G19 New Jersey Devils vs. Buffalo Sabres: Start digging
The Devils' poor start – in most games, and the season as a whole – has them in a hole. They must start digging out of it before it's too late.
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A few notes to get you set for New Jersey vs. Buffalo:
A good start is key
The Devils have a bunch of problems right now. They’re banged up, their power play production has slowed, their 5v5 game is not where it needs to be, goaltending is a concern, and they just don’t have…The Juice.
It’s hard enough for the Devils to get results when lacking confidence and missing key personnel. They continue to make their life even more difficult, though, by starting on the back foot time after time after time.
Tonight marks the Devils’ 19th game of the season. Put another way, the Devils have already completed 22% of their campaign. They have scored the first goal of a hockey game three times. Three! There is absolutely no excuse for that.
Overcoming early deficits every night is difficult at the best of times. When missing key weaponry, and dealing with shaky goaltending, it is borderline impossible. There’s a reason the Devils have zero (0) wins when trailing after 20 minutes.
Think about it. Teams get up a goal or two and fall into a more conservative, counter attacking style of game. Opponents can simply clog things up defensively, wait for the Devils to make a mistake – those become more frequent when playing a hyper-aggressive style in a quest for goals – and feel very good about their chances of converting against consistently subpar goaltending. Rinse, repeat.
Getting healthy will help. The confidence that should come from a more talented roster will as well. But if the Devils really want to gain traction in their game, they need to start on time and hit the ground running for once.
The Devils remain a dominant team when playing from ahead. They lead the league in high-danger chance generation and have the 5th highest expected goals share – behind Boston, Los Angeles, Colorado, and Edmonton – while up at least a goal.
The problem is they are constantly chasing the game and never able to flex those muscles.
With the Sabres sitting 24th in high-danger chances/60 while trailing, and Tage Thompson sidelined, the Devils would be putting themselves in a prime position for success if they can get a lead for once.
We’ll see if they can answer the bell and play with the urgency they showed in the 3rd period against Columbus.