The Devils are struggling. After losing 5-3 to the Knights, the Devils have gone 2-7-1 in their last 10 games. Before the season began, Devils General Manager Tom Fitzgerald stated that Devils aim to play meaningful games late in the season and be in the playoff hunt. This doesn’t seem like the team is going to meet this goal
So why are the Devils struggling?
Let’s address the elephant in the room, the powerplay. The Devils have the worst power play percentage in the league. After going 0/4 on the man advantage in their loss to the Flyers, the Devils have scored 10 power play goals in 78 attempts giving a power play percentage of 12.8%. Furthermore, in their last 41 power play attempts, the Devils have conceded as much as they have scored (4 goals).
Looking at the fancy stats, the Devils have the second-worst xGoals% on the man advantage with 76.69%. Only the Sabres have a worst percentage of 73.72%. On top of that, the Devils have been abysmal in generating shots with only 83.8% of shot attempts being in favour of the Devils. This is compounded by the fact that their shooting percentage on shots on goal is 10.11%. Additionally, the Devils have only had 31 high danger scoring chances from their 78 power play attempts this season. Basically, nothing is looking good for the Devils power play (all the stats mentioned rank the Devils in the bottom seven in the NHL). They are neither generating high-quality chances nor a high volume of chances.
It is clear that the Devils are having problems generating scoring opportunities on the power play. Most of the time, I find that the Devils look better at generating offence on 5v5 than on the power play. At even strength, the forwards are constantly moving and trying to find space. However, on the power play, when they should have more space and time to move, they are caught puck watching. Instead, the Devils power play unit will play multiple passes back and forth with little movement and rotations. Due to this, they are unable to create shooting lanes via cross-ice seam passes as it is easy for the penalty killers to get their sticks out and intercept passes or block passing lanes due to the little movement the Devils have. Furthermore, the penalty killers do not have to skate around to cover potential open shooters and hence reducing the fatigue of the penalty kill unit thereby preventing them from making mistakes to give rise to scoring chances. Hence with the lack of shooting lanes and high danger scoring chances, the Devils are forced to take low danger shots mainly from the blue-line.
Systemic changes in the Devils power play are needed. The Devils definitely do not lack the personnel for an effective power play. Jesper Bratt, on pace for 73 points, is currently having an All-Star worthy season. Dougie Hamilton, prior to signing with the Devils, was one of the best offensive defensemen in the league. Jack Hughes being a member of the Hughes family. It is obvious that the Devils are not short of talent. Devils fans have been calling for the firing of Devils assistant coach Mark Recchi who is in charge of the Devils power play. I do believe that this would be the right move by the Devils management. These systemic issues are holding back the Devils and are undoing the improvements the Devils have made elsewhere.