It wasn't supposed to be this way for New Jersey after a big offseason built heightened expectations. Yet as the Devils prepare to host the New York Rangers on Thursday night, they're winless in six games and often in disappointing fashion.
Not only have the Devils been shut out twice already, they've also twice blown leads, including their last outing Monday when a three-goal edge collapsed into a 6-4 defeat at the hands of the Florida Panthers.
"It's all the little plays right now that are kind of killing us and are turning into bigger plays and bigger mistakes," goalie Cory Schneider told the Bergen Record. "We have to put more emphasis on executing the little plays that are going to get us up and out and allow us to play in the other end of the rink."
Two of New Jersey's losses have come in extra time, including a season-opening defeat in which a four-goal lead became a 5-4 shootout setback to the Winnipeg Jets. But that's small consolation for a team that had high hopes after winning the draft lottery (selecting Jack Hughes first overall) and bringing in a pair of impact veterans in PK Subban and Wayne Simmonds.
As much as the team is struggling, it's important for the Devils to remain calm and work through their problems, not press for a quick solution.
"When bad things start to happen, I think we have a number of guys who are able to weather the storm," Schneider said. "Guys who can make a big play, make a big momentum-changing play or shift or save -- something that will kind of straighten the ship out and get everyone in the right mind frame. But it's up to a lot of guys in this room to be a part of that."
Meanwhile, the Rangers are simply itching to play. New York has played the fewest games in the NHL, just three, while most other squads have at least six contests in the books.
Coming off a 4-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, after opening the season with a pair of victories, the Rangers will soon switch things into gear with games against the Devils and Washington Capitals on consecutive nights.
As much as players need to rest, such long delays can often make coaches change up lines simply because they've had so much time to digest what's happened -- especially after a loss. Rangers coach David Quinn is trying not to overreact.
"I didn't want to have three different sets of 'D' pairings after three games, so we kept the 'D' pairings the same," Quinn told the Bergen Record. "Then I'm like, 'Alright, let's give these lines a chance.' I know our secondary scoring hasn't been great, but let's give it a chance."
Even if the Rangers have won two of three, not all is perfect. They've surrendered far too many shots against and haven't shown the speed Quinn expected.
"I really believe we're cheating the game," Quinn told the New York Post. "I think we got this lead in our first two games. The first one (6-4 over Winnipeg) was not a great one even though we won it. I thought we were better in Ottawa (4-1 victory) and I just thought we were very lifeless against Edmonton."
As for the Devils, life may not get any easier. Top-line center Nico Hischier is day-to-day with an upper body injury and won't play Thursday.
--Field Level Media