It’s only a week, but it still counts for something.
Seven days and three games into the lockout-shortened season, the New Jersey Devils sit at 3-0-0 as the only team in the Eastern Conference to win all of their games so far this season.
Since the season started last Saturday, New Jersey appears, as a team, to be in-sync and are in good enough shape to skate with anyone in the league.
Certainly, the Devils have played far from flawless hockey. It could be argued that they were outplayed in wins against the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals this week. But, they pulled out the wins by capitalizing on the chances they had.
After the Devils’ win over Washington on Friday night, netminder Martin Brodeur told NHL.com that they left the Stanley Cup final, despite losing, with, “a great taste of success.”
That success has been evident early on. While most teams are struggling to find their identites and gel as a unit, New Jersey, who kept its core group of guys together, has picked up right where they left off, starting in net and ending in the offensive zone.
The one question for New Jersey coming in, obviously, was goal-scoring after losing Zach Parise, who scored 31 goals last year, to free agency. That question has been answered early on, as New Jersey has received goals from five different players — including three players with two goals — in its first three games.
It’s a credit to the players, for sure, for being able to stay in good shape during the lockout, as head coach Pete DeBoer noted after the win over the Capitals. But, maybe, it’s a credit to the coaching staff and management, too. Last season, DeBoer got his players to buy into a system that worked, and that made players want to come back and play for him again.
Brodeur mentioned earlier in the week that it was the first time in awhile that all eight defensemen were the same from the year before, something that helps the defense, but also helps him get used to their tendencies and reactions.
While other teams, like the New York Rangers, moved two pivotal players in Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov for star power in Rick Nash, Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello didn’t hit the panic button when Parise, arguably New Jersey’s best player last year, didn’t return. Instead, he put the trust in his coaching staff to make the players on the current roster work, and it has.
The Rangers have struggled with Nash in the lineup early on, dropping to a 1-3 record in their first four games in 2013.
It’s obviously a small sample size, but the Devils could be a team that benefits better than anyone else from the lockout-shortened season. Sure, they played the more games than anyone else in 2011-2012, but they are playing better as a unit than any other team, too.
And really, that’s what counts.