Devils Slide Continues, Still Not Time To Panic

After losing to the Flyers last night, the Devils have lost four straight games but it is not time to panic just yet.

Four game losing streaks are bad. Going 2-4-1 in the last seven games is even worse. However, being in first place after 30 games is a very good thing. Keeping up the pace of earlier in the season, where the Devils went 18-1-1 over 20 games, was never sustainable and losing streaks will happen to every team over the course of an 82 game season. Thankfully, the Devils have built themselves enough of a cushion in the division and playoff race to be able to sustain a bad stretch and remain contenders.

As frustrating as it is to lose a fourth game in a row, at home, and to a very bad Flyers team, the Devils were easily the better team in that game. The Devils out shot the Flyers 49-24, won two fights (Maybe one draw and one win, but my eyes saw two wins), and controlled the play for the vast majority of the game. Flyers goalie Carter Hart stood on his head, Damon Severson had an atrocious turnover, and the Flyers escaped with a 2-1 victory. Vitek Vanecek played well enough to earn the win last night but wasn’t so lucky. The two goals he allowed were not bad goals to give up. The first Flyers goal was a screened one time shot from the point on a power play. Not too much Vanecek could have done differently to stop that shot. It was a great shot that Vanecek couldn’t really see as he moved across the crease. The second Flyers goal as a breakaway for the Flyers caused by an absolutely horrible turnover from Damon Severson at the Flyers blue line. Ruff called it unacceptable after the game and I doubt Severson could explain what exactly he was trying to do with that puck. The main takeaway from that game was that the Devils were the better team but got robbed by a great goaltending performance from Carter Hart and a horrible play from Damon Severson. Obviously, you need to find a way to score more than one goal but sometimes the other goalie is just too good. Overall, outside of the Severson blunder, I don’t have an issue with how the Devils played last night.

With another goal last night, Jack Hughes is now up to 16 goals and 19 assists in 40 games played. He has been a beast for the Devils all season , especially in the last 10 games where he has 14 points. Hughes is doing most of the heavy lifting for the offense right now, and some of his teammates need to step up and help him out. Jesper Bratt has only two goals and four assists over his last 11 games. Not even close tot the elite production he showed last year or earlier this season. Yegor Sharangovich has only 2 goals (1 empty net) in his last 11 games played. Sharangovich is supposed to be one of the best shooters on the team and this year he only has 8 goals in 30 games. Erik Haula has only 1 goal and 11 assists this season. He’s been good in the faceoff circle and good defensively but that is not nearly enough offensive production from a guy who has played a lot in the top six and a lot with Jack Hughes on his line. Hughes and Hischier can’t so it all themselves, the rest of the Devils forwards need to pick up their offensive production now for the team to get back to the winning ways of November.

The next six games should tell us a lot about where the Devils stack up in the Eastern Conference. Al six games are against playoff contenders and the Devils need to come out of it with a point percentage greater than 50% over those six games to show that they can at least compete with the best in the conference on a nightly basis. As the great Ric Flair says, “To be the man, you gotta beat the man.” This season, the Devils are trying to become “the man” and in these next six games, the Devils are playing against “the men” of the Eastern Conference. All of those teams were in the playoffs last year and are likely to return this year, except maybe the Panthers. I am confident the Devils can compete in these games and hold onto to their top spot in the division through the end of 2022, but these six games are where the Devils need to get back to the top of their game that they showed not that long ago. Where the Devils stand on January 1st compared to December 1st will give us a good idea of how they are trending heading into the second half of the season. You can follow me on Twitter at PatBoooooth.

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