If the New Jersey Devils are going to stay alive in the wild-card hunt, they’ll have to continue to protect home ice.This season, the road has been tough on the New Jersey Devils. They are 8-12-6 away from home while they have held solid at the Prudential Center, going 10-6-3. While they have six games remaining this month (three on the road and three at home), the month of February sees the Devils play eleven games (nine of which are at the Prudential Center).
Considering the Devils road woes, play at home must remain top notch.
Some of the Devils’ best games have come at home, ranging from shutout performances to come from behind wins. The Devils seem more motivated while playing in front of the Jersey faithful. Their play adapts to the pace of the game and the crowd can raise their spirits just as much as any big market club can.
Note the record of the 2014-15 LA Kings (who went 25-9-7 at home while going 16-17-8 on the road). They missed the playoffs due largely in part to their play on the road. The point being is that playing well at home can’t always make up for poor road play.
However, the Devils road play is improving.
In the two most recent games of their western Canadian road trip, the Devils have shown something they’ve been lacking on the road: strong defense and a will to win. Getting back to back strong performances in goal, one from each netminder, the Devils have looked solid out west. They have enjoyed just their second pair of back to back wins since December third and sixth.
The New Year has brought the Devils better fortunes than the last month and a half of 2016. While their road performances have improved, they haven’t been as successful at home as a playoff team should be. If they are to stay in the wild card hunt, then the month of February is huge for them. Leaving points on the table in the latter half of the season simply isn’t an option.
Nine times this season have the Devils failed to get a second point in games. That would put them four points ahead of the Flyers for the final wild card spot. It would also put them three points behind the rival Rangers with two home games still to play against them.
February could make or break the Devils season. With the number of players on IR down to two, and they are both skating, the Devils are ready to give it 100 percent. They must make every shift count, and goaltending must remain solid. If the Devils are still in the race near the deadline, they must consider themselves buyers. A veteran presence is what the team lacks, and a two way defenseman could be a top target.
The same goes if the Devils are out of the race. Gather draft picks, or even free up some cap space to make a free agency splash. Ray Shero has shown he isn’t afraid to acquire big names at the cost of someone who has been with the team their entire career.
However, it all comes down to February, as the New Jersey Devils may likely sink or swim.