The only thing holding us back from burying the New Jersey Devils is the fact that they found themselves in an identical situation just two weeks ago against the New York Rangers. And they got over it.
Because there was nothing divine for the Devils, Friday night, in Carolina. The local Hurricanes methodically smothered their opponent. The ruthless 6-1 win gives Arturs Irbe’s former side a 2-0 lead in this series.
On the local side, absolutely everything works. The attack has just chased the starting goalkeeper twice in a row. The defensive game is structured, organized. And in net, Frederik Andersen does not want to know anything. When Jesperi Kotkaniemi scores two goals, it’s really going, but really well.
If what is going well comes together fairly quickly on the Hurricanes side, dissecting what is going wrong will take more time for Chris Terreri’s former club.
The problem is not the most fundamental, but the change is so striking that one has no choice but to address it first.
The 22-year-old Swiss is far from being the only architect of the misfortune of his family. However, in just over three periods spread over two games, he has just given the Devils seven goals, the same total as in five full games against the Rangers.
It will rightly be noted that the system in front of him collapsed on Friday. But the blame lies largely with him on the fourth goal, awarded after a dreadful exit from his net. The decision to give the net to Vitek Vanecek in the third period was obvious.
At this point, we will not get lost in speculation about the identity of the goalkeeper who will start match number 3. Because the problem, much more serious, is not in this position.
During the season, the Devils were a fearsome offensive machine. Especially at five on five, a phase of play in which they produced chances by the ton and filled the net to match.
It’s suddenly less impressive. In fact, it’s not at all right now.
In the first round, the Devils kept the same routine, at least in part. The odds were still there, but to face Igor Shesterkin seven times is to settle for a modest offensive harvest. One of the two taps, that of scoring chances, had remained open, so we could afford to remain optimistic.
But it goes further than that. The Devils’ main offensive players are simply unable to get going. Returning to the game on Friday after missing the first duel of the series, Timo Meier was again cleared. That’s eight games in a row without a score … in eight games played in the playoffs. That is problematic.
The very offensive defender Dougie Hamilton has only three points in nine games. Nico Hischier has still not scored. He was rather noticed by his horrible pass, in the third twenty, which became a gift for Jordan Martinook, who scored after a long breakaway.
He’s not a big star, but Tomas Tatar has picked up just one point in nine games so far, despite playing on an attacking line. Sometimes invisible, sometimes ineffective, he did nothing to improve the fate of his club. Need we remind you that in 2018 and 2021, with the Vegas Golden Knights and the Montreal Canadiens, respectively, he found himself in the stands for the majority of playoff games? Each time, by the way, his team had ended up in the final. We say that, we say nothing…
The implosion on Friday was also defensive. Let’s take a look, if you will, at each of the goals awarded.
1. Jesperi Kotkaniemi is completely abandoned to the left of the goalkeeper.
2. The same Kotkaniemi enjoys a comedy of errors and a molasses cover from Jesper Bratt.
3. Jordan Stall skates loose in the neutral zone then escapes alone in the opposing zone.
4. Yes, Schmid wanders, but there are three completely confused players in white between the shooter and him.
5. Hischier’s offering to Martinook, we talked about it.
6. Three Devils players in handcuffs in the neutral zone make for an easy outnumber.
It’s really not stellar. At the risk of repeating itself, it also started badly against the Rangers, and we know the rest. However, this time, the adversary looks oddly like a team likely to win the Stanley Cup, especially with the Boston Bruins chomping at the bit at home.
To reporters on site in Raleigh, Rod Brind’Amour, head coach of the Hurricanes, rejoiced that everyone had “done their job.”
The same cannot be said for the players on the opposite team.
A phenomenon of nature. At 38, he’s as dominant as he was when he won the Norris Trophy. It is probably the addition of the last year that changes things the most for the Hurricanes.
It is not Patrick Roy or Cam Ward who wants. He played just three periods in two games and stopped only 80.6% of the shots on target the Hurricanes directed at him.
Despite having fired 32 shots, Timo Meier has yet to score in this postseason. He had scored 40 goals during the season.