The New Jersey Devils took 7 out of a possible 8 points on their recent road trip. Is this a turning point in their season? Here are some reasons it could be, and other arguments why it may not be a pivot point for the Devils.
Cory Schneider: His form this season has been sketchy at best. A far cry from his All-Star season of a year ago. Recently, however, he seems to have found his mojo. He’s seeing the puck better, the number of bad rebounds is decreasing and his save percentage is trending upward. Cory getting back on track during the road trip is a great sign. Significance: High
Team Consistency: The Devils have been up and down all year. Great start at home, then a huge tail off. Winning streaks are part of the fabric of the Devils, but so is the December swoon. Yes, it was a highly successful road trip with a signature win. But does it address the issues with erratic play? I, for one, am not convinced. Significance: Low
Defense: Steve Santini is playing really well. The entire defensive corps had a great trip, the cleared the net better, avoiding those pesky cross-ice turnovers and improved the defensive zone exits. But does anyone really believe Karl Stollery is part of the long-term solution? Or that Jon Merrill is part of any solution. Maybe some lunatic spouting off in one of the Devils Facebook groups, but certainly no one else! And does any of this mean John Moore is going to play better when he returns or Damon Severson’s plus/minus will ever inch higher than the average January temperature in International Falls, Minnesota? I don’t see it, at least not in the immediate future. Significance: Low
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Young Forwards: How can you not like what we have seen out of Miles Wood? Blake Coleman has competed well and Pavel Zacha scored a power play goal on the road trip. Even Beau Bennett scored! Ideally, they are all foundational pieces of the club for the foreseeable future. Improvement and production among this group is great to see. Significance: Moderate
The Devils enjoyed one of the most successful Western Canada trips in recent memory in January.
Heart: I give the entire club and John Hynes tremendous credit for their outstanding results on the trip. The Devils put forth a pretty disastrous trio of incredibly depressing home matches during the first full weekend of 2017. And, any Western Canada swing is generally not a trip during which the Devils typically thrive.
The last time New Jersey won in Calgary, the Dead Sea was sick. Fighting back from a two-goal deficit against the best club in the Western Conference was a tremendous display of character, as was the comeback in Rogers Arena the game prior. Overcoming adversity are qualities winning teams exhibit. Significance: High
All in all, am I convinced we are going to see the Devils average a point plus a game in the coming month or so? Or string together another 3 or 4 wins to make this a noteworthy streak? Not really. I just see too many issues and I’m not overflowing with confidence that New Jersey will avoid another rough patch this season.
But, I do see some promising positives and look forward to some exciting matches in the next week or so. Nothing could be worse than seeing the Devs blown away by the Preds, Blues, Caps and maybe others (I try to forget) in the past month.
The prospect of having to sit in my seat at The Rock for all nine February home matches was depressing a few weeks ago, to say the least. Now, it does not seem so bad (putting aside the fact I’ll be subjected to the Devils form of in-arena “entertainment” close to every other night). But I digress!
Let’s hope for continued improvement and a more competitive and exciting 2017.