June 23, 2024

Devils, Penguins off to disappointing starts: How the preseason darlings can bounce back, live up to hype

The first quarter of the 2023-24 season is formally in the books, and plenty of groups have gotten off to sizzling begins throughout the NHL. However, two groups many anticipated to catch fireplace in the early going have as a substitute been ice chilly: the New Jersey Devils and  Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Devils entered the season recent off their first playoff collection win since the 2011-12 marketing campaign after they defeated the New York Rangers in seven video games. The staff adopted that up with a profitable offseason by which they re-signed star ahead Timo Meier and buying and selling for winger Tyler Toffoli to assist bolster their scoring depth.

Meanwhile, the Penguins failed to make the playoffs for the first time in 16 seasons after falling simply wanting a wild card bid. New normal supervisor Kyle Dubas was aggressive over the summer season as he traded for star defenseman Erik Karlsson as well as in re-signing goaltender Tristan Jarry.

Both groups have lofty expectations this season, so their early-season struggles are a trigger for concern. The Devils presently personal a 13-10-1 document (27 factors) and are in sixth place in the Metropolitan Division. On the different hand, the Penguins possess a 11-11-3 document (25 factors) and sit in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division.

Let’s take a more in-depth take a look at what’s contributed to the Devils and Penguins being two of the league’s largest disappointments to date.

New Jersey Devils

The Devils definitely have a dynamic offense that can scores targets at will. After all, it is a staff presently averaging 3.63 goals-per-game, which is sweet for fourth in the NHL.

While the scoring has been there, the largest challenge for the Devils has been goaltending. 

The Devils presently have a 3.67 goals-against-average as a staff, which is the second-worst clip in the league behind solely the San Jose Sharks. The franchise elected to roll with the identical goaltending tandem as a season in the past in the type of Vitek Vanecek and Akira Schmid.

Vanecek has began 16 of the staff’s 27 video games, however he hasn’t precisely been a brick wall in between the pipes. The veteran netminder has put collectively a 9-5-0 document, a 3.60 goals-against-average and a .877 save share. 

Vanecek has struggled to thwart the opposition’s second probabilities all through the season. According to Money Puck, Vanecek has a 0.017 rebounds above anticipated price (forty fourth in the NHL) together with simply 14 puck freezes (additionally forty fourth in the NHL). That state of affairs reared its ugly head throughout Tuesday’s 6-5 win towards the Vancouver Canucks as three of the Canucks’ 5 targets got here through a rebound probability.

Meanwhile, Schmid presently has a 4-5-1 document, a 3.03 goals-against-average and a .902 save share this season. The 23-year-old actually thrived after he changed Vanecek throughout the Devils’ opening-round playoff collection towards the Rangers in the 2023 postseason. 

Schmid ended up recording a 2.35 goals-against common and a .921 save share, whereas recording a pair of shutouts throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, that success hasn’t translated into this season. According to Money Puck, Schmid has -1.9 targets saved above anticipated, which is forty fourth amongst NHL goaltenders. 

Obviously, it is nonetheless early in the 2023-24 season, so there isn’t any motive to panic simply but for the Devils. After all, the staff is simply 4 factors out of second place in the Metropolitan Division. If Vanecek or Schmid can rise to the event and enhance their play this season, the Devils definitely can attain the postseason and make a deep Stanley Cup run.

Pittsburgh Penguins

During Ron Hextall’s time as the Penguins normal supervisor, the staff made the determination to pursue one final Stanley Cup slightly than electing to get youthful. During the 2022 offseason, Pittsburgh re-signed veteran Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin to large contract extensions in an effort to hold the staff’s core collectively.

During the 2023 offseasaon, the Penguins had been below the management of Dubas after he parted methods with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Dubas determined to re-sign goaltender Tristan Jarry and make a splash by buying and selling for star defenseman Erik Karlsson.

Despite making all of these strikes lately, the Penguins have gotten off to fairly the disappointing begin in 2023-24. 

The Penguins are presently twentieth in the league in scoring with simply 2.96 goals-per-game. As a staff, Pittsburgh is averaging simply 2.1 goals-per-game over their final 10 contests, together with scoring one objective or fewer in three of these video games.

Pittsburgh has struggled mightily on the energy play as they’re changing simply 9.9 % of their alternatives on the man benefit. That’s the third-worst clip in all of the NHL.

The tough begin to the season could elevate the query of whether or not the Penguins ought to’ve made the transfer to purchase Karlsson. The All-Star blue-liner did get off to a gradual begin together with his new staff as he recorded simply two targets and 4 assists over the first month of the marketing campaign. To make issues worse, Karlsson has been held with no level in 4 of his final 5 video games. 

While the Penguins had been criticized by many for bringing Jarry again on a big contract extension, the goaltending hasn’t actually been the challenge as the staff has a 2.60 goals-against-average as a unit. 

Simply put, the Penguins are going to want to enhance offensively if they need to climb again into the playoff race in the Eastern Conference.

The Penguins are going to want to begin taking benefits of their energy play probabilities if they need to proper the ship. They selected not to ship out a few of these veterans and chase one other Stanley Cup, so it is a course of they’re going to want to see by means of. 

If the Penguins fall wanting a playoff berth for the second consecutive season, it might be fairly a lackluster begin to the tenure of Dubas after the strikes he made early on.