Nov 16, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; The New Jersey Devils congratulate New Jersey Devils right wing Jaromir Jagr (68) on his empty net goal during the third period at the Prudential Center. The Devils defeated the Penguins 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

New Jersey Devils Begin to Overcome Early Struggles

With the first quarter of the season behind them, the New Jersey Devils are looking at a mediocre 7-8-5 record, which seats them in the middle of a tight Metropolitan division. Given their early struggles, this could be much worse; however, they have recently begun to put together some consistency and have maintained a solid defensive game despite a slew of injuries.

Throughout the season, the Devils have found themselves in the midst of several losing streaks that they could have ridden to the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Fortunately, the Devils not only squeezed a few points out of their losses by fighting past regulation time, but they also reacted positively to each downward slide.

Let’s look at the ups and downs we’ve seen throughout the first 20 games.

Weeks 1, 2, and 3

Although the New Jersey Devils have yet to put together a three-game win streak this season, each taste of victory has reinvigorated the squad to a greater degree. When it came time to host the rival New York Rangers for their second home game, the team had yet to find a way to win; however, three of their seven losses still yielded points, so they were not yet as desperate as they could have been. Unfortunately, the team’s trip to Winnipeg yielded the first of many long-term injuries throughout the opening 25 percent of the regular season; Ryane Clowe is still on the injured reserve with a concussion.

  •  @Penguins: 3-0 L
  • Islanders: 4-3 L (SO)
  • @Oilders: 5-3 L (SO)
  • @Canucks: 3-2 L (OT)
  • @Flames: 3-2 L
  • @Jets: 3-0 L
  • @Senators: 5-2 L
  • Rangers: 4-0 W

Points/Possible: 5/16

Week 4

After blanking the Rangers and scoring four goals of their own, the team had momentum for the first time this year. Unfortunately, it would be one week – and three games – until they were victorious again.

Captain Bryce Salvador left the team prior to their rematch against the Vancouver Canucks due to a death in the family, which presented an opportunity for Eric Gelinas to shake things up. Shake things up he did, with a power play goal in his debut appearance against the Canucks followed by an assist against the Boston Bruins two nights later. While Gelinas seized the opportunity to prove his worth, Salvador’s return was postponed as he was retroactively placed on IR with a foot injury that currently keeps him off the ice.

Although they were not able to immediately build on their first taste of success, the three games following their victory over the Rangers added a modest 1-1-1 count to their poor 1-4-3 record; they earned their second win by upsetting the Boston Bruins in the last 1:08 of the third period at TD Garden.

 

  •  @Blue Jackets: 4-1 L
  • Canucks: 3-2 L (SO)
  • @Bruins: 4-3 W

Points/Possible: 3/6

Weeks 5, 6 and 7

The Devils carried that same energy back home with them when they hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning three days later, which culminated in their first win streak of the season. Just as things started to look up, however, the squad failed to score in either of their next two games. To make things worse, injuries struck again; both Travis Zajac and Patrik Elias were sidelined with ankle and upper body soreness, respectively, while rookie Jon Merrill suffered facial lacerations after being tripped during his NHL debut in Minnesota.

While this type of discouragement could have put out their flame, they instead turned the tables on the Philadelphia Flyers with a 3-0 victory at the Wells Fargo Center. After picking up one point during their visit with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Brodeur secured his second straight shutout – and 123rd of his career – against the Nashville Predators.

Brodeur had to be sharp again in a defensive battle against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, where he made 33 saves to spark the team’s second win streak of the season. Before the game, Marty noted that the team tends to score more with him in net; Cory Schneider’s return from injury marked his fifth regulation-loss of the season, in which the Devils failed to put one past Los Angeles Kings goalie Ben Scrivens. The capable goaltender made 26 saves in place of an injured Jonathan Quick.

The Devils continued their trend of responding well to losses as they rediscovered their scoring touch when they hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins the following night. The oldest players on the ice made the difference as they defeated the Metropolitan leaders 4-1; Martin Brodeur stopped 27 of 28 shots and Jaromir Jagr netted two goals against his former team.

  •  Lightning: 2-1 W
  • Flyers: 2-0 L
  • @Wild: 4-0 L
  • @Flyers: 3-0 W
  • @Maple Leafs: 2-1 L (SO)
  • Predators: 5-0 W
  • @Rangers: 3-2 W
  • Kings: 2-0 L
  • Penguins: 4-1 W

Points/Possible: 11/16

Notes

Despite their aforementioned inability to string together three wins in a row, the Devils’ losses have been fewer and further between as of late. Consistent scoring from skaters like Jaromir Jagr (7G, 9A) and Marek Zidlicky (2G, 9A) has helped them to continually rebuild, and Martin Brodeur’s new groove (1.14 GAA, .952 SV% in last eight starts) has given the squad hope throughout dark, injury-plagued times.

The team is 4-1-1 in their last six games, averaging 2.67 goals per game and only 1.17 goals against. Week eight consists of a road trip through California where the Devils will face the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, and San Jose Sharks. Heading to the west coast with these numbers should give the team confidence and composure moving into the second quarter of the season.

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