New Jersey Devils: Starting New Decade Against A Rival

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

rThe New Jersey Devils start the new decade with some confidence after a stretch of good play as the New York Islanders await them.

The New Jersey Devils are headed into the new decade with some momentum. A win to end 2019 over the Boston Bruins on New Year’s Eve put them at 3-0-1 in their last four games. That Bruins team is one of the elite teams in the National Hockey League, so the Devils slowing them down a bit was a surprising sight. Before the Taylor Hall trade, this was a tough season, but they have really picked it up since then.

Now they will start 2020 with a road game against a rival. The New York Islanders are the best defensive team in the NHL. Their system and players they have playing it are very effective. Head coach Barry Trotz went in there and turned them from one of the worst defensive teams to the very best. They make it very hard on their opponents to create offense. The Devils showed the ability to overcome that against the Bruins but this is a whole new challenge, especially being on the road.

The Devils have played a lot more up-tempo since they made a coaching change. Guys like Nikita Gusev, Jesper Bratt, and Sami Vatanen have really elevated their game as a result. Then there are guys like Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes. At such a young age, these two are game-changing level good. Nico is a little further along in his development and it shows more and more every single game. A player with his two-way skill set is exactly what you need against a team like the Islanders.

At 25-10-3, New York’s 53 points are good for second in the Metropolitan Division and third in the entire Eastern Conference. They have earned the right to be called one of the elite teams in the NHL. Mathew Barzal is their most gifted offensive player that the Devils need to try to contain. He leads them in goals, assists, and thus points. They have plenty of other studs to support him like Brock Nelson, Anders Lee, and Josh Bailey.

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If the Devils want to get a win here in New York, they are going to need to find a way to get offensive pressure in more ways than one. This New York team’s strength could be a clear weakness for the Devils speed game. It is up to the Devils’ best offensive players to get in on the forecheck. It might be a good idea to emphasize getting to the front of the net for one of the three forwards as well. Games against teams like this will never go smoothly but the Devils have the tenacity and speed to get it done. Hopefully, the New Year brings them some newfound luck.