One by one, the Devils stressed the positives.
The effort level was where it needed to be. Battles were won. Offensive opportunities were generated. Pucks were put into safe, smart places.
Yes, the Devils were pleased with the details in their game Friday night. It was the result, though, that disappointed them.
“It’s not going to go [perfectly],” Patrik Elias said, a few minutes after John Tavares’ overtime game-winner sent the Devils to their seventh loss in their last 10 games, 3-2, to the New York Islanders at Prudential Center.
“We had our chances. They had their chances. They buried [their chances and] we didn’t.”
One night after being thoroughly outclassed in Boston, the Devils played the Islanders straight up. Against the Metropolitan Division leaders, the Devils were credited with five takeaways, and attempted 37 shots. Comparatively, the Devils had three takeaways and attempted 36 shots in the 3-0 loss to the Bruins Thursday night.
“That was the comment from the [coaches],” President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello said after Friday night’s loss, the Devils’ 29th of the season.. “We [looked] like we have a lot of energy. I think [it] looks–if you’re playing a certain way, playing well in the neutral zone [and] pucks are turned over–you look a lot quicker because you get them standing still and you’re going.
“We were quicker tonight.”
Primary among the Devils’ myriad flaws is a decided lack of speed, which has limited their ability to force turnovers and generate offense. Prior to Saturday’s games, the Devils’ 235 takeaways ranked 23rd in the NHL. Moreover, their 0.93 five-on-five goals and against ratio also ranked 23rd in the league. The Devils have only scored 94 goals in 44 games, an average of 2.14 per game.
By any reasonable line of thinking, the numbers do not paint a portrait of a team that will be a playoff qualifier. Instead, according toSportsclubstats.com, the Devils have a 0.1 percent chance of making the playoffs. The website estimates the Devils’ next three opponents–Anaheim [96.8 percent], Los Angeles [75.7 percent] and San Jose [71.8 percent]–all have a better than 70 percent probability to qualify for the playoffs.The Devils visit LA on Wednesday, travel to Anaheim Friday before closing out the California trip Monday, Jan. 19 in San Jose.
“This is a different team than we had [Thursday night in Boston],” Lamoriello said. “I thought we responded extremely well, and that’s what we wanted to see; how we responded.
“We did a lot off good things.”
So perhaps the Devils have a foundation to build. Perhaps they enter the road trip beginning to feel positive about themselves and their season. But with 38 games left, the Devils most likely need to average 1.368 points per game in order to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 23rd time in franchise history.
So what needs to change?
“We don’t want to come to play,” Lamoriello said. “We want to compete.”