The Devs begin their five game Western Conference road swing with Wednesday night’s trip to the Shark Tank. Here are three keys to watch for when New Jersey skates into San Jose.
The Power Play
The Devils are 0-15 on the road when skating with a man up. ‘Nuff said. Their 7.1 percent overall conversion rate just barely outpaces the Montreal Canadiens (6.9 percent). With all of the offensive talent on this team, there’s no reason for the Devils to struggle on the power play. New Jersey will snap out of it if they can keep it simple. Go to the net. Screen the goalie. Put the puck on goal.
It feels like the Devils have been really tight lately, which is understandable given the pressure to perform and get in the win column. But that tension can force players to try to do too much or to be too tentative, trying hard not make a mistake instead of, as the cliché goes, letting the game come to them. Ultimately New Jersey has to trust in their systems and their ability. An early goal or two would go a long way and help take some heat off three rookie D-men who have been thrown into the fire.
Jamie Langenbrunner, Jason Arnott and Patrik Elias are a combined minus-22. It goes without saying that the Devils need the trio to improve. Heck, Arnott has skated under 12 minutes three times in the last five games, including just 11:06 Sunday against the Rangers. I have to believe the Devils were hoping for more when they traded for him this summer.
With a roster full of rookies, these guys need to step up and lead the charge against a very talented Sharks squad. If they get bogged down or look indifferent on the ice, this could become a very long road trip.