It’s only a matter of time till the Devils are eliminated from playoff contention this season. Tonight’s win against the Canadiens delayed the inevitable. If the Devils lost in regulation, they’d be the second team eliminated from the playoffs this year. By next week’s article, the Devils will most likely have been eliminated, and that’s okay because this team isn’t like all the other basement Devils teams of the last decade. This one has talent.
There’s been a lot of ups and downs this season. Most nights, the Devils have looked like an average team. Other nights, they’re getting caved in because of their goaltending.
Of course, there are more problems than just goaltending, but we’ll save those for another day. Today, however, or rather, since getting healthy, the Devils have played good hockey against great opponents.
Great last month
Has Daws been perfect since stepping into the starting role? Not exactly, but unlike every other goaltender they’ve had this season, Daws has given them a chance to win.
Since being thrown into the workhorse goaltending role, the Devils are 7-7. Is that good enough to get them into a playoff spot down the road? No. But for a developing team, you’ll take 7-7 any day of the week.
Also, in this stretch, the Devils own a goal differential of +6, which is around the same range some teams in the playoff hunt are at.
Of the 14 games, eight of the teams they’ve played currently sit in a playoff spot. That includes the Penguins, Rangers, Leafs, Flames, Capitals, Avalanche and Blues. Against those teams, they went 4-4 with a +4 goal differential.
Over this last month, the Devils have proved that they can beat good teams in this league when healthy and a competent goaltender’s in net.
Troubles on the road
The Devils haven’t won a game on the road since February 24, so it’s been more than a month. They are 0-8 in road games and in the season and 8-23-2 overall, the worst record in the league.
They have just 18 points on the road, and if it weren’t for the Red Wings surrendering 11 goals today in Pittsburgh, the Devils would have the most goals against as well.
But wait, it gets better. The Devils also have the 15th best goals for per games played, with almost 3 goals.
If you haven’t learned over the last two months, the Devils can score goals. They can also give up a ton, and we saw that when they went out to western Canada two weeks ago.
They lost all three games by a score of 6-3, yet they still had a positive goal differential since Daws has been the starter.
Jack, Jesper, and Nico show
Since February 24, all three young superstars are producing at over a point per game. Hughes at 1.5, Bratt at 1.38, and Hischier at 1.31 points per game.
Every night, one of the three, if not the whole trio are burying goals and appearing on the stat sheet.
These three are what separates this Devils team from all the others that have missed the playoffs in the last decade. The Devils have three blossoming superstars.
For Hughes and Bratt, their talent is obvious; their skating is outstanding, same with their playmaking and passing abilities.
As for Hischier, the elite two-way center sets the tone for this team. Not in a physical sort of way, but he’s the one that drives the bus for this team. When he was out against the Jets and Ducks, the Devils scored 1 even-strength goal.
The fact that these three are developing and leading the Devils is why Devils fans should have hope that the rebuild is coming to a close.
A look ahead to next week
I’m not sure what the NHL schedule makers were thinking when they made everyone’s schedule, but boy, have they been horrendous.
The Devils do not play again until Thursday when they’ll travel to Boston. After, they’ll come home for a 3 game homestand, starting with a date against the Panthers on Saturday. Followed by the second half of a back-to-backer on Sunday against the Islanders, which will be the Devils’ first and only nationally televised game on TNT. Then they’ll take on the Rangers again at home next Tuesday.
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