Can New Jersey Devils Keep Up This Shots Pace All Season?

New Jersey Devils left wing Ondrej Palat (18): Thomas Salus-USA TODAY Sports
New Jersey Devils left wing Ondrej Palat (18): Thomas Salus-USA TODAY Sports /

The New Jersey Devils have been a chances machine, but it’s only led to a 3-2-0 record against much lower competition. Despite the offensive numbers, is this a sustainable model over 82 games?

The New Jersey Devils are second in the league with 39.2 shots per game. They have been dominating teams in terms of possession. While they are second in shots, they are first in shots allowed per game. The Devils are dominating in all areas of the game.

There’s one issue here. The Devils are about to face a much harder part of their schedule coming up. So far, they’ve faced the Philadelphia Flyers, Detroit Red Wings, Anaheim Ducks, New York Islanders, and San Jose Sharks. This Devils team hasn’t faced a team that made the playoffs last season or a team expected to make the postseason.

The Devils are facing their first back-to-back on Monday and Tuesday. They face the Washington Capitals on Monday, who have struggled but historically have destroyed the Devils, and the Red Wings, who just beat the Devils 5-2 in the second game of the season. The Devils are trying to do something that has been historically unsustainable, but they are uniquely equipped with speed and young talent to try it out.

Lindy Ruff is fighting for his job, and he instilled a system that seems to be hard to play against. Opposing teams have trouble turning chances around because they don’t get a lot of time in the Devils’ zone. Just looking at the faceoffs and you see how dominant the Devils have been in terms of possession. The Nico Hischier-Ondrej Palat-Jesper Bratt line has the most faceoffs in both the offensive zone and defensive zone on the team. It’s 22 offensive and 12 defensive-zone faceoffs. No other player combination has more than nine defensive-zone faceoffs.

The New Jersey Devils have been playing with a ridiculous pace. Can they do this all season?

The Devils won’t outshoot their opponent by almost double all season. Once they start to face increased competition, the numbers will even out. However, it’s the system that has to stick in place. There are much faster teams than the Devils’ past opponents. Can they do this against someone like the Pittsburgh Penguins, who actually have more shots per game than the Devils, or the New York Rangers?

Common sense says this type of pace will slow down as the season goes along, but it really can’t. The Devils need this type of play to keep opponents on their heels. The Devils are incredibly talented, but they are far from the most talented team in the league. They have flaws, and the goaltending could make a turn for the worse at any point.

Also, the Devils have struggled mightily to score. They rank 24th in the league in goals per game. Despite getting 39 shots per game, they only have 2.8 goals per game. Only the Sharks have a worse shooting percentage.

Here’s the good news. The Devils have been getting a ton of high-danger chances, while they avoided allowing such chances. The Devils train only the Blues in high-danger chances allowed. The Blues have allowed 27 high-danger chances while the Devils allowed 37. Meanwhile, the Devils have 85 high-dangers chances, and the Blues have 26. (All stats come from the wonderful people at Natural Stat Trick.)

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Only one team has more high-danger chances per game. The Devils are dominating on both sides of the ice. They need to figure out why they aren’t finishing. However, in the meantime, they need to make sure they don’t run the lineup into the ground before December. There is a lot riding on Lindy Ruff’s ability to control this lineup. If he doesn’t, they could run out of gas.