The Devils played terribly and got the result they deserved in game one. Game two on Thursday night in Newark just got 10x more important.
0/4 on the power play. 2/4 on the penalty kill. Some shaky goaltending. The Devils did not deserve to win this game and they did not even come close to winning this game. The power play was just atrocious to watch, it honestly looked like the “brilliant” power plays that Mark Recchi drew up in his reign of terror as the mastermind of the Devils power play for the past few seasons. For some reason they decided to try the non zone entry again. Four Devils players line up on the blue and stand still while one Devil picks up the puck in the defensive zone and tries to skate through all four penalty killers by himself. It almost never works and is a huge reason why the Devils had ZERO shots on goal in four power play opportunities. Just atrocious all around. Burn the tape, never try any of that trash again.
I don’t want to overreact to one bad game at the start of a series but Vitek Vanecek did not do his job tonight. He made 18 saves on 22 shots and being generous, he should have had at least two of them. The two Kreider power play goals were deflections in front so I won’t be too critical of those. The Taresenko and Lindgren goals should absolutely have been stopped. I don’t think its time to pull Vitek yet but he should have a very short leash headed into game two. One sof goal and get Schmid in there. At the same time, the Devils defense could have been much better on both of those goals. Both were at even strength and the Devils skaters gave each goal scorer far too much time and space. The Devils need to do a better job putting pressure on the Rangers and giving them nothing to shoot at. If the coaching staff uses tape from this game at all, it should just be examples of what not do. Plenty of material there. Lots of teaching moments available here, but not much positive to build off of.
The Devils started this game very slow and missed the net or shot into Ranger shin pads far too many times, resulting in a low number of shots on Igor Shesterkin early in the game. Despite that though, the Devils turned up the pressure as the game went on and Shesterkin had just about all the answers. Shesterkin was great, stopping 27 of 28 shots and only being beat by Jack Hughes on a penalty shot. He played great and that is to be expected from one of the best goalies in the world, which is exactly why the Devils can’t afford to give anything away to the Rangers. Both the defense and the goaltending need to be near perfect to match Shesterkin and keep the Devils in the game.
All in all, that game sucked. The Devils need to get more of their shots on net and fewer of them blocked. The Devils also need to tighten up the defense and the goaltending. The Devils need to figure out a completely different power play and penalty kill strategy. The good thing about a seven game series is there is a lot of hockey left after this putrid performance. The bad news is, we could see three more games just like that… Let’s hope the Devils never play that poorly again. Lot’s of hockey left and we’ll see you all on Thursday night for game two.