How Many Goals Separated the Devils From the Playoffs?

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In a nutshell, a lot.

To accurately answer this question, however, we have to look at the big picture. The Devils missed the playoffs by a whopping 25 points. Going 28-40-14, New Jersey lost 54 games, which was the second-most behind the Colorado Avalanche (60). In retrospect, 25 points equates to 12.5 pointless games that wound up doing the Devils in. At the very least, New Jersey needed 12 more two-point games and one post-regulation point, or at least one point in 25 of their 54 losses to reach the playoff threshold.

So how does this relate to the number of goals the Devils needed?

New Jersey lost their games by an average of 1.72 goals. The chart below shows the margin of goals, by which New Jersey lost all 54 games in this year.

Goal Margins 1 2 3+ OT
No. of Losses 10 11 19 14

When you take the 12.5-25 games New Jersey needed to make up points, that equates to them needing roughly 25-43 more goals in addition to the 183 they scored this year. As difficult as this might be to believe, their offense was oddly closer to achieving those numbers if certain players hit seasonal milestones or had better puck luck. Suppose Kyle Palmieri scored 30 goals instead of 26 (+4), Hall and Henrique both scored 25 instead of 20 (+10), Zajac scored 18 instead of 14 (+4), Cammalleri scored 20 (+10), Zacha, Bennett, Noesen, and Wood all scored 10 (+10), Greene and Severson each scored 5 instead of 3 (+4). That leaves us with an extra 41 goals, which would have taken New Jersey’s season total from 183 to 224.

Granted this is extremely wishful thinking, if you look at each mentioned player individually, every one of them was capable of meeting their milestones. While 224 goals is an outlandish figure to propose, it would put the Devils on the lower end of the scoring spectrum among Eastern Conference playoff teams (who scored an average of 246 goals).

Realistically, not all 41 of these hypothetical goals would have been scored in games the Devils lost. Having scored 88 of their 183 goals in the 28 games they won (48%) and 95 goals in the 54 games they lost (52%), only 21 would have been scored in losing matchups, while the other 20 would have come in games won. To continue the proportional trend, this means only 7-8 of the 20 goals they’d have scored in losses would have come in the 24 games they lost by one goal this season (regulation and overtime).

The Devils lost 19 games by three or more goals in 2016-2017. -Getty Images

Simply put, not even that extra 41 would have been enough.

The biggest factor into how deep of a hole New Jersey’s lack of scoring put them lies in the fact that 30 out of their 54 losses were by more than two goals. Even if the Devils won half of their overtime and one-goal regulation losses, (scoring 17 to win those 12 games), those 17 extra points would still be eight short of a playoff spot. To put things in perspective, even if all those 41 hypothetical goals were scored in games they lost by more than two goals, they would barely impact the outcomes of those games, where the Devils were scored on 76 times.

For the fifth year in a row, the Devils offense finished bottom-five in scoring. While solid goaltending and formidable special teams could have made their lackluster offense relatively operable if the right situations occurred in recent years, this season and the margins by which this team lost by should truly open the eyes of fans and members of the Devils organization alike.


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