At the ten-game mark, the New Jersey Devils are off to a much better start than we all thought. Despite being in the infancy of the 2015-2016 season, they’re above .500 and are currently vying for a playoff spot, which are encouraging signs for a team that was widely believed to be one of the basement dwellers in the standings throughout the season. In the first of our two-part overview, Mike Luci and Alex Chauvancy have collaboratively broken down the team’s performance up to this point in the season and what we should expect from this team moving forward.
The Devils finished with a 5-4-1 record at the ten-game mark of the 2015-2016 season. It hasn’t been pretty but as previously mentioned, the Devils occupied the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference, and won five of their last six games (including a four-game winning streak) at that point. Their 4-1-0 record on the road was the second-best in the Eastern Conference and fifth-best in the league.
Since they dropped their first three games of the season in regulation, New Jersey has gone 5-1-1, during which they’ve faced some formidable opponents like the New York Rangers, San Jose Sharks, and the then-red hot Ottawa Senators. Their lone home win came against the Phoenix Coyotes in overtime, which leaves the Devils still looking for their first regulation victory of the season at the Prudential Center. They’ve played four divisional opponents and went 2-2-0, have been perfect (2-0-0) against Atlantic Division opponents, and have gone 1-2-1 against Western Conference opponents.
For a team that wasn’t predicted to score many goals before the season started, the Devils have been doing alright in that department. Through the 1st ten games, the Devils averaged 2.40 goals a game. Mike Cammalleri led the team with 11 points in 10 games while the Devils had steady contributions from Travis Zajac, Kyle Palmieri, Lee Stempniak, and the rest of the top 6.
The Devils have also been a better possession team at the start of this season compared to the start of last season. Puck possession leads to more scoring chances and that’s what the Devils have done so far. They’ve also done a better job creating scoring chances on the rush. For example, we can look at David Schlemko’s goal in their matchup against Buffalo. That may also be helping drive the Devils possession numbers as they’re able to create more scoring chances off the rush.
The Devils young revamped defense has held their own in the first ten games of the season, and played an instrumental role in the Devils’ success so far this season. Only four of New Jersey’s 25 goals have been scored by defensemen. Andy Greene and Damon Severson have three points apiece, while Damon Severson leads Devils defensemen with 15 shots (1.5 per game). Having said that, New Jersey’s blue liners have done a great job at keeping their shots faced down (5th-least in the league after ten games), which counters their shifty totals in shots for.
Adam Larsson has emerged as the blue line’s unsung hero, currently leading Devils defensemen in hits (24), blocks (21), and is the only defenseman with a positive plus/minus (plus one), while having the least amount of giveaways amongst New Jersey’s defensemen (one). Newcomer David Schlemko leads the blue liners with four takeaways, and is one of three defensemen to have appeared in all ten games this year (Greene and Larsson are the other two).
Cory Schneider is 5-2-1 through eight starts this season, while backup Keith Kinkaid lost both starts in regulation. Schneider’s posted a 2.22 GAA and .919 SV%. Kinkaid’s numbers aren’t as desirable, but misleading. He’s posted a 2.60 GAA and .886 SV% while facing an average of 22 shots per game. Schneider’s faced an average of 27.6 shots and has clearly been the backbone of New Jersey’s success this far into the season.
Out of the 18 goals Schneider’s given up, only four of them have been in the first period, which is somewhat assuring since his early game performances have counteracted the Devils’ lack of first period scoring. 12 of Schneider’s goals against came when the Devils were either tied or leading by one goal, which is a testament to how close New Jersey has kept their scores over the first ten games of the season. While Schneider has yet to record a shutout, he’s currently on pace to record his first 40-win season, a projection that is sure to fluctuate as the regular season progresses.