackwood. That puck should have been caught in his glove and never been allowed to get loose behind him for Allison to just tap into the net. The second Flyers goal Blackwood could have had too. Sure, Tatar and Graves should do a better job of controlling the puck at the blue line and Smith should do a better job of stepping up there to take away time and space from the shooter. However, Blackwood also needs to do a better job of stopping undeflected shots from above the circles. Two goals that our goalie absolutely should have stopped. Blackwood did nothing to help the argument that he deserves to be a starting goalie.
The defense is not off the hook either because they were far from a positive in this game. The second goal, as mentioned above, was poorly defended but the third goal was even worse. Both defensemen, Brendan Smith and John Marino, were below the goal line while one Flyer was along the boards with the puck. Absolutely nonsensical positioning there, We might as well have PK Subban and Ty Smith back there again. It did not help that no forward stuck with Frost as he dropped into the wide open space left by our defense, but that space never should have been open for him to begin with. A total mess by the Devils defense and the goalie can barely make routine saves, let alone great ones, and the puck ends up in the back of the net…again. It’s only been one game and I’;m exhausted with this team already.
The offense was also far from good tonight. The Devils got 37 shots on goal, which sounds like a good number, but few of them could be considered dangerous. It also did not help that the Devils had 28 shot attempts blocked by the Flyers. The Devils were firing the puck into rows of Flyer shin pads all night. The Devils are a faster and more skilled team than the Flyers but didn’t use that speed and skill to spread the Flyers out and open up shooting lanes. John Tortarella coached teams block a lot of shots and the Devils played right into their style tonight. The power play went 1/3 but looked as dynamic and dangerous as the Mark Recchi led power plays of the last few seasons. A predictable zone entry, trouble setting up, and very few dangerous shots that came while the goalie was moving. Alexander Holtz did get his first NHL goal which was cool but it was more of a weak goal allowed by Hart than a strong play by Holtz in my opinion. Hopefully the goal still improves his confidence and he shoots the puck more because we know from his time in Utica last year that he can rip the puck.
Damon Severson scored a goal in third period to cut the deficit down to two goals and Jesper Bratt had two assists so those are cool I guess. This team just looked the exact same as last year. A few nice plays from Hughes that unfortunately didn’t produce any points and a mostly flat performance from the vast majority of the roster. There is still a lot of time left in this season, 81 games to be exact, but nothing from this game gave me any hope that the Devils will be any different than the last four years have been. What we saw tonight is not what I had been hoping to see when I wrote my previews and predictions blog last week. Hopefully this just a slow start and they can play a lot better in the first home game when Detroit comes to Newark on Saturday night. Let’s Go Devils and let’s get this season on the right track on Saturday. You can follow me on Twitter at PatBoooooth.