Perhaps one of the biggest problems the New Jersey Devils have faced in the past—goal scoring—is now firmly where it belongs. In the past.
Powered by the youth movement, the New Jersey Devils are off to their best start in nine years at 5-1. A huge reason for this is that, for the first time in a long time, the offense has found its footing.
The Devils have scored 26 times in six games and sit with a plus-nine goal differential, fourth-best in the NHL. While the season is still young, it’s a promising sign. The Devils are an offensive machine—machine that is averaging four goals per game. The team is off to a very hot start and there’s no reason to think the wheel will stop turning.
Everyone who has suited up for the team this season, except Dalton Prout, has at least one point. Leading the way are a pair of rookies—defenseman Will Butcher, who has nine assists and forward Jesper Bratt, who has six points in as many games. Bratt had a strong showing in the preseason and has played well when alongside his fellow countrymen Marcus Johansson.
But the biggest improvement comes on the power play, which was an eyesore last year but is the best in the NHL. Coming off a season in which they led the league in shorthanded goals against, the Devils have scored eight power play goals in six games. Five of Will Butcher’s aforementioned nine points are on the power play. There are also 10 other Devils that have at least one power-play point. The passing is smooth, nothing is forced, and the team is using speed to its advantage.
The penalty kill, on the other hand, could use some work, despite success in critical spots against Tampa Bay.
Amazingly, the Devils are doing all of this without Travis Zajac, who remains on injured reserve and isn’t due back until December. That means the team is only going to get better. That’s also going to happen when Brian Boyle returns. And the Devils have plenty of depth down the middle, as names such as Michael McLeod and John Quenneville have yet to make their season debuts.
But just because the youth has been at the forefront doesn’t mean that the veterans have been silent. Adam Henrique has six points, Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri have five points each. Marcus Johansson has four points and
Adam Henrique has six points, Taylor Hall and Palmieri have five points each. Johansson has four points and Stafford has three goals, including a game-winner over the hated rival New York Rangers.
Another high point for the offense is that shot totals are up. The team is averaging 29.5 shots per game, which is good. More shots on net means more pucks end up in the back of the net. Granted, the team still allows a lot of shots themselves, but with Schneider back in form, it shouldn’t be an issue.
Even when Schneider allows four goals, the team can bail him out.
Even though they have played only one overtime game, something that remains to be seen is how many points the Devils leave on the table. In the past five seasons, the team has left 64 points on the table. Turn some of those games into wins and the team makes the playoffs. The new offense is promising and exciting but can they deliver after 60 minutes of hockey? If Tuesday’s game against the Lightning is anything to go by, then the answer is yes.
The Devils haven’t taken their foot off of the gas pedal, which was evident in their 6-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres last week. As the score kept climbing, the Devils kept scoring. And they didn’t let a Sabres goal stop them, responding just 21 seconds later—shorthanded nonetheless! The team is driven to succeed and will accept nothing less.
So why now, all of a sudden, has the Devils offense exploded? Is it the right combination of youth and veterans with solid goaltending? Has head coach John Hynes finally figured it out? Has hell frozen over? No, simply the Devils are coming
No, it’s simply this: The Devils are coming together and getting timely offense from all parts of their roster. And the fans are rejoicing.