New Jersey Devils: Should We Believe Pavel Zacha’s Performance Is Real?

Pavel Zacha #37 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Pavel Zacha #37 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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The New Jersey Devils have been struggling as of late, but one forward who has been crushing it is Pavel Zacha. Before the season, Zacha was one of the players most Devils fans wanted to be traded. They didn’t care for who, they just wanted a fresh start. Now, he’s one of the players driving the team’s 1A line with Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt.

Zacha now has points in nine-straight games. He now has 13 points in 16 games this season. He went pointless in the first four games of the season, then he recorded points in 11 of the next 12 games. It’s not like he’s getting all secondary assists to barely keep this point streak alive. He’s scored six goals and has four primary assists. Only three of his assists are of a secondary nature.

When should we believe in Pavel Zacha as a true New Jersey Devils asset?

He has primary points (primary assists and goals) on 77 percent of his points so far this season. He’s had incredibly impressive plays that no goalie was going to stop. This snapshot Saturday to get the Devils within one goal was just pinpoint accuracy.

https://twitter.com/NJDevils/status/1365744282829795329

He beat Carter Hutton in the only opening he was given for an overtime game-winning goal in the Devils only win in over a week.

This spin move against the Boston Bruins was probably Zacha’s best play of the season. This is when the Zacha love started to pick up steam.

Then, there’s this just absolute beating he put on the Buffalo Sabres to help Hischier get his first goal of the season.

https://twitter.com/NHLcz/status/1365285634777219073

This isn’t the same Zacha we’ve seen in years past. That much is obvious. However, this isn’t the first time Zacha had people buying in. He played 65 games last season. Five games he had a multi-point game. Yet, he ended the season with just 32 points. He would look like the best player on the ice one game, and then he would disappear for the next three.

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Two years ago, Zacha went pointless in the first 12 games of the season. Then, he scored four goals in the next three games. It looked like he just needed one to finally get unlocked. Well, then he went pointless in the next 13 games. He came back from injury and scored eight points in the final eight games of the season. Did he just need a breather? Was it better to start watching games to see where he could take advantage? Nope, because he went right back to his old ways the year before.

There is one main difference in Zacha this season; his head coach. Lindy Ruff is clearly having a major impact on Zacha’s development. You’ve probably heard this over the last week, but Zacha is only 23 years old. Many players take until 22-24 to really hit their stride. Most of them aren’t the sixth-overall pick in the NHL Draft, but that doesn’t really have an impact anymore.

Can we believe that Zacha is truly this player? He’s playing with Hischier and Bratt, who have a track record of being on really good lines. It’s too early to say those calling him a bust were wrong (even though it was too early to call him a bust). It’s more of a track record of production than we’ve ever seen from Zacha. A lot of Devils fans are going into this with cautious optimism, and that’s the exact place we should be. Don’t expect him to get points in every game, but if he can play to a 50-point pace for this entire shortened season (so roughly 34-35 points over the 56-game schedule) then everyone should consider this a positive season for Zacha’s development.