Ten games into the second quarter of the season, the New Jersey Devils still remain one of the two teams occupying the wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. The Devils are four games above .500 at the 30-game mark. Their success is largely attributed to their best players playing like their top players, showing resilience in adversarial situations, and having potent special teams units. In the third installment of our Devils seasonal ten-game reviews, our staff writers Mike Luci and Alex Chauvancy break down the different aspects of the Devils’ play in games 21-30.
FYI: All stats in this article are as of 12/14/15
New Jersey managed to keep their heads above the surface, going 4-3-3 in their last 10. Although they gained 11 out of 20 possible points and only lost in regulation three times (with six games between their last two regulation losses), the Devils haven’t had back-to-back wins since November 12-14th. Their inconsistencies on a game-to-game basis are undoubtedly holding them back from ascending in the standings. The four wins were against some tough competition and fellow playoff bubble teams in the Eastern Conference. Having said that, three of their six losses came against bottom-ten teams (Colorado, Columbus, Toronto), and two divisional rivals (NY Islanders, Philadelphia).
Offense- with stats (AC)
One of the Devils’ biggest weaknesses this season has been their play at even strength. Their score-adjusted possession is just 47.8%, which is in the bottom-10 of the league. They also only average 42.8 shot attempts per 60 minutes, which is dead last in the league. They have the 4th-lowest goals for and are just averaging 1.26 goals a game at even strength. Even though they’ve struggled to score goals at even strength, they’re still averaging 2.40 goals a game, which is respectable number considering their weaknesses at 5v5. A big reason for their 2.40 goals a game average has been the Devils power play, which at 20.8%, sits at 8th best in the NHL. The power play hasn’t slowed down much over the last 10 games, operating at 17.8%. That’s despite having injuries to Zajac and Henrique in the back half of those last 10 games.
Sophomore defenseman Damon Severson maintains his point lead amongst Devils defensemen. He finally scored his first goal of the year and has ten points, however only three were tallied over games 21-30. His goal and three points came over a span of three games, which preceded a nine-game pointless streak. Sitting at a close second with nine points is John Moore, who’s been the best contributing defenseman over the past ten games. Moore had a goal and six points, which has been his most productive stretch of hockey in his first year with the Devils. Although the likes of Andy Greene and Adam Larsson have scarcely found themselves on the score sheet, their value to the team continues to be invaluable. The Devils’ first defensive pairing continues to log top minutes on a nightly basis in all situations. Both players do the little things that don’t show up on the score sheet (hits, blocked shots, takeaways, etc.) more than any other defensemen on the team, which has bailed their team out on multiple occasions this year.
Despite a rough team effort against the Islanders, the Devils goaltending has been all about Cory Schneider. His .924 save percentage is 12th-best in the league and his 2.17 goals against average is 11th-best. His save percentage is even higher at even strength. His .933 save percentage at even strength is 8th-best in the league for goalies who’ve played more than 800 minutes on the season. Backup Keith Kinkaid has not played much this season. He’s made only one start since November 20th, a 5-1 win over Carolina on December 3rd, where he made 30 saves. Unless Schneider gets injured, it’s unlikely Kinkaid will get extended playing time, but when he plays, he’ll need to have quality starts like the ones against Carolina.