The New Jersey Devils were on a roll when they won three-straight games last week. It was most impressive when they defeated the Boston Bruins last Thursday, who are probably the best team in the league. They played them well and looked like a team that could be a threat this season. Back-to-back losses to the Buffalo Sabres and Washington Capitals have caused people to take a pause on that hype. Now, they need to buckle down and get back to where they were.
Of course, it was an important weekend in team history despite the losses. For one, they named Nico Hischier the 12th captain in the history of the team. It is an incredible honor for him as he now passed Connor McDavid as the youngest captain in the entire National Hockey League. The next day, one of the organizational pillars for over a decade in Travis Zajac, played his 1000th career game. It was a fun moment for everyone invested in this team for so long.
Now, the New Jersey Devils face a must win against the Buffalo Sabres.
One of the two losses this weekend was to the Buffalo Sabres. The Devils fought hard at the end but the 3-0 deficit they got themselves into was too much to overcome. They came close to tying the game late but a 3-2 loss ended it. Now, they have a chance to redeem themselves with another big game at Prudential Center.
The Devils have a fully healthy lineup now and they all have a few games under their legs now. This is a tough weekend to overcome but this game is a must-win if they want to really stay in the playoff race. This isn’t a year where they need to make the playoffs but it would be nice to see the development of certain people make it interesting in the standings.
One player who should be on fire in this game is Jack Hughes. He was dancing all over the place in both losses and he came out with a goal and an assist. For a teenager, leading the New Jersey Devils in scoring with four goals and seven assists for 11 points in 13 games sure is impressive. It is fun to think about what he could do when he is 26 but for now, he just needs to keep improving. Leading the way against the Sabres would be nice to see.
Of course, Nico Hischier needs to score a lot too. It is fair to assume it is going to take a minute for him as he went almost a calendar year without playing a game with a big injury and COVID-19 diagnosis in between. He was a monster shot producer in their most recent game against the Capitals so his breakout is coming. Having Hughes and Hischier as the top two centermen should be very dangerous in short order.
Calling this a “must-win game” this early feels wrong, but it is a shortened season with a lot of great teams cramped in the middle of the East Division. Winning as much as you can against teams you are better than is one of the big keys and the Devils are a better team than the Sabres. Expect them to come out firing on all cylinders.