Welcome to New Jersey Devils Weekly! The Devils are in the midst of a six-game losing streak and are in last place in the Metropolitan Division. Most recently, the organization lost to three teams — the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Carolina Hurricanes, and the Toronto Maple Leafs — that are all on a path to the postseason in 2021-22. The Devils are coming off of a 7-1 defeat to the Maple Leafs in the second of back-to-back games against them.
The Devils have had difficulty scoring as they have four games over the last two weeks where they tallied only one goal. They finished the month of January with a 3-9 record and have a total of six wins combined over the last two months of the season. They have difficulty maintaining leads and are often trailing, which are explanations for why they are losing so many games. Here are some storylines surrounding the Devils.
Blackwood on IR Recovering From Heel Injury
Mackenzie Blackwood has missed time in 2021-22 due to recovering from heel surgery last offseason, a neck injury, and being placed in COVID health and safety protocols. He was placed on injured reserve (IR) on Jan. 25 with a heel injury. For the season, he has played in 23 games, has a record of 9-9-3, a goals-against average (GAA) of 3.29, and a .894 save percentage (SV%).
In his last start on Jan. 19, Blackwood allowed four goals on 17 shots in a 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes. He has struggled with inconsistency this season and it remains to be seen if he is the long-term answer for the Devils at the position. While his play may be due to injuries, he has had mixed results in his four seasons with the franchise.
His GAA has increased in every season since his rookie year, and his SV% has gone down since his first year with the Devils. It remains to be seen if the Devils will put him on season-ending IR at this point. It could be a possibility if the team continues to not play well. Jon Gillies and Akira Schmid have been the two goalies who have been playing in net while Blackwood has been on IR.
Hughes Continues Exceptional Season
Jack Hughes is continuing to have a fantastic season in 2021-22 despite missing 17 games with a dislocated shoulder. The former first-overall selection in the 2019 Draft has 12 goals and 15 assists in 28 games played. He had three goals and nine assists during the month of January.
Hughes is a talented playmaker given that he has averaged over two assists in 28 games. Jesper Bratt has benefited from playing on the same line with him. The native of Stockholm, Sweden, leads the Devils with 14 goals, 27 assists, and nine power-play points in 42 games played.
Hughes is tied for third with seven power-play points and it is evident he will be the team’s most important player in helping turn the franchise’s fortunes around. Nico Hischier, Dougie Hamilton, and Bratt, who is due to be a restricted free agent (RFA) after 2021-22, can also be instrumental to the team’s turnaround. However, the Orlando, Florida, native has demonstrated his playmaking ability throughout the three seasons he has played in the NHL.
Upcoming Games After All-Star Break
The Devils’ next game will be on Feb. 7 against the Ottawa Senators. The franchise will play the Montreal Canadiens on Feb. 8, and the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 10. After playing the three games on the road, the Devils will play two games at the Prudential Center on Feb. 13 against the Pittsburgh Penguins followed by the Lightning on Feb. 15.
The Devils will have nine days off until their next game on Feb. 24 in Pittsburgh against the Penguins followed by a game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 25. The Devils’ last game in February will be at home on the 28th against the Vancouver Canucks. The Devils have had more success in front of their home fans as they have a 10-11-3 record compared to a 5-14-3 record away from the Prudential Center.
The franchise will get some time off in order to get away from the difficulty they have been facing. The season will continue to be a development of their talent as they have the youngest roster in the league. The Devils will look to progress and improve their play in the second half of the 2021-22 season.