Will the Real New Jersey Devils Please Stand Up?


Roughly 1/6 of the way through the season, the New Jersey Devils have been on a perpetual roller coaster ride.

Through 13 games, New Jersey has played to a record of 6-5-2 for a total of 14 points. While it is not all that bad, it is not anything to be elated over, either.

Although it seems like a distant memory now, the Devils started the season 3-0-0, scoring 13 goals in their first three games, and the excitement over the Devils’ offensive output was extremely high.

Jersey’s Team proceeded to lose five out of their next six games, including a terrible loss to the rival New York Rangers that included blowing a two-goal lead in the final 10 minutes of regulation and subsequently losing the game in overtime. Other bad losses in that stretch was their 18th consecutive shootout loss in the following game against Dallas, and an embarrassing 8-3 loss in Pittsburgh.

The Devils then began to climb out of the proverbial hole they dug themselves into, winning their next two games, including their first shootout victory since March 10, 2013 against Winnipeg. But the air was quickly let out of the balloon as they Devils would go on to lose both games of a home-and-home series with the St. Louis Blues to finish the 13-game stretch. So what can we make of the Devils’ hot and cold start?

The Good

Top Defensive Pairing

Oct 30, 2014; Newark, NJ, USA; New Jersey Devils defenseman Damon Severson (28) skates with the puck during overtime at the Prudential Center. The Devils defeated the Jets 2-1 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Rookie defenseman Damon Severson stole a spot in the lineup out of training camp and has arguably been the Devils’ best defenseman this season. The 20-year-old has posted a stat line of four goals and four assists, and a +5 plus/minus rating while playing in all 13 games, while averaging 21:55 of ice time per game.

In addition to providing solid defense, the pairing of Severson and Andy Greene has been a great aid to the Devils’ offense, as they have tallied a combined 12 points and a +13 rating.

Mike Cammalleri

Newcomer Mike Cammalleri got off to a hot start for New Jersey, netting five goals in his first eight games, before being sidelined by an injury. Upon his return, Cammalleri will no doubt continue to be the Devils’ most prolific scorer – which is exactly what he was brought to New Jersey to be.

Michael Ryder

Another pleasant surprise has been Michael Ryder, who seems to have shaken the half-season long slump he was mired in during the latter half of last season. Ryder has tallied four goals and five assists and a +3, while averaging only 14:31 of ice time per game.

Power Play

The Devils’ power play has also done surprisingly well thus far. They rank eighth in the NHL with 10 power play goals on 44 chances, good for a 22.7 percent success rate.

The Bad


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New Jersey’s defensive success has been a franchise staple for years. Despite that, the play of this year’s defensive corps has been uncharacteristically poor – specifically the play of Marek Zidlicky and Bryce Salvador. The duo, who have played for the most part on the same defensive pairing, is a combined -7. Zidlicky has been particularly concerning, considering he has tallied seven points – good enough for third best on the team – and still possesses at team-worst -4 rating. Minus Severson and Greene, Devils defensemen have tallied a -8 rating. Can this be attributed to new assistant coach Tommy Albelin’s defensive strategy? It’s definitely possible.

Cory Schneider

While Cory Schneider‘s play in net hasn’t been particularly bad, he hasn’t exactly been good either. Yes, the defense hasn’t done its job, as Schneider has faced 379 shots in 13 games, good for second-most in the NHL. But he’s also allowed a league-worst 34 goals. Granted he’s also played more games than any goalie, as he has yet to miss a game this season. Schneider currently has a pedestrian .910 Save Percentage, and a below par 2.75 Goals Against Average. He’s already been pulled from three of his 13 starts due to poor play. If the Devils want to get on any sort of roll, Schneider will have to play closer to what we saw him do last season, when he had a 1.97 Goals Against Average in 45 games.

The First Line

Since Cammalleri’s injury, the Devils top line has been nothing short of atrocious. For the most part, the combination of Travis Zajac, Jaromir Jagr, and Dainius Zubrus have not found any sort of rhythm. While Jagr has played well (two goals, seven assists), Zajac and Zubrus have done next to nothing. Zajac has netted four points, while Zubrus only has tallied two points. The combination overall holds a -5 rating. Why a 36 year-old bottom-six forward is playing on the top line is beyond dumb, but who am I to question Peter DeBoer’s antics?

The Ugly

Penalty Kill

Nov 6, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues left wing Alexander Steen (20) scores a goal past New Jersey Devils goalie Cory Schneider (35) during the third period at Scottrade Center. The St. Louis Blues defeat the New Jersey Devils 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

There really aren’t many words to describe the Devils’ penalty kill. Awful would suffice, though. New Jersey’s penalty kill currently sits at a (fitting) 66.6 percent success rate, dead last in the NHL. They’ve by far allowed the most power play goals in the league with 18. Discipline has been an issue, as the Devils have been shorthanded 54 times in 13 games, but the four teams that have allowed more opposing power plays possess a penalty kill success rate of 84 percent of better. So while discipline remains an issue, execution of plays is the bigger problem. Could it be that Bryce Salvador continues to be a cog in the Devils’ penalty kill unit? But again, who am I to question Peter DeBoer’s antics?

Injury Bug

Six of the Devils’ 18 opening night skaters are currently sidelined by injury. Specifically, injuries to Cammalleri, Adam Henrique, and Martin Havlat are hurting the team’s ability to find the net. Is it any wonder they’re struggling to win games?

The Verdict

The Devils have 14 points, despite all of the injuries and other things that have bitten the Devils through 13 games. While the Penguins seem to be running away with the division so far, New Jersey sits tied for third place in the Metropolitan Division. If the Devils can keep pace in the division until they get healthy, there is no reason they won’t compete for a playoff spot. After all, the penalty kill has to get better at some point, right?

It really is hard to tell if this team is really good when healthy, or just the same team we saw on the ice last year. So will the real New Jersey Devils please stand up?

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