NHL playoffs: Devils need more from Timo Meier against Hurricanes' lockdown defense

The Devils traded for star forward Timo Meier hoping he'd be a weapon for them in the playoffs. That hasn't been the case so far.

When the New Jersey Devils acquired Timo Meier in a blockbuster deal with the San Jose Sharks, the general idea was to boost an already potent offence enough to help the team makes its first deep playoff run since 2011-12.

After a Game 7 win over the New York Rangers, the Devils are through to the second round — and may not be done yet. It feels like mission accomplished for a club that is just entering its competitive window.

The only issue is the Devils' marquee trade deadline acquisition hasn't made much of a tangible contribution to their success. Meier didn't produce a single point in New Jersey's series against the Rangers and only made headlines for receiving a massive hit courtesy of Jacob Trouba.

It would be unfair to claim Meier had no impact, as he managed to put 27 shots on net and led all skaters in penalties drawn in the first round (seven). The Swiss winger took five minor penalties of his own, though, removing much of the impact of getting so many calls.

Meier doesn't deserve to shoulder all of the blame for New Jersey managing just 17 goals in its series with the Rangers — especially when Igor Shesterkin's brilliance had a lot to do with that.

While the Rangers goalie is a mitigating factor, this is a results-based business, and since joining the Devils, Meier hasn't been producing impressive results. Here's a comparison of his numbers with New Jersey compared to what he did in a Sharks uniform in 2022-23:

Via Hockey-Reference
Via Hockey-Reference

It might've been unfair to expect him to replicate his offensive production in a slightly smaller role with New Jersey, skating approximately three fewer minutes per night. On the other hand, the drop off is still significant on a per-60 basis, and he's playing with better players in his new home — particularly on the power play.

When he's not scoring, Meier can still provide value with his ability to drive play, maintain offensive-zone possession, and deliver hits. That said, when you pony up for an impact acquisition at the trade deadline, you're expecting far more offensive juice than the 26-year-old has provided.

New Jersey needs the powerful winger to step up in the second round because it is going up against an opponent that is incredibly difficult to score on. Only the Boston Bruins allowed fewer goals than the Carolina Hurricanes during the regular season, and the New York Islanders lit the lamp against them just 15 times in the first round.

The Devils need a lot more out of Timo Meier in Round 2 against the Hurricanes. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
The Devils need a lot more out of Timo Meier in Round 2 against the Hurricanes. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The Hurricanes lock down opponents and are good at making life difficult for centers — allowing the second-fewest goals to that position during the regular season. That's not ideal for a Devils team that relies on its dynamic duo of Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier up the middle to create much of its offense.

Carolina has the ability to throw veterans with defensive chops like Jordan Staal and Derek Stepan at that pair, and both of its top-six centres — Sebastian Aho and Jesperi Kotkaniemi — play responsible two-way games.

It would be an exaggeration to say the Hurricanes will completely bottle up game-breakers like Hughes and Hischier, but Carolina can make their lives difficult.

That means the team needs more from its wingers and secondary scorers of all types.

Meier is the most obvious candidate to step up. If he has a similar series to the one he authored in Round 1, the tall task of breaking through against the Hurricanes will get even more difficult.