The New Jersey Devils struggled at Wells Fargo Center last night. They gave up six goals in a Philadelphia Flyers victory, including a Cam Atkinson hat trick. Ahead of the game, head coach Lindy Ruff canceled the morning skate and allowed his team to rest since many are under the weather dealing with non-covid related illnesses.
“It was my decision related to the overall health of the team,” Ruff said. “I just felt that the most important thing for our team as of last night, from what I heard, was to rest the team. Get them up, get them fluids, get them food, let them rest.”
The Flyers dominated from the early minutes of the first period, and the Devils struggles as a result. Inconsistencies are a reoccurring theme for New Jersey, and their power play has reached a new low as they often allow short-handed goals. Here are three takeaways from the Devils’ lastest loss.
Devils vs Flyers Blue Line Battle
The Flyers entered the game on a two-game winning streak. In both victories, Keith Yandle was the only defenseman to hit the scoreboard. Last night, Philadelphia’s defense played a crucial role in the offensive zone, with four different defenders earning points. Both Justin Braun and Travis Sanheim scored, while Rasmus Ristolainen and Ivan Provorov had a multiple-point night.
At the other end, the Devils’ lone goal was scored by P.K. Subban, whose wrist shot got past goaltender Carter Hart in the second period. The defense struggled as a whole, and during the post-game, Ruff mentioned that his players held onto the puck too long and made ill-advised passes. These are self-inflicted defense wounds that the Devils are unable to recover from.
Inconsistency Remains a Main Storyline for the Devils
The Devils have played seven games this month with only one regulation win. It has been a difficult stretch, and the team has struggled to find consistency in most aspects of their game. When the team plays well, they can compete with anyone. Their passing is crisp, and they can always find each other on the ice. During the past few weeks, little to nothing has gone right for more than a couple of shifts.
It was no secret the Flyers were facing an unhealthy team. The Devils have three players on Covid-19 protocol, while others are battling non-Covid related illnesses. One of the sickest players was goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood who had a rough go in net, allowing five goals.
If the Devils had played better over the past few weeks, fans could chalk up last night’s blowout loss to being unhealthy, but with their recent play, this loss adds to the frustration for a team with a .463 point percentage.
Shorthanded Goals Becoming a Concern for New Jersey
Special teams have been a sour spot for most of the season, but now the Devils are allowing more shorthanded opportunities, which is a concern. The power play is a problem, but when their opponent is the one celebrating a goal in those two minutes, it becomes critical. Last night, Atkinson scored shorthanded, and former Devil Zach Parise scored another for the New York Islanders in the game before.
“I think the unit is totally going to have a shakeup,” Ruff said. “The disappointing part for me is we were point-blank on one of our power plays early and we missed the net, a wide-open net. [Pavel Zacha] had a wide-open net. We wouldn’t even be talking about a shorthanded goal if we put that [in].”
New Jersey is six points out of a wild-card spot, which is not ideal, but not out of reach either. It’s unfortunate that the team is dealing with Covid-19, among other health issues, but they need to find a way to force themselves forward with two more games this week. Ruff’s team will host the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday at Prudential Center before they visit the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday. Fans can only hope the Devils don’t add another player to Covid-19 protocol, and those who haven’t been well get stronger by tomorrow night.
Kristy has been contributing to The Hockey Writers since March of 2021. She is thrilled to be putting her journalism degree to use and covers both the Nashville Predators and New Jersey Devils. Kristy is also a co-host of Chicks & Sticks, a weekly Youtube show produced by THW. You can follow her journey on Twitter @InStilettos_NHL and Instagram SkatingInStilettos.