New Jersey Devils on Fire During Their November Reign

Nov 21, 2022; Newark, New Jersey, USA; New Jersey Devils goaltender Vitek Vanecek (41) celebrates after defeating the Edmonton Oilers at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 21, 2022; Newark, New Jersey, USA; New Jersey Devils goaltender Vitek Vanecek (41) celebrates after defeating the Edmonton Oilers at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /

Well, that was some kinda month, eh? The New Jersey Devils rocketed up the Metropolitan Division, Eastern Conference, and NHL standings in November – powered by a 13-game winning streak (which tied a franchise record) – and woke up on December 1 tied with the Boston Bruins for the most points (38), and wins (16) in the league. As I noted the last time I did one of these things, the Metro Division is always home to some of the league’s best records and among the toughest to qualify for the playoffs.

This hot start for the Devils, which saw them lose one game the entire month (13-1-0), has catapulted them past perennial playoff teams like Washington (15 points behind NJ as of Dec. 1), the Rangers (13 points behind), Pittsburgh (11 points behind), and Carolina (eight points behind). Those ‘extra’ points will loom large should New Jersey falter at any point during the dog days of the season in January and February.

Last month the Devils became the first NHL team to sweep a trip in Western Canada (Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary) and Eastern Canada (Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa) during the same season. And they did it in the span of 18 days. On top of all that, they knocked off Ottawa, Edmonton, and Calgary two times during the streak. Each.

Perhaps the craziest part of the streak is that not once, but twice (!) New Jersey won a game last month (At Edmonton, vs. Arizona) where their starting goalie had to exit with an injury. If you heard that before the season started you would ask what we’re smoking and if you could have some, right?

Other numbers of note – they went 3-0 in overtime in November, and the only player not to record a point in the month was Kevin Bahl (but he got his on Dec. 1). The penalty killers came back down to earth a bit, but still are in the top-10 of the NHL (9th overall).

New Jersey Devils
New Jersey Devils goaltender Vitek Vanecek (41): Tom Horak-USA TODAY Sports /

Vitek Vanecek was named the NHL’s second star of the month behind an 8-1-0 record, a .930 save percentage, and a 2.13 GAA. He has been everything the Devils and their fans hoped he would be when he arrived in a trade from the Capitals, and more. When Mackenzie Blackwood went down with an injury in Edmonton early in November, Vanecek stepped in and ran away with the starting gig.

In addition to the stellar numbers, he is also making the crucial saves at the right time, propelling New Jersey to heights we never imagined they could reach this season. It goes to show how much a goaltender that can make a big save at the right time can mean to a franchise. This team is basically the same team from last year, right? They added Vanecek, Erik Haula, John Marino, and Brendan Smith this off-season, and Ondrej Palat (injured after six games), too. It just shows what a little stability and a veteran presence can mean to a team whose core is still young and developing. Tom Fitzgerald for GM of the Year?

Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt started December tied for most points on the team with 26 each. Hughes, powered by his hat trick vs. Washington, leads the Devils with 12 goals and Bratt leads the team in assists with 18.

Next. Going To Hell And Back With Nathan Bastian. dark

Captain Nico Hischier leads the team with three game-winning goals, and his team is 17-0-0 when he records at least one point this season. When Hughes scores a goal, they are 9-0-0.

In their final game of the month, New Jersey spotted the Rangers a 2-0 lead in Madison “Suit” Garden before rallying for a 5-3 triumph. That’s when you know things are going your team’s way. In previous seasons, that’d be an automatic L for the Devils.

Lindy Ruff won his 800th game as an NHL coach on Nov. 26 when New Jersey beat the Capitals. With 801 wins currently, he is 5th in NHL history. On Nov. 21 he coached his 1650th game, also the 5th most in NHL history. In his two-and-a-half seasons (162 games) coaching the Devils, his record is currently 65-80-17. New Jersey has 19 wins thus far this season, matching their win total in the 56-game shortened season – Ruff’s first with the franchise.

The Goat’s Influence

Since the New Jersey Devils announced Martin Brodeur’s job title change – from Hockey Operations Advisor and a liaison to the business side of things to the new title of Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations and signed a multi-year extension as well, the Devils have gone 9-1-1.

New Jersey Devils
Martin Brodeur #30 of the New Jersey Devils (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

This move gets the best goaltender in NHL history more involved in the day-to-day stuff with the franchise – personnel decisions, player recruitment, player development, as well as overseeing the goaltending development department that he created. And, he’ll do some scouting too.

Notable Quotables

Has Nathan Bastian ever been on a team on a winning streak like the Devils had?

“Maybe in junior, I was on a team that won nine in a row, but I don’t know if that counts. We’ve had streaks where we’ve been good in the AHL, but being a part of this, at this level has been a ton of fun.”

Tomas Tatar on his Slovakian Pride:

“I worked together with those kids at the World Championships, and when I got to see them play, I was pleasantly surprised. They play very mature hockey, always listening and always wanting to get better, and the next thing you know Slavy (Juraj Slafkovsky) and Simon (Nemec) are drafted no. 1 and no. 2 overall. I was extremely proud of them, and I’m very happy to see Simon here (during training camp). I tried to make it as comfortable for him as possible, and I think so far he’s feeling very welcome. Now it’s up to him to show what he can do on the ice.”

Nico Hischier on his flub that turned into an assist:

“I uh…missed the net, actually haha. I hit the post; that wasn’t a pass (to Dawson). I was surprised. I tried to put it in the empty net but hit the post. Luckily, Mercer was there to clean up my rebound, I guess.”

Nate Bastian on playing in front of a full rink and their fan’s outspokenness:

“They’ve been great. It’s crazy. In the past, we’ve struggled as a team, and that will result in less attendance than when you’re winning and having fun. We get that. Fans come out when you’re playing well, and other teams come in now and see the type of organization we have now. We play well. We’re passionate, we play hard, and take pride in playing well in front of our fans. We live in a great area and this is a place that players are going to want to be.”

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“Did they?! No way! Nice, that’s awesome. Honestly, as a group, we were frustrated when that’s how they treated Lindy (Ruff) at the start of the season. So us being able to turn that around for him is awesome.”

No Goals For You

Through the season’s first two months, the Devils surrendered 51 goals (23 games), ranking them second in the entire NHL behind Boston (48 GA in 22 games). New Jersey is also second (also behind Boston) in goal differential, scoring 36 more than they’ve given up. The next closest team is Dallas at +22.