New Jersey Devils: Playoffs A Possibility?

Oct 31, 2015; Newark, NJ, USA; New Jersey Devils left wing Mike Cammalleri (13) after the shot out in the NHL game at Prudential Center. The Devils won in a shoot out, 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 31, 2015; Newark, NJ, USA; New Jersey Devils left wing Mike Cammalleri (13) after the shot out in the NHL game at Prudential Center. The Devils won in a shoot out, 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /

The Devils wrapped up the first half of the season Tuesday night in one of their worst performances of the season. Check out my game recap here. According to most people’s pregame expectations that this Devils team would be a bottom five, lottery contender, the Devils are overachieving expectations. Because they have played two more games than Pittsburgh, they currently sit in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, and fifth in the Metropolitan. Take a look at the standings below.

Standings courtesy of
Standings courtesy of /

A win the other day in Pittsburgh could’ve done wonders for New Jersey. They would have sat in third in the Metro instead of fifth, and I expect that it’s going to be like that for the remaining two months of the season. At the break, gives the Devils a 40.8 chance to make the playoffs. But, given the team I’m going to tell you why the Devils can’t, and also why they can make the playoffs.

First, I’m going to give you three reasons why the Devils cannot make the playoffs. After that I will give three reasons why they can make the playoffs. I will start in reverse order from three to one.

3. Health: The number three reason why the Devils can’t make the playoffs is going to be due to their health. The Devils have seen numerous players go down with injury this season and miss a substantial amount of games. Currently, John Moore is fighting a nagging injury and hasn’t played since January 21st when the Devils played Ottawa. Moore has really solidified his spot on the Devils blue line and they need him back to have continued success at that position. Throughout the season, Adam Henrique, Travis Zajac, Jacob Josefson, Michael Cammalleri and a few others have all missed games due to injury. The most important being Cammalleri; If Cammalleri doesn’t stay healthy you can basically write this season off. He is currently the teams leading point scorer with 38 points in 42 games. Without him in the lineup the Devils went 3-5 in those 8 games. If the Devils can keep Cammalleri healthy, and keep its top 6 forwards in the lineup their chances at making the playoffs are much greater than if they don’t.

2. Schedule: The number two reason why the Devils can’t make the playoffs is because of their schedule. The Devils enter the break with a 25-20-5 record, 5 games over NHL .500. However, the last 32 games of the season won’t be easy. There is never an easy win in the league. You have to compete every single night if you want the chance to play for the Stanley Cup in June, and the Devils especially have to do that, given the talent on the roster. So the schedule lining up the way it does does not do them any favors. For starters, the 11-10-3 home team has 17 home games left as opposed to 15 (14-10-2 road record). That maybe the only favorable part of the schedule for the rest of the season. The Devils have one west coast road trip remaining in mid March, and that also isn’t horrible. Here’s where the schedule gets bad. In the remaining 32 games, the Devils play 20 games against playoff teams, 17 games where the team is higher than them in the standings, and 3 where the team is tied with them. They also have 16 games remaining against Metro teams, and the Metro has been very strong this season. The Devils must take care of business against Columbus, Carolina, and Philadelphia if they want to remain relevant in this division. The month of February will really dictate where this season is headed. If the Devils are withing striking distance of the 8 seed in the Metro come March 1st, there is a chance we can see this team playing hockey late into April and maybe even May.

1. Scoring– The number one reason why the 2015-16 New Jersey Devils cannot make the playoffs is because of their scoring, or lack their of. The Devils currently rank 26th in scoring in the National Hockey League with a goal differential of -4. The Devils currently have 114 goals this season. They have 4 guys with over ten goals this season, and Bobby Farnham, a man who cane to Newark on his last leg in the league is currently tied for 5th on the team in goals with 7. In comparison, the number one scoring team in the league, Dallas, has scored 162 goals, and has six guys with ten goals or more. Two more players with 10 goals doesn’t seem like a lot, but when Seguin and Benn combined have scored half the amount of goals the Devils have this season it is a lot. If the Devils are going to make the playoffs, their top guys are going to need to put the puck in the net. Adam Henrique needs to find his nose for the net again, and I understand how important Travis Zajac is defensively, but he needs to start generating more offense. Also, the Devils will need to get that secondary scoring.

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The Devils do in fact have a chance to make the playoffs this season and below are the reasons why.

3. John Hynes-  I think that John Hynes has been a major key to the Devils success this season. He came in with a plan and a system and even though the Devils have had rough spots he really hasn’t diverted from the plan in place. The best part about this is it seems the players have bought in. The Devils have a leader behind the bench who with the right results can be in charge for a long time.

2. Young Defensemen- For the most part this season the Devils defensemen have been a major strength this season. The Devils have allowed 118 goals this season, which is tied for 8th in the NHL. There have been growing pains with the younger guys, and injuries to the older guys, but for the most part this season the New Jersey blue line is strong. John Moore and David Schlemko have both been blessings in disguise. Before the season started these looked like moves that would just hold a potential roster spot, but both guys have been tremendous this season. They need Moore to come back healthy after the break, but they have really been good. Then, there’s Andy Greene, the captain, and he’s been solid as always. Then there has been a combination of the young guys. Adam Larsson, Damon Severson, John Merrill, and we’ve seen a little bit of Seth Helgeson this season. Larsson has put up a lot more points lately, and you can see with every game hes still developing. He does make positional mistakes sometimes, but for the most part he’s been strong. Severson isn’t putting up the points that he did before his injury last season, but you don’t notice him make mistakes very often. If Jersey’s team is going to make the playoffs, these guys will need to continue to step up.

1. Cory Schneider Finally, the number one reason why the Devils are going to make the playoffs is because of Cory Schneider. Through the first 50 games of the Devils season Schneider has posted a .929 save percentage which is tied for sixth in the league and a 2.03 goals against average which is tied for third in the league. You can easily make the case that Schneider is not only a top 5 goalie in the league but he may be the best. If Schneider can carry this team to the postseason he should strongly be considered to win the Vezina. A lot of people thought that when Brodeur retired, the Devils would face goaltending problems, but Lamoriello pulled off one of his better trades that he ever made. Trading the ninth overall pick (Bo Horvat) for Cory Schneider is a steal of a trade. If the Devils are going to make the playoffs this season, Cory is going to have to win games for the Devils.

Finally, in my opinion, I believe that 91 points will be the eight seed in the eastern conference. The Devils would have to win about 15-20 games depending on how many overtime losses that they have at the end. If the Devils go 17-13-2 I think the Devils have a decent shot at making the playoffs.

Personally, I would love the Devils to make the playoffs and I think it is a distinct possibility. They have to beat the teams ahead of them if they’re going to have a shot. They’ve got a lot of games against Pittsburgh and the Rangers and they need to win those games to have a chance.

Do you think the Devils can make the playoffs? Let me know what you think on twitter @chriskayy89.

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