There’s no arguing that the New Jersey Devils’ game against Montreal on Saturday night is a true test for this team’s identity.
While it seems like every game in November has been a must-win contest for the New Jersey Devils, their matchup against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on Saturday night is a true test.
A true test for this team’s compete-level, character and in the words of head coach John Hynes — “What team are we going to be?”
I’m not sure about you, but I’m picturing that scene from the comedy film, Zoolander, when actor Ben Stiller is pondering (literally) staring into a puddle and asks, “Who am I?”
It’s that damn Hansel, he’s so hot right now, Hansel…
Hynes was asked during Friday night’s postgame press conference about the importance of collecting a victory and rebounding in the second game of a back-to-back set.
The reality is that Jersey has struggled with back-to-back sets this season. New Jersey improved to 1-2-2 in first games, after defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 2-1 on Friday night at the Prudential Center.
But the true test and who the Devils really are will be answered Saturday night in the wonderful hockey city of Montreal.
Entering the contest, New Jersey is 1-2-1 during second games for back-to-back contests. For the record, it’s New Jersey’s fifth of 16 back-to-back sets on the year.
Additionally, New Jersey is 3-2-1 in Montreal since 2015-16, and defenseman P.K. Subban has recorded five assists in five career games against his former squad.
Still, when reflecting on those numbers — it’s not shocking that the Devils are among the worst teams in the Eastern Conference standings. New Jersey finds itself in second to last place, only ahead of a rebuilding Detroit Red Wings team.
Playoff-bound teams win back-to-back sets with perhaps a couple of minor bumps along the way. But for New Jersey, consistency has been the team’s truest enemy.
It seems that New Jersey appears to be a contender for a playoff spot on one occasion, but then loses to a non-playoff contender the next night, or two nights later.
While fans seemed content with the team posting a 3-2-0 record on last week’s road trip, was it really that promising?
The team’s loss to Ottawa on Wednesday night wasn’t either, nor was the recent victory against Pittsburgh.
New Jersey was outplayed in the 2-1 victory against the black and gold, however, the inconsistent MacKenzie Blackwood stole one for the boys after stopping 38 of 39 shots.
For those who didn’t tune in to the game, Pittsburgh was missing three of its top players in Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist, and Kris Letang.
But who cares about that, right?
Let’s put it this way — Pittsburgh could have peppered the Devils’ young netminder with another 10 shots on goal if two out of those three players were in the Steel City’s lineup. Plus, Jersey arguably may have generated less offense had the Penguins been fully healthy.
However, as this hockey enthusiast says too often — let’s give credit where it’s due.
The team avoided blowing a lead in the third period and at home, which let’s be honest ‘we are the ones’ who’ve lost track of how many times that’s happened this season.
As coach Hynes mentioned in the postgame Friday night, Saturday against Montreal is an “opportunity” to not only prove to the fans but themselves just what type of team the Devils truly are.