Those in attendance during last night’s game witnessed an extremely rare spectacle on Devils home ice: 11 goals scored in one contest, seven of which were by New Jersey. Forwards, Devante Smith-Pelley, Adam Henrique, and Mike Sislo scored two goals apiece, while Reid Boucher registered his sixth marker of the season. It was certainly a highlight moment of the Devils’ 2015-2016 season in which they hit a new personal-high for goals in a game. While improving to 3-5-0 when wearing their original “Christmas tree” jerseys, the win was a great way to shake off their 7-1 routing by the Anaheim Ducks.
Looking at the bigger picture, New Jersey’s been on a slight upswing as of late, having won three out of their last four. They are however, still six points out of the second wildcard spot with every team above them in the metro having a combined eight games in hand. New Jersey also has a home-and-home this weekend against the Columbus Blue Jackets, who they’re 0-3-0 against this season. So bearing an unprecedented run where the Devils attain at least 19 out of 22 possible points in their remaining games, I firmly believe their playoff window closed earlier this month. Having said that, last night’s game brought out a few noteworthy points about this team that are worth following until the end of the season.
Devante Smith-Pelley…Since almost (if not every) New Jersey Devils media outlet has been ranting and raving about Devante Smith-Pelley, it’s hard to write about him without having an unoriginal perspective. The booming cheers and chants of “DSP!” last night concede to him already being a fan favorite. Since his Devils debut, DSP has six goals and nine points in seven games. While the Devils have only gone 4-3-0 during that span, Smith-Pelley’s formed some tremendous chemistry with Adam Henrique and Tyler Kennedy, who collectively tallied four goals and eight points last night. As great as DSP has been since his arrival, it’s worth keeping in mind there have been countless instances of mid-season acquisitions paying immediate dividends for a team, only to fade away in the following seasons.
My favorite example dates back to 2010 trade deadline when the Phoenix Coyotes acquired forwards Wojtek Wolski and our former leading scorer, Lee Stempniak. Both players averaged a point-per-game in 18 contests with the Coyotes that year, but couldn’t bring that degree of production into the following season. Wolski would be traded 36 games in, while Stempniak registered just 38 points in 82 matchups. A more recent example of this trend happened not too long ago, when the Devils acquired center Andrei Loktionov from the Los Angeles Kings. He had a promising 2012-2013 season with the Devils, where he registered eight goals and 12 points in 28 games. In 2013-2014, Loktionov struggled to produce and tallied just four goals and 12 points in 48 games. He would be dealt at the 2014 trade deadline in exchange for the hockey prodigy that is Tuomo Ruutu.
I’m not trying to downplay what DSP has done this year in any way whatsoever. All I’m saying is as exciting as he’s been to watch, we shouldn’t be quick to automatically label him as the prolific scorer he’s played like after just seven games. I know the past few years have been very difficult to watch for Devils fans, how anxious we are to have another star-caliber forward on our team, and how much we’re longing for a postseason return. A rebuild takes time, patience, and approximation. Just be assured that General Manager Ray Shero knows what he’s doing, and has this Devils team on the right path.