Three Forwards Hold Key to Devils Midseason Turnaround

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The New Jersey Devils emerged from their recent road trip on a three-game winning streak and three points out of the second wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. Considering how the Devils were over ten points out at one point, most people thought it was pretty inconceivable for the Devils to become relevant again in the playoff race. The reasons why New Jersey failed to maintain their hot early season start are plentiful, and one of them was how the play of their three core forwards impacted the team’s success. It’s those same three forwards whose play can be a large determinant behind the Devils undergoing a second-half turnaround…

Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique, and Kyle Palmieri.

Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieri's slow starts to the season had an unprecedented effect on the Devil's record in the first-half of the season. -Trentonian

Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieri’s slow starts to the season had an unprecedented effect on the Devil’s record in the first-half of the season. -Trentonian

When a team’s core forwards don’t produce consistently, the consequences can be catastrophic as evidenced by the Devil’s play after Taylor Hall was sidelined 14 games into the season. The team started the year with a 9-3-2 record. Hall had five goals and 12 points at that time, while Henrique and Palmieri respectively tallied just two and three goals. The unsteady production from New Jersey’s top forwards eventually caught up with them. While Henrique would score five goals over the next 18 games after Hall’s sidelining, Palmieri only tallied three in his next 20. The Devils went 6-13-4 going into January.

To add a little perspective on how the play of Hall, Henrique, and Palmieri have affected the team, looking at their influence on the Devils’s record and the nature of their losses provides a lot of insight. In games where neither of these three players scored, the Devils went 4-11-8 (over half the games New Jersey played this season). Currently manning a 19-18-9 record, all but one of their overtime losses happened in games where neither of their big three forwards scored. Considering how the Devils lost 13 games by just one goal this year, if at least one of Hall, Henrique, or Palmieri scored in just 9-10 out of those 23 games, it could have had a tremendous impact on the Devil’s place in the standings.

New Jersey's top scorers need to increase their scoring output the rest of the season for any chance at making the playoffs. -Getty Images

New Jersey’s top scorers need to increase their scoring output the rest of the season for any chance at making the playoffs. -Getty Images

Since it’s already been well-defined how the production of their three core forwards impact the Devil’s fluctuant ride in the standings this season, it goes without saying how essential their role will be if the Devils want any hope of a midseason turnaround. One way to try and forecast how likely these three players can spearhead such an effort is to look at their past second-half performances in recent years. The charts below compare the full and second-half performances of all three players over the past three seasons.



Season GP (Full) G (Full) P (Full) GP (2H) G (2H) P (2H)
2015-2016 82 30 57 41 16 27
2014-2015 57 14 29 29 4 12
2013-2014 71 14 31 36 8 18


Season GP (Full) G (Full) P (Full) GP (2H) G (2H) P (2H)
2015-2016 82 26 65 41 10 24
2014-2015 53 14 38 27 6 20
2013-2014 75 27 80 37 12 41


Season GP (Full) G (Full) P (Full) GP (2H) G (2H) P (2H)
2015-2016 80 30 50 40 16 22
2014-2015 75 16 43 38 6 19
2013-2014 77 25 43 39 19 29


While none of these players have particularly thrived in the second-half of the season, they can for the most part be relied upon to produce equivalent numbers. Having said that, the Devils need at least 13-15 goals from all three of these forwards over the final 41 games of the season if they want to have any hope of playing beyond April. At 46 games played this season, Hall, Palmieri, and Henrique have respectively scored 11, 10, and 11 goals apiece. With that said, it’s not out of the question for either player to hit those numbers.

Another way to project that Hall, Henrique, and Palmieri hold the key to a midseason surge for the Devils is to look at other teams that were in this exact same situation as the Devils currently are in recent years. At this exact date last year, the Anaheim Ducks were four points out of the second wildcard spot, but finished as one of the top teams in the Western Conference. In 2014-2015, the Ottawa Senators bulldozed into the playoffs after being ten points out of the second wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. One of the optimal driving forces behind the Duck’s and Senator’s resurgences were the play of each team’s top three scorers- Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler (Anaheim), Mark Stone, Kyle Turris, and Mike Hoffman (Ottawa). The charts below compare the respective play of Anaheim and Ottawa’s top scoring forwards in each season.


Anaheim (2015-2016)

Player GP (Full) G (Full) P (Full) GP (2H) G (2H) P (2H)
Getzlaf 77 15 71 39 10 40
Perry 82 34 62 41 18 35
Kessler 79 21 53 40 15 40

Ottawa (2014-2015)

Player GP (Full) G (Full) P (Full) GP (2H) G (2H) P (2H)
Stone 80 26 64 40 16 42
Turris 82 24 64 41 15 36
Hoffman 79 27 48 40 12 26


Simply put, if these players hadn’t put up the numbers they did, neither the Ducks or Senators would have reached the postseason in either season. It’s also worth noting the respective average goals scored by the players on the above charts were both at 14.3, which is the median of what Hall, Henrique, and Palmieri will probably have to score if they want to play a direct role in getting the Devils anywhere. Knowing Cory Schneider is capable of holding his own and the Devils defense (despite giving up a lot of shots) has previously held on long enough in the team’s wins this season, this is all the more reason why the second-half production of New Jersey’s big three scorers is what will be the prime determinant in them achieving their unlikely playoff hopes.


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