As of late, the New Jersey Devils have found themselves in a bit of a groove going 3-1 in their latest homestand. Thanks to Nico Daws, they’ve finally gotten something they’ve been missing all season, goaltending.
However, over the last two games, the absence of Captain Nico Hischier has loomed large. If the Devils want to continue this run and finish the season strong, they’ll need both Nicos in the lineup.
Calling on the captain
The former 1st overall pick may never become the “generational talent” we see 1st overall picks blossom into. And that’s okay because he sure has blossomed into an elite two-way centerman.
Since the new year, Hischier has 20 points in 23 games, although having gone pointless in six straight.
Since being paired with Bratt six games ago, Hischier has eight points. And these stats don’t even consider his ability from a defensive perspective.
However, since leaving the lineup, the Devils are 2-1. Still, the Devils’ offense has been stagnant over the last two games, scoring just two goals in 60 minutes and only one 5v5 goal.
Outside of the Hughes line, there has been no sustained pressure in the offensive zone from any other lines.
The same Devils team who led the league in goalscoring in the month of February had one goal against ex-Devil Eric Comrie and mustered one goal against another backup goaltender in Anthony Stolarz.
Hischier did take part in the team’s morning skate on Saturday but obviously didn’t play in the game later that day. Coach Ruff said that Hischier’s close to returning, but there is no saying when that will be on their western Canada trip.
Hopefully, for the teams sake, he’s back Tuesday against Vancouver, or the lack of goal scoring will continue.
New Nico in town
Over the last two months, it feels like I’ve written close to a million articles about the Devils’ terrible goaltending. Well, finally, the Devils have gotten some goaltending, and to no surprise, they’ve been winning hockey games.
Former third-round pick Nico Daws has been a rock in net. Having started eight of the last nine games for the Devils, they’ve collected five wins. Additionally, in four of those games, Daws has put up above a .930 save percentage and only has twice fallen below the .900% threshold.
Although some on Devils Twitter are acting like he’s the next coming of Martin Brodeur, he’s been good, not great. He’s making the saves that need to be saved. Once in a while, he’ll keep out a puck or two that should be in the back of the net.
I get what having .880 goaltending will do to a fanbase, and I don’t blame them for being over the moon for Daws. The Devils have solid goaltending and are winning games, two things that have been foreign to the Devils’ fans for the past two seasons.
Daws is only 21 and has nobody behind him challenging him for the crease. If he continues to play well, it is his. If he has a great rest of the year, we may be looking at the Devils goaltender of the future.
A look ahead to next week
Last week on the New York sports podcast I host, Lincoln Tunnel Takes, I gave my own state of the Devils’ address.
In my long rant, I discussed how this decade-long rebuild is at its end. All the years where the only buzz about the Devils was potential, that potential is here. The Devils have some superstars in the making and other foundational pieces that they’ve lacked for years.
All I’m saying Devils’ fans, the patience has finally paid off. Enjoy the rest of this year and, of course, this week.
The Devils are headed out to western Canada, so be prepared to get no sleep. Up on the schedule is a back-to-back, first against Vancouver, who the Devils have beaten in 12 straight tries.
They then play a Flames team who looks poised for a run at the Stanley Cup. They play a mid-afternoon game on Saturday against the Oilers to end the trip.
Photo: “Sam Kasan, NHL”