By Jeff O’Connor
What Happened: The New Jersey Devils allowed three unanswered goals to the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday evening, including a pair in a five-minute span in the second period which put the Jets ahead for good.
Star of the Game: Ondrej Pavelec – Was he tremendous? No. But he stopped all 18 shots after he allowed a pair to hit the back of the net in the first period. The Devils didn’t have a lot of prime chances in the final 40 but Pavelec made sure none of them went in.
Goat of the Game: Johan Hedberg – Again. Were some of the goals on the defense? No doubt. But that’s 14 goals he’s allowed in his last three games!!! He is what he is at this point…a backup goaltender. He’s not the man who allowed two goals in his first three games and he’s certainly not the guy who has played the last few.
Turning Point: The Ladd goal to make it 4-0. The Devils had just finished off a successful penalty kill of an Anton Volchenkov penalty and believe it or not, there was actually some life in the crowd considering how bad the situation was. But of course, 1:09 later, Ladd ripped home a roofer from just outside the slot. Good night and good hockey.
Offense: D+ There were maybe what…three or so quality chances outside of the two goals they scored? The Andrei Loktionov partial breakaway in the first period and perhaps a few others.
Defense: D+ As of late, they can’t chip any pucks out of their own zone and there is simply no physical play. This is the same group who was pretty stifling during portions of the playoffs last year. I know some people will blast us, but dare we share a little of the blame towards Scott Stevens. This group has looked puzzled out there of late and most of those guys are veterans.
Goaltending: D As we mentioned, 14 goals in last three games. Thank goodness the injury to Martin Brodeur is not a serious one or the worry level of Devils fans would be sky high. Looked like he should have had the Clitsome and Ladd goals, probably the Kane goal too. Not going to grill him for the Bogosian tally, but still, not very effective tonight.
Special teams: C- Another power play goal allowed, that helped the Jets snap an 0-for-21 power play streak. Sweet. Power play really never got a chance tonight. They only had two opportunities and they came up empty.
Instant analysis: Now I’m concerned. Struggling and dismal beginning and end to the week at The Rock. I’m not saying it’s time to panic, but there needs to be some urgency. This team is in the middle of the pack right now. They have three days off. They could easily slide down to the 7th or 8th spot before they hit the ice on Thursday. The offense hasn’t produced, the defense is often out of place and the goaltending hasn’t been stellar like it was earlier on. All areas — offense, defense and specials — are underperforming at the same time. A team can survive when one or even two areas aren’t clicking, but all three? It’s very tough to win hockey games that way.
That said, they’re still 10-5-4, which all Devils fans would have signed up for before the season began. Perhaps they just need some more time to gel. If you remember last season, the time didn’t real hit a consistent stride until January under DeBoer. Well, they just finished the first month, essentially, over the last few days. They’re incorporating a new power play and have a new coach running the defense. With Zubrus and Carter out, there’s really no set lines so DeBoer has had to juggle them on the fly. If they are still struggling this bad over the next 6-10 games, it wouldn’t surprise me to see some changes…somewhere.