On a leaky defensive effort, Johansson's heavy lifting, and a top-9 change
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Though the New Jersey Devils were not quite as bad defensively as the scoreline would suggest, it was definitely their worst performance of the season. They gave up 12 high-danger chances (San Jose is the only other team to generate better than eight) and they were more careless with the puck than we've grown accustomed to seeing this year. There were missed outlets, sloppy turnovers, and everything just seemed a little off. When you go up against a team with elite finishers like Tampa Bay, you're going to pay if you make mistakes – especially if the goaltending is a little shaky.
Jesper Bratt's return can't come soon enough for Marcus Johansson. The poor guy is doing a lot at 5v5 and simply not getting any help. I've only tracked three games thus far but Johansson leads the Devils in shot assists and shot contributions per game, not to mention his shot contribution percentage ranks highest on the team. He has been involved in better than 60% of the Devils shot attempts while on the ice. Compare that to his most frequent linemate, Pavel Zacha (22.5%), and it's clear who is doing the heavy lifting. Johansson also has to do a lot of the puck transporting through the neutral zone, which Bratt can certainly help with. It's hard for me to get worked up about Johansson's lack of point production thus far. He is creating a lot of opportunities for his linemates, they're just not converting on anything.
It might be time to stop giving J.S. Dea *any* ice on the 2nd line. Over the last four games, he is rocking a 36.47 Corsi For% at 5v5 and he has tallied just four shots on goal in that span. We haven't seen much from him in the way of playmaking, either, as he has just one shot assist in the three games I have tracked to go along with zero (0) real assists on the year. With no real solutions on the right side, I'd be tempted to give Miles Wood a shot in the top-6 and put he or Johansson on their off-wing.
They could run something like this until Bratt returns:
Hall - Hischier - Palmieri
Johansson - Zacha - Wood
Coleman - Zajac - Noesen
Boyle - Rooney - Dea
The 4th line is a bit of a mess but that just might be the optimal top-9.
Numbers from NaturalStatTrick.com and Corsica.Hockey.
On limiting high-danger chances, the bottom-9 holding its own, and Hischier's penalty drawing skills
On Johansson, Severson, and 5v5 play
On Dea, Hischier's strong start, and Boyle's PK usage