As the final stretch of the season approaches, it remains to be seen whether the New Jersey Devils can stay afloat long enough to secure a playoff birth. This roster is undeniably flawed, but brandishes a tenacious unrelenting style of play we haven’t seen for some time. The positives seem bountiful, and make the future look very assuring for an organization that was widely thought to be irrelevant to the playoff picture this time of year.
Between Coach Hynes’ effective playing system, Cory Schneider’s all-star goaltending, their tight-knit defense corps, and special teams, the Devils give themselves a chance to win every game. Having said that, we know winning isn’t always necessarily the case. The Devils have 25 losing contests this season, and are 26-20-5 coming out of the All-Star break. They are one of seven teams in the Eastern Conference that are within two points of each other.
Now, I’m accepting of my team losing so long as they put forth a formidable effort, which the Devils have done more often than not this season. My biggest concern however, is the way in which the Devils are losing games, and how it’s hindering them in the standings. The Devils, who remain edged out of the second wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference by the Pittsburgh Penguins, have amounted 20 regulation losses. The any playoff team has in the Eastern Conference is 18 (Boston, Tampa Bay, NY Rangers).
It’s all the more dispiriting when you realize this is out of 51 games, which is more played than any team above them in the conference standings. The chart below compares the Devils’ regulation loss percentage and games played going into the break, to the eight teams above them in the Eastern Conference standings.
|Team||GP||Record||Regulation Loss %|
The chart infers that New Jersey hasn’t gotten points in 39% of their games this year. It’s a large enough number that distinguishes the Devils’ track record in this category from the eight teams above them that qualify for the postseason. It’s especially concerning that the six teams, which are no more than two points ahead of the Devils have a combined 11 games in hand over them. The ratio of New Jersey’s regulation to post-regulation losses is also 4:1, which means the Devils got at least one point every four losses this season. Only Tampa Bay has a slightly worse ratio, however they haven’t played as many games and have fewer losses than New Jersey.
There’s plenty of time left in the season for the Devils to undo this potentially problematic trend. Having said that, the 20 regulation losses New Jersey has compiled more than halfway into their season, has truly constrained them in the standings. For example, just three more post-regulation losses would have put the Devils second in the Metropolitan Division after Tuesday’s win. The Devils can still sneak into the playoffs if they maintain this win/loss ratio throughout the rest of the season, but it’s a very risky approach.
New Jersey’s record clearly reflects a young overachieving team whose development may be ahead of schedule, but is still in its raw learning stages. Regardless of how the rest of the season pans out, the unexpected turn this year took will serve as an important learning experience for this revamped Devils team. If they do secure a playoff spot without ably addressing this flaw to their game however, it’ll be a strong testament to how this group collectively handles ongoing adversity.