The New Jersey Devils road trip in Western Canada this week should tell fans if they’re a playoff-bound team or not.
- New Jersey Devils (3-5-4, 10 pts)
- Winnipeg Jets (8-7-0, 16 pts)
- NHL, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, 8 p.m. ET, MSG
- Bell MTS Place, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
NEWARK, NJ—The camera angle is always odd and annoying, and the New Jersey Devils seem to struggle during the annual Western Canadian road trip.
Whether you record the games to watch the next day or stay up late with the ever-so frustrating Devils, the reality is that the season comes down to this road trip.
No, it does; don’t bother thinking otherwise.
Luckily, the Devils are fresh off of a road victory against the Carolina Hurricanes, which, if the team lost, could have marked head coach John Hynes’s last game behind the bench for the club. Now, New Jersey looks to build off its latest victory when a four-game roadie is opened up with a contest against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night (8 p.m. ET, MSG).
For the record, New Jersey has won one game in the hockey-crazy city of Winnipeg since 2011-12, and history isn’t on Jersey’s side when it visits the Calgary Flames on Thursday night, either. The Devils have again won just one game in Calgary since 2008-09.
There’s the quick history lesson you probably don’t care about … but what you should realize is that the Devils need to win three games on this road trip and gain some ground in the standings before heading back to the Prudential Center on Wednesday, Nov. 13, to host the Ottawa Senators.
With a 3-5-4 record, the Devils are nine points behind Carolina for third place in the Metropolitan Division and trail the Toronto Maple Leafs by seven points for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference Standings.
Think about that – as of Sunday, Nov. 3, a talented team such as Toronto, while it’s battling its surprising struggles too, is in eighth place for the conference.
Two wins on the road trip might place the Devils closer to that eighth seed, but with teams such as the Tampa Bay Lightning, Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers also out of the playoff picture and ahead of Jersey, it may not.
The trend to mention whether a team will make the Stanley Cup playoffs or not is to see where that team resides in the standings by Thanksgiving. If a respective team is in the top eight for its conference, the chances are they’ll clinch a playoff berth.
Or, you could mention the St. Louis Blues’ historic run from last season and expect New Jersey to replicate it, but that isn’t going to happen if this Devils team finds themselves in a similar position by December.
“It’s early … ” has expired and it’s time to win games now and for the Devils to portray their talent all the fans see on paper, or on our mobile screens, per se.
On a positive note, forward Nico Hischier seems to have found his groove and proving that he’s the team’s best skater and for years to come. His goal on Saturday night resembled pure confidence, nevermind “talent.”
While No. 1 overall pick (2019) Jack Hughes only seems to score when the other team has four or fewer skaters on the ice, No. 86 finding the back of the net other than in warmups actually does go a long way for his progression.
The defense seems to be more comfortable with each other and is finding ways to chip in offensively – just look at P.K. Subban, who somehow ended up scoring a goal off a deflection on Saturday.
The Devils are seeing more production and effective play from forwards Wayne Simmonds and Kyle Palmieri, and they’ll need it because who knows how much longer former Hart Trophy winner, Taylor Hall is a Devil.