New Jersey Devils goaltender unravels in searing loss to Bruins

After a few days off since their last game, which was a 3-2 shootout victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday, the New Jersey Devils traveled to Boston to face the Bruins. Unfortunately for them, things did not go well. In fact, it was their worst loss of the season, as they fell to the Bruins 8-1. The loss also officially eliminated the Devils from the playoffs, although it was only a formality.

While the scoreboard was lopsided, the Devils goaltender once again made things worse. Let’s dive into their goalkeeping woes and some other takeaways from the blowout loss.

The Devils goaltenders had a rough outing

Last night was a tough game for the Devils. They finished with a Corsi percentage (CF%) of 40.86% and an expected goals percentage (xG%) of 38.15%. Their puck management was sloppy and their power play couldn’t get anything going. That said, the final score shouldn’t have been as lopsided as it was.

The Devils have had poor performances between pipes this season, but last night may have topped them. Nico Daws allowed five of 1.92 goals expected, one goals saved above expectation (GSAx) of -3.08. Jon Gillies came on as a substitute for Daws midway through the second period, but he didn’t fare much better. He conceded three goals out of 1.30 expected goals, a GSAx of -1.7. Their save percentage (SV%) was 80% combined, which won’t do against any team.

Nico DawsNew Jersey Devils
New Jersey Devils goaltender Nico Daws (Photo by Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

It’s hard to blame Daws when he’s struggling in a game. He’s a rookie who was supposed to spend the AHL season with the Utica Comets rather than play in the NHL. But due to injuries to Jonathan Bernier and Mackenzie Blackwood, the Devils had no choice but to start him. That said, there are some interesting differences in how Daws fares between road and home contests.

In nine games on the road, Daws has an SV% of 0.866 and allowed 11.26 more goals than expected (32 goals against vs. 20.74 goals expected). However, he looks like an NHL goaltender at home. He has a 0.920 SV% in 10 home appearances and has stopped 2.54 goals above expectations, which will help the Devils win games more often than not. The problem is that they rarely get this during road games, even if Daws isn’t the starter. But it’s not just goalkeepers who perform poorly during road games.

The Devils’ overall home/road spreads are concerning

Part of Daws’ struggles on the road could be because he’s a young goalie and feels more comfortable playing in front of his home crowd. That said, there was a noticeable difference in the Devils’ five-on-five home and away results:

Statistical House A way
Corsi for percentage 52.09% 49.78%
Percentage of expected goals 53.38% 49.77%
Percentage chance to score 54.56% 50.25%
Percent chance of high danger 60.17% 52%
By the trick of natural statistics

Not only is Daws more comfortable playing at home, but it looks like the rest of the team is doing well. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the Devils played terribly on the road. But they were much better at the Prudential Center.

Maybe it’s just some weird, random thing that we won’t see again in the future. After all, the Devils were much better on the road in 2020-21 than at home, given that it was the COVID-shortened season, where the results were even more hit or miss. And for what it’s worth, the Devils goaltender hasn’t been great at home either; .896 SV% vs. .872 on the road. Without the Daws’ recent streak of home performances, those numbers would likely be close to even.

Related: Devils Should Reap Multiple Benefits From Miles Wood’s Return To The Lineup

Still, the Devils need to figure out why there’s such a big difference between their home and road efforts. The records don’t lie; they are 16-14-3 at home and 8-24-2 away. The numbers show that it’s not just their goalie that’s struggling on the road, but the team is also performing worse away from Newark. Maybe it’s due to having the youngest roster in the NHL, or maybe it’s not. But there are some digs that GM Tom Fitzgerald and his front office need to do to see if there are larger macro issues rather than flukey home/road splits.

Hammond can’t be healthy soon enough

After a few recent performances in front of goaltenders, especially on the road, the Devils would greatly benefit from Andrew Hammond’s availability for their back-to-back against the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders this weekend. The Devils acquired Hammond from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for prospect Nate Schnarr at the trade deadline. But he is yet to feature for the Devils as he returns from an injury he suffered in early March.

Luckily, Hammond was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice, so he could be close to returning. He had played four games with the Canadiens before his injury, totaling a .920 SV%. Before the Canadiens acquired him, he was with the Minnesota Wild, posting a .908 SV percentage in 11 games for their AHL affiliate, the Iowa Wild.

Andrew Hammond, Iowa savage
Andrew Hammond with the Iowa Wild (Photo by Jenae Anderson/The Hockey Writers)

Hammond isn’t a long-term solution to the Devils goaltending woes. But at the very least, he’s a veteran who can be a stopgap and help give them a reliable goaltender and lighten Daws’ workload in the final 15 games of the season. Additionally, Mackenzie Blackwood has started skating and is expected to return before the last buzzer in 2021-22. If Hammond can hold the fort until then and help the Devils win games they should be winning, the trade for him will have been worth it.

player balls

  • Although the Devils were waxed, Jack Hughes still stood out. He led the team in CF% and finished second in xG% behind Yegor Sharangovich, who has been his linemate for months now. Hughes also scored the Devils’ only goal of the game from a bad angle that made it a 1-1 affair. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there. But he was still a bright spot in a night where there wasn’t much, if any.
  • After a few difficult games, Dougie Hamilton seems to be raising the bar. He’s been above 50% in CF% and xG% in the last three games, including last night. Only he, Hughes and Sharangovich finished above 50% in both stats, which is saying a lot considering how the game went. We’re unlikely to see the Hamilton who dominated games before breaking his jaw in early January for the rest of the season. But getting it on track before summer would be a plus.

The Devils need to regroup quickly as they face the Panthers tomorrow afternoon at 12:30 p.m. at the Prudential Center. This game marks the first of a four-game home series for the Devils, so they have an opportunity to turn things around given their home game. And hopefully, Hammond will be available tomorrow or for his Sunday afternoon game against the Islanders.

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