Devils at 2024 All-Star Break: Work to Do
With goaltending and injuries hampering the New Jersey Devils, they have work to do to make up ground once the All-Star Break concludes
It's probably good that the New Jersey Devils' bye week came when it did. They were reeling and now sit six points out of a wild-card spot and five out of third place in the Metropolitan Division. They do have games in hand on most of the teams they're chasing, which helps, but they're beginning to run out of rope.
With the Devils off until Feb. 6, let's assess where they are at the break and what needs to improve once they return to the ice against the Colorado Avalanche on Feb. 6.
Devils Goaltending Has Submarined Them
Goaltending has probably been the most glaring issue for the Devils, even more so than injuries, which we'll get to in a bit. It starts with Vitek Vaněček, who's been one of the worst netminders in the NHL this season. He's allowed 12.3 goals above expected, the second-worst rate among qualified goalies. Only Joonas Korpisalo has been worse.
Though Akira Schmid has been in the AHL for the better part of the month, he began the season as the Devils' 1B. He did not fare much better, as he had a save percentage below .900 and had given up 3.8 goals above expected before the organization sent him to Utica.
Context is important, though. If Schmid hadn't started both games of a back-to-back twice, his SV% would have been .905, and he would've been break-even in goals saved above expected. Perhaps the Devils were too quick to demote him, but that's something we'll never know.
With Schmid getting sent down, the Devils called up Nico Daws. He's been fine, with an SV% of .895, and has essentially saved what's expected of him; his GSAx is -0.6. But the Devils are only 3-4-0 in games he's started.
It's clear that whatever the Devils are doing in net isn't working. Some may want to blame Dave Rogalski, the team's goaltending coach, for the goalies tanking. That could be possible, but there isn't much evidence to support that.
Whatever the case is, it's something the Devils have to figure out coming out of the break. If they don't get saves, they're not making the playoffs.