Vitek Vanecek, Devils, New Jersey Devils
Vitek Vanecek (Photo by Mark Fischgrund - JSN)

3 Takeaways From Devils' Heartbreaking Loss to the Lightning

The New Jersey Devils were back in action Thursday Night after a four-day break as they took on the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Devils were heavily shorthanded as they had six players injured heading into this game including Jack Hughes. Despite the tough injury luck, the Devils played a well-rounded game and dominated play for the most part but, their efforts weren't enough as they fell to the Lightning in overtime by a score of 4-3.

Vitek Vanecek’s Struggles Continue

Devils Goaltender, Vitek Vanecek has undoubtedly had a brutal season to say the least. After having, arguably, the best season of his career in the 2022-23 campaign, Vanecek has had a tough time maneuvering through the first half of this season.

Vanecek's struggles continued last night as he gave up four goals on just 20 shots in Thursday Night's loss to the Lightning. Vitek Vanecek's save percentage has now dropped to .882% for the season which is the lowest in his career in a season. After his performance last night, the Devil goaltender now has the worst goals saved above expected (-13.42) in the NHL among every goaltender that has started in a game this season, according to MoneyPuck.

It is definitely a question now if the Devils should move on from Vitek Vanecek, or ride with him for the rest of the season and hope he finds his groove from last season.

The Devils Power Play Needs to Be Better

The Devils have been in a rough patch when it comes to their Power Play as of late. Over the last 11 games, the Devils have only produced five Power Play goals. During this stretch the Devils have had a 16.66% (5/30) success rate on the Power Play. The Devils heavily relied on their Power Play earlier on in the season to win games. The Power Play the Devils were producing ranked 1st in the league for the majority of this season until recently.

Devils Defenseman Dougie Hamilton suffered a torn pectoral muscle back in November and is out indefinitely after successful surgery. Dougie Hamilton has been the Quarterback for the Devils Power Play over the last three seasons now, so losing him hasn't helped. Being without Jack Hughes and Timo Meier who are both dealing with injuries, hasn't made it any easier on the Devils Power Play. That was clear in Thursday Night's game as the Devils gave up a brutal shorthanded goal scored by Lightning forward, Luke Glendening off of the turnover by Luke Hughes.

Despite these struggles the Devils still have the 3rd best Power Play in the league, but it needs to improve.

The Devils Forward Depth

The Devils recently loss forwards, Jack Hughes, Timo Meier, and Ondrej Palat all to injury. It is tough losing these three players as they all have played a significant role for the Devils, but the show goes on.

These injuries have opened up opportunities for a handful of players on the Devils roster. Two players that have really stepped up since these injuries occurred are Dawson Mercer and Michael McLeod. Dawson Mercer has three goals in his last four games and has appeared to found his scoring touch once again after producing zero points in his first 10 games this season. Michael McLeod has arguably been the Devils best player recently as he is a complete player that brings 110% effort every night. Michael McLeod was always a solid role player, but has now turned himself into a player to be reckoned with. McLeod has four points in his last four games and currently leads all centers in the NHL in face-off percentage with a 66.3% win rate.

The Devils recently called up forwards Max Willman and Shane Bowers both from Utica who are looking to make a name for themselves. They were on the 4th Line alongside Nathan Bastian who had the game-tying goal in Thursday Night's loss. The Devils are hoping to get a spark from both Willman and Bowers on that significant 4th line.

With all these injuries the Devils are dealing with, they need a next man up mentality. Good thing is, their offense hasn't shown any signs of slowing down since these injuries due to their deep forward depth.

The Devils are back in action Saturday Night to take on the Red Hot Florida Panthers who are currently on a nine-game win streak.

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