After a few days off since their last game, which was a 3-2 shootout win against the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday, the New Jersey Devils traveled to Boston to take on the Bruins. Unfortunately for them, things did not go well. In fact, it was their worst loss of the season, as they fell to the Bruins 8-1. The loss also officially eliminated the Devils from playoff contention, though that was merely a formality.
While the scoreboard was lopsided, the Devils’ goaltending once again made matters much worse. Let’s dive into their goaltending woes and a few other takeaways from the blowout loss.
Devils Goaltending Had a Rough Outing
Last night was a rough game all around for the Devils. They finished with a Corsi for percentage (CF%) of 40.86 percent and expected goals percentage (xG%) of 38.15 percent. Their puck management was sloppy, and their power play couldn’t get anything going. With that said, the final score should not have been as lopsided as it was.
The Devils have had some poor performances in between the pipes this season, but last night may have topped them. Nico Daws gave up five goals on 1.92 expected goals, a goals saved above expected (GSAx) of -3.08. Jon Gillies would come on in relief of Daws about midway through the second period, but he didn’t fare much better. He gave up three goals on 1.30 expected goals, a GSAx of -1.7. Their save percentage (SV%) was a combined 80 percent, which won’t get it done against any team.
It’s hard to blame Daws when he struggles in a game. He’s a rookie who was supposed to be spending the season in the AHL with the Utica Comets rather than playing in the NHL. But due to injuries to Jonathan Bernier and Mackenzie Blackwood, the Devils have had no choice but to start him. With that said, there are some interesting differences in how Daws performs between road and home contests.
In nine road games, Daws has an SV% of .866 and has given up 11.26 more goals than expected (32 goals against vs. 20.74 expected goals). However, he’s looked like an NHL goalie at home. He has a .920 SV% in 10 home appearances and has stopped 2.54 goals above expected, goaltending that will help the Devils win games more often than not. The problem is they rarely get that during road games, even if Daws is not the starter. But it’s not just the goalies performing poorly during road games.
Devils’ Overall Home/Road Splits Are Concerning
Part of Daws’ road struggles could be due to him being a young goalie and feeling more comfortable playing in front of the home crowd. With that said, there has been a noticeable difference in the Devils’ home and away results at five-on-five:
|Corsi for percentage||52.09%||49.78%|
|Expected goals percentage||53.38%||49.77%|
|Scoring chances percentage||54.56%||50.25%|
|High-danger chances percentage||60.17%||52%|
Not only is Daws more comfortable playing at home, but it appears the rest of the team is at well. I wouldn’t go as far as to say the Devils have played terribly on the road. But they’ve been much, much better at the Prudential Center.
Perhaps that’s just some weird flukey thing we won’t see again moving forward. After all, the Devils were much better on the road in 2020-21 than at home, granted that was the COVID-shortened season, where results were even more flukey. And for what it’s worth, the Devils’ goaltending hasn’t been great at home either; .896 SV% vs. .872 on the road. Had it not been for the Daws’ recent run of home performances, those numbers would likely be close to even.
Still, the Devils have to figure out why there’s such a stark difference in their home and road efforts. The records don’t lie; they’re 16-14-3 at home and 8-24-2 on the road. The numbers bear out that it’s not just their goaltending that struggles on the road but that the team also performs worse away from Newark. Maybe it’s a product of having the youngest roster in the NHL, or perhaps it isn’t. But there’s some digging general manager Tom Fitzgerald and his front office need to do to see if there are more significant macro issues rather than some flukey home/road splits.
Hammond Can’t Get Healthy Soon Enough
After some recent goaltending performances, especially on the road, the Devils would very much benefit from having Andrew Hammond available for their back-to-back against the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders this weekend. The Devils acquired Hammond from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for prospect Nate Schnarr at the trade deadline. But he’s yet to play for the Devils as he works his way back from an injury he suffered at the beginning of March.
Fortunately, Hammond was a full participant at practice on Wednesday, so he may be close to returning. He had played in four games for the Canadiens before his injury, totaling a .920 SV%. Before the Canadiens acquired him, he was with the Minnesota Wild, putting up a .908 SV% in 11 games for their AHL affiliate, the Iowa Wild.
Hammond is not a long-term solution for the Devils’ goaltending woes. But at the very least, he’s a veteran who can be a stop-gap and help give them reliable goaltending and lighten Daws’ workload over the final 15 games of the season. Plus, Mackenzie Blackwood has begun skating and is expected to return before the final buzzer sounds on 2021-22. If Hammond can hold the fort until then and help the Devils win games they should be winning, trading for him will have been worth it.
- Though the Devils got waxed, Jack Hughes still stood out. He led the team in CF% and was second in xG% to Yegor Sharangovich, who has been his linemate for months now. Hughes also scored the Devils’ lone goal of the game from a wicked angle that made it a 1-1 affair. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there. But he was still a bright spot on a night where there weren’t many, if any at all.
- After a few rough games, Dougie Hamilton seems to be righting the ship. He’s been above 50 percent in CF% and xG% over the last three games, including last night. Only he, Hughes, and Sharangovich finished above 50 percent in both stats, which is saying something considering how the game went. It’s unlikely we see the Hamilton who dominated games before breaking his jaw in early January for the rest of the season. But getting him on the right track heading into the summer would be a plus.
The Devils have to regroup quickly, as they will take on the Panthers tomorrow afternoon at 12:30 at the Prudential Center. That game marks the first of a four-game homestand for the Devils, so they have an opportunity to turn it around given their play at home. And hopefully, Hammond will be available tomorrow or for their tilt against the Islanders on Sunday afternoon.
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Advanced stats from Natural Stat Trick
Alex Chauvancy is a New Jersey Devils writer for The Hockey Writers who has a penchant for advanced stats, prospects, signings and trades. He previously wrote for Devils Army Blog, a New Jersey Devils fan blog, from 2015-2017