By Leighton Schneider
If you are a fan of the New Jersey Devils, you should be happy with a record of 4-2-2, good enough for second place in the Metropolitan Division and to be tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference. There is, however, one major problem that the Devils will need to fix if they want to have any chance to make the playoffs and possibly have a deep run.
The Devils’ penalty kill is the worst in the NHL. They have a penalty kill percentage of just 68.6.
To put this number into perspective, last year the Devils were the top penalty killing team in the league with an 86.4 percent rate with just 36 power play goals allowed in 82 games. This season, however, they have already let up 11 goals on the penalty kill in eight games. If they don’t get better on the penalty kill, they will severly hamper their chances going forward.
There are still many games left in the season, but the Devils’ situation should start to worry fans. The Devils are known as a team that prides itself on its defense and smart play. They have already taken 37 minors this season, which comes out to 4.62 per game. The Devils are averaging just over 11 minutes per game short-handed. A terrible penalty kill unit combined with that amount of penalties taken is a dangerous formula. They need to reduce the amount of penalties they take during a game if they want to succeed this year.
One reason for the Devils’ struggles could be that they have four defensemen under the age of 24. If you take out Adam Larrson, who has competed in one game this season, the three young defensemen have only played a combined 136 NHL games in their careers. This inexperience has not helped the Devils, as there have been many turnovers that have led to power play goals for the opponents.
One specific player that must do better, however, is goalie Cory Schneider.
So far this season, he has let up 10 goals on 46 shots while on the penalty kill. His save percentage is a measly .783. For goalies that have started at least four games, his percentage is the fourth worst in the NHL.
The Devils have an excellent opportunity to prove to the rest of the NHL that their early season penalty kill struggles are just an early season problem. They will soon face the Pittsburgh Penguins, who lead the NHL in power play percentage at 40.0 percent with 10 power play goals in just seven games.
I know it’s early, but New Jersey needs to tighten up its penalty kill unit, and they need to do it sooner rather than later.
Leighton Schneider is the Multimedia Editor for The Fordham Ram.