Nathan Bastian’s Presence In New Jersey Devils Lineup Sparks Success

Nathan Bastian #14 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
Nathan Bastian #14 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /
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There’s no doubt Nathan Bastian has been an integral part of the New Jersey Devils’ forward core since he returned on waivers from the Seattle Kraken. Its become evident that he may be providing something more substantial than his average of around 12ish minutes on the ice per game suggests.

Bastian, now 25 years old, was drafted by the Devils in the second round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. The Ontario, Canada native eventually secured an everyday role on the team’s fourth line after spending several seasons with the Binghamton Devils in the AHL.

Being plagued by injuries this season and only appearing in 39 games thus far, there is something to note about how well the 2nd place Devils have played with and without Bastian in the lineup. In the 39 games he’s played, New Jersey has an impressive record of 30-6-3. They outscored opponents 140-92, good for an excellent +48 goal differential. The team is scoring an abundance of 3.59 goals per game while allowing just 2.36.

Without Bastian? An eye-opening 16-14-5 record, only outscoring opponents 110-107. The Devils are scoring a low 3.14 goals per game and conceding an alarming 3.06 goals against.

While some may question how much success can be attributed to a bottom-six guy like Bastian, it isn’t a coincidence. In terms of per-game stats, Bastian is by far the team leader in hits and is remarkably third in high-danger scoring chances, fourth in individual expected goals, and second in drawn penalties and blocked shots by forwards (via Natural Stat Trick).

It can be credited to more than just the numbers, though. Lindy Ruff’s prodigiously improved Devils have been focusing on building a fast-paced, aggressive brand of hockey, and Bastian’s relentless style of play fits perfectly into that system. His value to the team is something that former Devils defenseman P.K. Subban highly endorses:

https://twitter.com/PKSubban1/status/1638900574002331651?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

While it’s not just Bastian who deserves credit for the Devils sitting in 3rd place in the entire NHL, he is an essential fixture on the team. With Lindy Ruff indicating that Bastian “should be back in the lineup in the near future,” it’s going to be intriguing to see how far this success can go as the franchise inches closer to its second Stanley Cup Playoff appearance since 2012.