Normally the biggest enemy for the New Jersey Devils is the New York Rangers, whom they share the Hudson River Rivalry with.
Early in this new season New Jersey’s biggest enemy seems to be the first period. At 3-1-1 entering play on Wednesday, we’re not saying the Devils are underperforming expectations.
If you were to only watch the opening frame of each of their games so far, you’d think this was a team heading for the draft lottery instead of being cup contenders.
In their first five games, the Devils have been outscored 5-2 in the first period. Friday’s game against the New York Islanders was the first time that New Jersey scored in the first period all year. They added a second game with a first-period goal on Tuesday night vs Montreal.
The first three games of the season against Detroit, the Arizona Coyotes, and the Florida Panthers all had the Devils facing at least a two-goal deficit before New Jersey scored their first. This is something that needs to be corrected with regularity. They are on track to fix it now.
The New Jersey Devils need to be better with their starts to games in 2023-24.
Friday’s game was also the only game New Jersey wasn’t outshot in the first period. They lead the Islanders in the shot category 13-8, after being outshot 39-20 in the first period over their previous three contests.
Some more additional good news is that the Devils’ first-period shot total has either increased or stayed the same game over game from their low of six shots in their first game against Detroit.
That suggests the team is getting more comfortable getting shots on the net earlier in the game instead of being “shell-shocked” and needing a period to settle in.
The perfect example of all this was the Devils’ game against the Florida Panthers. That game ended up being their first regulation loss of the season. New Jersey scored three unanswered goals in the last 17 or so minutes in the third but still lost because they entered the final period in a four-goal hole.
The Devils failed to put one in the back of the net for almost 45 minutes of game time. It didn’t help that Sergei Bobrovsky had his best game of the young season thus far so New Jersey skated off their home ice without two points.
While The Devils’ start to the season hasn’t been bad, let’s call it “less than spectacular”. Reasons for their lackluster-ish start include inefficient passing as well as a lack of chemistry at certain places in the lineup.
You would expect both of those to improve as the game goes, thus further adding to the “Devils are bad in the first period” narrative.
Playoff spots aren’t won in October but they certainly can be lost by then. There’s no reason to panic about these early returns for what happens early in games.
New Jersey is supposed to be a cup contender, and even cup contenders can struggle to come from behind if every game is an uphill battle. It’s only five games, but this pattern is one Lindy Ruff and his coaching staff wants to fix before the calendar flips to November.