Are New Jersey Devils Really Still In Playoff Race?

New Jersey Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood (29): (Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)
New Jersey Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood (29): (Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports) /

The New Jersey Devils season went off the rails back in February when they were hit with a COVID-19 outbreak. The team was off the ice for two weeks, and when they returned, it was bad. After winning two games right away, the losses started to pile up. Between February 20 and March 14, the Devils lost 12 of 14 games. At that point, the Devils were already 12 points out of fourth place in the East Division. It seemed like once again, the season was over way earlier than fans would have hoped.

In the last two weeks, the Devils are playing much better. They won five of the last eight games. The Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, and Boston Bruins are all floundering right now, and the Devils find themselves nine points out of the last spot in the playoffs. That’s still quite the hill to climb, but it’s definitely not insurmountable with 23 games left in the season.

It appears the Devils don’t think it’s insurmountable either.

The Devils coach Lindy Ruff is not giving up on the longshot dream of making the postseason. The Devils still have two games this week against the Washington Capitals, a team they are winless against. After that, they are done playing them. The schedule gets a lot easier from there.

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They have a four-game series with the Philadelphia Flyers at the end of April. Who knows what that team will look like at that point, but Carter Hart doesn’t seem like he’s getting better. Before that, they have a four-game season with the Rangers. The last time they played, the Devils looked terrible, but they were the dominant team earlier in the season. Now, this could put one or the other back in the playoff race.

The Devils also have two games against the Buffalo Sabres next week that could make up for the two possible losses coming at the hands of the Washington Capitals.

So, is it possible for the Devils to get back in this thing? Sure, but there’s another problem. The Devils are going to sell off assets at the trade deadline. Kyle Palmieri is playing well. It’s more likely than not that he gets traded before the week is over. Dmitry Kulikov is probably next on the chopping block. More players could be next to go, but the Devils have some players to replace them.

It’s an interesting situation. The Devils could be seven points out of a playoff spot with 22 games left to play after Tuesday night’s tilt with the Bruins. That is still a very long hill to climb, but it’s at least fun to watch this team again. There are moments of despair, and the terrible power play will probably make it impossible to win enough games to get back into contention, but being in the middle of the race will make it a fun two months.