Biggest Takeaways from New Jersey Devils' Start to the 2013-14 Season
The 2013-14 season is a week old, and the New Jersey Devils have not gotten the start they were hoping for. An 0-1-3 record gives the team three points through four games. While an optimist might say that it could be worse, the fact is that it should be better.
In four games, the Devils have given up four leads. Prognosticators figured the Devils' biggest problem this year would be scoring. As it turns out, aside from an opening-night shutout, that has not been the case.
The Devils' biggest problem to this point has been finishing.
Of course, that has not been their only problem, but, at the same time, it has not been all bad.
It's far too early in the season to start panicking, but it's never too early to start examining.
Here are the biggest takeaways from the New Jersey Devils' first week of real games.
As I mentioned in the introduction, the Devils have given up four leads in four games so far this season.
They allowed Michael Grabner of the New York Islanders to tie the game twice on Friday. The Devils went on to lose that game 4-3 in a shootout.
On Monday, they had a 3-0 lead against a seemingly lifeless Edmonton Oilers team only to watch it all evaporate in the third period. They lost that game 5-4 in a shootout.
The following day, they had a 2-0 lead in Vancouver. Again, the Devils allowed their opponents to climb back in to tie the game. They lost 3-2 in overtime.
Jaromir Jagr voiced the frustration in the locker room after the most recent debacle.
"We had the lead again. We've got to start playing better with the lead. It's not easy to get a lead in this league and we had it the last two games... and we only get two points. We should get more points than that" (via Rich Chere of the Star-Ledger)
Did you notice another troubling and familiar trend there aside from the comebacks? We'll get to that in a minute.
Perhaps the most irritating aspect of the Devils' inability to finish out opponents so far has been the variety of ways in which they have failed.
A turnover which led to a breakaway doomed them against the Islanders, a goal off of a faceoff did the trick in Edmonton, and Vancouver's first goal came off of Anton Volchenkov's skate.
One thing is for sure: New Jersey has not had many bounces go its way in Week 1.
Last season, the Devils were 3-10 in overtime and shootouts. Seven of the 10 losses came in the shootout.
As much as awarding a point based on a skills competition may annoy some fans from the old school, those points are still pivotal.
The Devils' inability to take those points seems to have carried over from last year. In their first four games, they have already played played beyond the third period three times.
And they have lost all three times.
The Islanders and Oilers each beat New Jersey in shootouts, and the Canucks did not even let it get to that point.
It is hard to find legitimate trends in only four games, but three OT/SO losses in three tries is certainly one of them.
Fortunately, with 78 games remaining, it is a trend that can easily be turned around.
Never Say Die
It may be hard to take positives out of the the way the Devils have played in the first week of the season, but one thing is undeniable: This team does not quit.
After losing leads in the first and second periods of their matchup with the Islanders, Frans Nielsen scored a minute into the third to give New York its first lead of the night.
In what was surely a demoralizing moment, the Devils rallied. Six minutes later, Damien Brunner knotted the game back up.
Against Edmonton, in even more excruciating fashion, Taylor Hall scored to give the Oilers the lead with only six-and-a-half minutes remaining. It was the Oilers' fourth unanswered goal.
While shorthanded and with only a minute remaining, however, Patrik Elias scored an improbable deflection goal to force overtime.
The fact that New Jersey was not able to finish in extra time is disappointing, but without those clutch goals, the team would be in an even deeper hole.
The late goals by the Devils that forced overtime show that the team has character. Character may only lead to so much in this league, but for the Devils so far, it has led to two points.
Despite the slow start, there have been a few bright spots on this team.
The brightest has likely been Damien Brunner. He has three goals in his first four games along with an assist. he has shown a real knack for the net. His 17 shots on goal lead the team.
After being nearly invisible in his first two games, Jaromir Jagr seems to have woken up. He's scored two goals and an assist in his last two games. More importantly, he has begun to develop chemistry with Patrik Elias.
Elias has also been impressive so far. With Elias having an identical scoresheet as Jagr's, head coach Pete DeBoer already seems more willing to trust the two veterans' line over any other.
On a team without an established No. 1 line, Elias, Jagr and Dainius Zubrus seem to be inching towards that distinction.