Devils’ Loss to Stars Is a Wake up Call

“If you lose one, you can’t lose two, and you certainly can’t lose three.”

New Jersey Devils forward Miles Wood made that statement back on Oct. 14 after the Devils dropped their season opener to the Philadelphia Flyers. The 27-year-old is one of the longest-tenured players on the team and knows very well the losing snowball effect that has plagued this franchise over the past few seasons.

On Dec. 13, the Devils hosted the Dallas Stars and were looking to avoid those three consecutive losses that Wood was talking about. Unfortunately, their opponent had other plans as former Devils goaltender Scott Wedgewood made 35 saves to secure the Stars a 4-1 victory. New Jersey’s lone goal was scored by Wood who earned his seventh of the season. Yegor Sharangovich and Kevin Bahl, who replaced Brendan Smith on the blue line, collected the assists.

The Devils hoped to tie the game late in the final frame, but two empty net goals doused any chance of forcing overtime. Frustration was evident among some of the players including Erik Haula who met with the media after the game.

Nico Hischier’s team has played six games in December and owns a record of 2-2-2, which looks vastly different than their 13-0-1 record in November. This leads to one very important question:

Is It Time for New Jersey to Panic?

The club remains at the top of the Metropolitan Division with a six-point advantage over the Carolina Hurricanes who are in second place. The Devils gave themselves a nice cushion during their 13-game winning streak by collecting those early points that Smith has been so vocal about.

With a record of 21-6-2, it is premature to hit the panic button. However, the Stars provided a necessary wake-up call to head coach Lindy Ruff’s squad as they made it very difficult for the Devils to stick to their game plan. Now that a third of the schedule is completed teams are learning and bringing their best efforts against New Jersey.

“Honestly, teams come here and [maybe before] they didn’t really know what to expect from us,” said Tomas Tatar. “We showed a lot of promise, so teams come here right now and want to beat us. We’re getting the best out of them, and it’s getting tougher, but things like this are going to make us better and stronger. We need to be ready for it. There won’t be any easy game.”

Tomas Tatar New Jersey Devils
Tomas Tatar, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

On any given night any team can beat any opponent in this league. While there is no need for the Devils to hit the panic button, there should be a sense of urgency in the locker room. Throughout their impressive winning streak there was a lot of talk about needing to improve certain elements of their game. During that stretch, Hischier, Haula, and even Boqvist knew there were areas that needed to be addressed and it all comes down to the simple details.

Devils: It’s All in the Details

Lately, it has been easy to pick out the team’s Achilles heel. With 1.1 seconds left in the second period the Stars scored the go-ahead goal. It has become a reoccurring theme for the Devils as it happened twice against the Nashville Predators, in the first period against the New York Islanders, and again on Tuesday.

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Giving up goals in the final seconds of the period has proven to kill any momentum the Devils had heading into the intermission and is something that needs to be rectified because in all three of those aforementioned games the Devils were handed a loss. As Tatar pointed out, moving forward opposing teams will bring their best efforts against New Jersey. The simple details of their game will need to be close to perfect every night if they want to remain at the top of the division standings.

Ruff met with the media after the game and talked about his team needing to take advantage of their chances.

Lindy Ruff New Jersey Devils
Lindy Ruff, New Jersey Devils (Kristy Flannery / The Hockey Writers)

“We are facing a little bit of adversity. I think these are the challenges you have during the year. You’re gonna run your good times together, and you’re gonna have to get out of the hole. We have been a team that tried to take a lot of pride in not losing two. We got a point last night [versus the New York Rangers], we felt we should have been better than that. We had our opportunities for that point tonight. We had some great opportunities with two or three chances in the third period. We didn’t convert and you got to take advantage of your good opportunities.”

The Devils will look to jump back into the win column on Dec. 15 when the Flyers visit Prudential Center for the first time this season.

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