New Jersey Devils Look Much Better After Winning Two In A Row

New Jersey Devils defenseman Ryan Murray (22): (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
New Jersey Devils defenseman Ryan Murray (22): (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports) /

The New Jersey Devils have strung together a set of wins and have gathered points in three-straight games after an awful stretch, leading to some hope of good hockey to watch moving forward. It hasn’t come without its issues. The Devils lost Pavel Zacha, Mackenzie Blackwood, and Nathan Bastian in the last two games, adding to the list of injured players. This will put a strain on the Devils big time with Nico Hischier being out. They will rely heavily on Jack Hughes to produce and Travis Zajac to take a lot of heavy minutes with his surging third line.

The potential loss of Bastian even for a game will be felt as well with the physicality he brings being bigger than some people realize. The Devils are a small team up front, but having a few big bodies playing more minutes this season has made a noticeable difference. Look to Miles Wood and Michael McLeod to step up and lay out a few more hits.

The Good

Sami Vatanen had a solid game against the Buffalo Sabres netting a goal and making a very strong backcheck in the late game. His play has been a little better as of late, which is good for the Devils who will likely be looking to trade him in the next month. His value is likely low, but if his play steps up and he can play closer to the way he did the last few seasons, the Devils could get a 2nd or 3rd-round pick at the trade deadline.

The third line of Sharangovich-Zajac-Kuokkanen put up a goal in both games and their chemistry is impressive. They are on the offensive side of the rink for good stretches of most games despite the tough match ups. They spent most of the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Sidney Crosby line.

Wood put up an assist against the Sabres, and while he got no points against the Penguins, his screen on P.K. Subban‘s goal was exactly what he needs to do at that point. It was good to see the coaching staff make a good deployment with what he has.

The Devils sure don’t get pushed around with Wood and Bastian together. Before his injury, Bastian was almost always leading the team in hits.

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Subban’s play has been steadily increasing after his awful start and his trust from the team as a whole and the coaching staff is rising along with it. His ice time has been consistent for a dozen games now and he has really got into a rhythm with it, knowing what is expected of him. Moving forward it will be interesting now to see if he is actually protected in the expansion draft if this continues.

Mackenzie Blackwood stopped 33 of 35 shots and Scott Wedgewood made 40 of 42. Both of these numbers speak for themselves and they gave the team a huge chance to win both games. While we still do not know, as of writing this, why Blackwood was unable to come out after warmups to play on Thursdays, Wedgewood showed he can give the Devils a strong game when called upon. Hopefully, Blackwood is fine though and can be ready for a back-to-back game against the Penguins this weekend

The Bad

Andreas Johnsson played a total of 7 and 10 minutes and really did nothing of note. He has been tried all over the lineup and it has not worked. As it stands now, it is hard to say what they can and should do with him for the rest of the season. Much like him, Nikita Gusev has not managed to get going in any way and only played just under 9 and 12 minutes. He still looks timid and really needs to get on it being more of a puck hound like he was last season.

With two games against a strong Penguins team and down three solid forwards, the Devils’ defense is really going to have to be solid. It will need to be a roll three or four lines effort where players who usually don’t play the body put a bit more effort into playing the rough and tough game. Weather they can do this down a few players will be interesting to tell and who ever finds their way into the lineup will have to make a very good impression.