NOTE: Information displayed as of 11/22/15
We’re already at the quarter-mark of the season, through which the New Jersey Devils have played some impressive hockey. Now is the time when the rift starts to form between the playoff contenders and early recipients of next year’s draft, so the Devils found themselves in a solid position amidst the standings when they hit the 20-game mark. In the first part of this season’s second ten-game review of the Devils 2015-2016 season, writers Mike Luci and Alex Chauvancy look at the Devils’ progress over games 11-20, and what to expect moving forward.
New Jersey’s gone 6-4-0 in games 11-20, putting them at 11-8-1 for the season. Granted it’s encouraging that the Devils maintained a winning record at the quarter-mark, their eight regulation losses were costly, and put them with seven other playoff teams that had the same number of regulation losses, at the time the Devils played their 20th game. New Jersey evened out their once-polarized home and away records over the last ten games. While they were initially triumphant on the road and struggled at home, it’s been the opposite case in their last ten contests. They played five apiece and went 4-1-0 at home, while going 2-3-0 on the road (losing two of three on their recent Western Canada trip). Their six wins came against some formidable competition, in which they swept the Vancouver Canucks, the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, and shutout the Pittsburgh Penguins. On the flipside however, they dropped two very winnable games against Calgary and Edmonton.
The Devils might not be the Dallas Stars when it comes to offense, but have done much better than most people expected through the first quarter of the season. Much of that can be attributed to their top 6, specifically the Cammalleri/Henrique/Stempniak line. That line has accounted for 40% of their even strength goals while Cammalleri leads the team with 21 points in 20 games and Henrique leads the team with 9 goals. The Devils have had steady contributions from Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri to start the season. Both players have 4 power play goals each (team-leading), while Palmieri leads the team with 9 power play points (4 goals and 5 assists).
While the Devils top 6 has been quite productive, the same can’t be said for the bottom 6. Jacob Josefson hasn’t scored one goal this season. Jiri Tlusty has struggled mightily and has recently been getting scratched. The Devils’ fourth line of Bobby Farnham, Stephen Gionta, and Brian O’Neill, has combined for a mere 3 goals, 4 assists, and a 32.4% possession, which is terrible. Fortunately, reinforcements are on the way. Patrik Elias made the trip to western Canada and practiced with the team, while the Devils brought back Tyler Kennedy on a PTO after he was with the team during the preseason. Kennedy has been an effective bottom 6 forward the last couple seasons and would give the Devils some much-needed depth in their bottom 6.
Production from the blue line has steadily improved, but doesn’t have an offensive flag bearer that’s recognized as a constant threat. Damon Severson leads defensemen in points with no goals and seven assists, while highly touted third-year defenseman Eric Gelinas has struggled to gain the trust of the coaching staff, and has only made 11 appearances this season. He’s played in just three contests over the last ten games, and has seasonal totals of one goal and three points. In games 11-20, the Devils defense tallied three goals and 14 points, putting their collective total to seven goals and 25 points a quarter into the season. Despite having just a goal and four points this year, Adam Larsson is thriving in ways that don’t show up on the scoreboard. He leads the defense with 39 hits, 40 blocks, has the second-most takeaways (six), and least amount of giveaways (two). The defense has played an astronomical role in the revitalization of the penalty kill, but has contributed minimally on the power play with just a goal and five power play points in games 11-20 and nine all year.
There are a few reasons for the Devils success early on this season, but it starts and ends with Cory Schneider, who has been nothing short of superb. In 16 starts, Schneider is 10-5-1 with a .928 save percentage and 2.06 goals against average. His save percentage is 8th best in the league while his goals against is good for 5th best. Schneider’s numbers at even strength are even more impressive. His 5v5 save percentage is 94.01%, which is 8th best for goalies with at least 10 or more games played this season. Schneider has been particularly good all of November, making 7 starts while posting a .938 save percentage and 1.88 goals against average. If not for Schneider, the Devils would be nowhere near the position they’re in right now.
Backup, Keith Kinkaid, has a struggled a bit, in a limited capacity. He’s only made four starts, out of which his best effort came in a loss to the Nashville Predators on October 13th where he stopped 17 of 18 shots. Since then, Kinkaid has only made two starts, a thrilling 4-3 over time victory against Vancouver on November 8th, and a 5-1 loss against Edmonton. The Devils will be asking Schneider to carry the load this season, but will need Kinkaid to step in have a good start from time to time. In four starts this season, he has a .881 save percentage and 3.04 goals against average. Those numbers need to improve as the season goes on.