The New Jersey Devils are currently on the outside looking in when it comes to reaching the playoffs, and a couple of shootout victories this season could have made all the difference in the world.
The Devils were a remarkable 0-9 when they entered tonight’s game against their local rivals, the New York Islanders. However, after a 1-1 stalemate in regulation, and with no goals scored in overtime, the two teams ended the game on a shootout.
In other words for New Jersey, they pretty much had already lost the game.
The Islanders were able to strike quickly and effectively in the shootout even without their former big guns as captain John Tavares is sidelined for the season with an injury and Thomas Vanek was traded at the deadline. Frans Nielsen and Brock Nelson netted the first two attempts for the Isles. Meanwhile, New Jersey’s Adam Henrique, who scored the lone goal for the Devils in the second period, and veteran Patrik Elias could not convert on their opportunities.
That leaves New Jersey at an amazingly terrible 0-10 in shootouts this season. It has the awful combination of being the only team in the NHL to not own a win after a shootout and its 10 defeats is the most in the league as well.
Ten out of New Jersey’s 15 losses in extra time this year have come from the shootout and it is very intriguing to wonder how different this season could have been for this team that despite having the seventh best goals allowed average in the league, remain in the middle of the pack in the playoff hunt.
Even if the Devils could have managed to win half of their shootouts they would now be sitting in the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Instead, they are five points out with only eight games to go.
If they want to reach the postseason, they cannot keep losing to teams that sit at the bottom of the conference standings, like the Islanders, and they certainly cannot keep losing in shootouts.