Examining the Early Success of the New Jersey Devils

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Examining the Early Success of the New Jersey Devils

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Examining the Early Success of the New Jersey Devils

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The New Jersey Devils have shocked the league over the first quarter of the season. The Devils have notched a 17-4-0 record in its first 21 games. New Jersey’s 34 points put the team atop the Metropolitan Division and second the in the NHL. With the Devils coming out of nowhere the question must be asked: how did this happen?

New Jersey has turned to a balanced combination of home-grown young talent and newly signed veterans to give its attack some serious depth. Captain Nico Hischier leads the Devils in goals with nine in his first 21 games. Hischier is followed closely by Jesper Bratt and Jack Hughes who have eight goals each. The trio also finds itself atop the New Jersey leaderboard in points. Bratt leads the Devils with 25. Hischier has notched 23 points and Hughes has tallied 22. 

The Devils have not only received production from its top guys, but all throughout its lineup. New Jersey has received an impressive 52 points from its bottom six forwards in its first 21 games. What makes this all the more impressive is that top-six forward Ondrej Palat has only played six games this season meaning someone currently on the second line doesn’t have his points counted into the depth scoring. Overall, the team’s 77 goals for ranks second most in the Eastern Conference fourth most in the NHL. 

The offense is not the only thing the Devils have excelled at this season. Both the defense and the goaltending have been great. New Jersey has only allowed 47 goals this season. That puts the team tied for the least goals allowed in both the East and the NHL. Jersey’s defense pairings have been close to immaculate this season as well. The top pair of Jonas Siegenthaler and Dougie Hamilton are a combined +34 on the season with Siegenthaler leading the team as a +21 and Hamilton notching 15 points. The second pairing of John Marino and Ryan Graves are a combined +29 while the final pairing of Brenden Smith and Damon Severson hasn’t been as good but have still been solid. 

As for the goaltending, Vitek Vanecek has been a pleasant surprise. Vanecek was signed to backup Mackenzie Blackwood, but an early injury to the started meant the Russian had to step into the number one role. Vanecek has thrived in 13 games notching a 9-2-0 record with a 2.14 goals against average (second in the NHL) and a .917 save percentage. Goaltender Akira Schmid has also played great in an emergency backup role playing to a 4-0-0 record with a 1.24 GAA and a .953 SV%.

As for the special teams, the New Jersey powerplay has been average at the very best this season at 19.7%. It’s the Devil penalty kill that has been its bread and butter. At 82.3%, the Devils have the fifth ranked penalty kill in the NHL. New Jersey has also been fantastic in the faceoff circle ranking sixth in the NHL at 53.0%. The Devils lead the NHL in terms of shots against per game allowing a league low 25.2 shots per game. 

After running through the numbers, the Devils have fit the modern NHL blueprint perfectly in its first 21 games. The good, modern NHL team is fast, but can play a physical game when necessary. The successful team also needs to have either a lights-out power play or a shutdown penalty kill. The team needs depth production to aid its stars at the top while having a goaltender who can steal a game. Finally, being a great faceoff team is a massive bonus. The Devils check almost every single one of these boxes for the first quarter of the season. The only question that remains is if they can keep it up.

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