The New Jersey Devils shocked their fanbase with consecutive wins over the weekend and the recipe for success wasn’t what you’d expect.
New Jersey Devils fans haven’t cheered or smiled this hard since Jersey’s team won the NHL Draft Lottery, again, last spring.
After a suffering a disappointing shutout loss (3-0) to the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday, the Devils entered the weekend of March 7 with what seemed like two more losses guaranteed on their dinner plates.
Instead, head coach Alain Nasreddine’s team pulled off two impressive wins against the likes of the defending Stanley Cup champions in the St. Louis Blues and then the New York Rangers at the one and only Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.
How in the world did the Devils win consecutive games this past weekend?
The formula is exactly what the fans imagined when Jersey’s team dropped the puck on the 2019-20 campaign back in October…well, not exactly.
New Jersey has portrayed a unique sense of confidence since the trade deadline last month and is actually finding ways to score goals without the likes of Blake Coleman or Taylor Hall—the league’s 2018 Hart Memorial Trophy winner.
The only NHL team that entails both an interim head coach and general manager found the back of the net 10 times over the weekend with eight different players inking their names on the score sheet. Talk about depth scoring that’s been missing for almost eight years in Jersey, right?
Skaters such as Fredrik Claesson (Who? Exactly.) and Dakota Mermis both netted timely goals over the weekend while displaying pure joy and swagger like they’d been skating in the NHL for almost a decade. Newsflash—they’ve combined for a total of fewer than 200 regular-season games played.
2019 No. 1 overall selection, Jack Hughes, recorded zeroes across the stat sheet and recorded a -1 rating, overall. While fans need to realize he’s not comparable to Patrick Kane or Conor McDavid, expect the youngster to have a breakout sophomore season and eventually blossom into a skater similar to the Buffalo Sabres’ Jack Eichel. Give it three more years.
Let’s not get carried away and focus on the fact that Nico Hischier does it all out on the ice for the Devils. No. 13 won’t score every game, but Hischier is a playmaker whose two-way play cannot go unnoticed. Just look at his body position and stickwork along the boards or while he’s backchecking and stripping pucks left and right from top-tier NHL skaters.
The 2017 No. 1 overall selection’s composure and pass on Travis Zajac’s first goal was a sight of pure beauty that has fans thinking about Patrik Elias from the early 2000s—yes, we just went there.
Defenseman P.K. Subban finally decided to wake up and play with an edge. There’s no doubt that the former Norris Trophy winner (2012-13) has entailed more grit and fire in his game over the past two weeks and that type of style can only benefit a youthful Devils squad and their defense core.
What’s arguably most intriguing other than the fact that this team appeared to skate with that “nothing to lose” attitude while having fun out on the ice, is the goaltending situation.
Just about everyone, other than goaltender Cory Schneider himself thought No. 35’s tenure in New Jersey and possibly his NHL career was finished at season’s end. Since his recall late in February, Schneider appears confident and quick, again. Schneider’s recovery and lateral movements almost seem like he was never injured—or experienced a funk.
He’s the type of player you root for—even if you’re a New York Rangers fan. Jersey fans should be more than excited about what’s in store next season with Schneider.
While youngster MacKenzie Blackwood allowed four goals at the Garden on Saturday night, the 23-year-old still collected the victory. The potential Calder Trophy nominee has excelled drastically this season between the pipes and anytime a young goaltender can earn a key victory on the road against a playoff hungry team, it speaks volumes to one’s development.
The team’s performance over the weekend does leave fans with one major question—where was this all season?
It’s better late than never, and fans should enjoy the ride down the stretch with this squad because they’re sure going to while playing the role of spoiler for opponents bidding in the playoff hunt.