Timo, New Jersey Devils
Photo by Mark Fischgrund - JSN

Devils Takeaways: Inconsistency continue against the Capitals

Two steps forward, two steps back. That is the theme of this New Jersey Devils season.

The Devils were coming off a monumental win over the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday night in the NHL Stadium Series game. Just when it seemed like there was some hope, the Devils again dropped the ball, this time against the Washington Capitals. New Jersey went off the rails, falling to the Capitals, 6-2, on Tuesday night.

The Inconsistency Continues

The Devils have yet to be able to string wins together this season. They have yet to have a winning streak of four wins or more this season. Every time things start to look promising for the Devils, something changes that. There have been many instances where the Devils seemed like they were getting on a roll and then spiraled.

Tuesday night was just another example of that. The Capitals set the tone for the game as forward Connor McMichael scored 39 seconds into the game to give the Capitals an early 1-0 lead. The Devils were able to keep it close but fell apart in the third period, giving up four goals to the Capitals.

On Saturday night, the Devils got one of the biggest wins in franchise history at MetLife Stadium in front of 70,000+ fans. That win could've turned the whole season around, but the Devils proved once again that they can't win games consistently. The Devils need to string some wins together at some point this season if they want to make the playoffs.

The Smith-Hughes Defensive Pairing Was a Disaster

In just 1:07 of ice time together as a pair, Brendan Smith and Luke Hughes gave up two crucial goals. Both goals that occurred were off of rebounds given up by Devils goaltender Nico Daws right in front of the net.

The first goal the pairing gave up was the McMichael goal 39 seconds into the game. Capitals Defenseman Rasmus Sandin took a shot, which Daws made a pad save on but gave up a rebound right in front of the net. Smith and Hughes are both around the puck. Smith made a lazy attempt to clear the puck and whiffed while Hughes was a bystander. This allowed McMichael to come right in and bury the rebound.

A similar occurrence happened the second time this pairing was on the ice for a goal in the third period. Capitals star forward Alexander Ovechkin made a nice pass to the front of the net for a tip-in by Dylan Strome, which Daws made a save on. Once again, though, Smith and Hughes are both surrounding the puck and let Strome go right in and put it in his rebound to give the Capitals a 3-1 lead.

In both instances, Smith and Hughes display a lack of physicality and grit in front of their net. It could be argued that Daws shouldn't have given up the rebound on both goals, but no goalie is perfect. In both situations, Smith or Hughes needs to clean up that rebound and clear the puck. They can't just have opposing players skate right by them and score off of an easy rebound. After the game, Devils' defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler was aggravated about the team's defensive presence in front of the net.

"We just got out-battled in front of the net," Siegenthaler said. "We need to be harder in front of the net, not give them second chances, I think we can do a better job there..."

Devils coach Lindy Ruff might want to consider never pairing Smith and Hughes on defense again.

The Devils' Power Play Needs To Step Up

The biggest collapse for the Devils this season is their Power Play. The Devils can't figure it out when they have the man advantage.

The Devils are 4-of-57 on the power play dating back to January 5th. That is a success rate of 7%, which is not horrendous. Before January 5th, the Devils had a success rate of 32% on the power play, which was among the top in the NHL. It is hard to pinpoint what has gone wrong with the power play, but it needs to be addressed. Their power play is costing them crucial games.

The Devils' top Power Play unit (Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, Luke Hughes, and Tyler Toffoli) can create some chances, but they can't finish. Despite having their top players on this unit, they can't find the back of the net.

The second power-play unit (Timo Meier, Alexander Holtz, Erik Haula, Colin Miller, and Ondrej Palat) has trouble just entering the zone, to begin with. They have difficulty getting set up in the opposing team's zone.

Something needs to change with the Devils' power play. It must be fixed, whether it is a shuffling of the power play units or a different strategy.

Hudson River Rivalry Renewed

New Jersey has a big test as they host the New York Rangers on Thursday night. The Rangers are coming into this game riding an eight-game win streak. The Devils will look to snap that win streak to gain some ground in the playoff race. There is never any love lost between these two teams, so it should be a fun one in Newark.