The New Jersey Devils opened their 2023-24 campaign with a back-to-back set at the Prudential Center against the Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes. The early results? Largely a mixed bag, and not due to the contemporary reasons we might’ve expected from the offseason.
The team went through a lot of turnover over the summer, and the integration of young players as a result of that was a cause for concern. With the losses of Ryan Graves and Damon Severson, the Devils were expected to regress defensively, and through two games, that regression has hit them like a bus.
#5. Vanecek shakes off poor postseason performance
The good news is that the Devils appear to have reliable goaltending again; Vitek Vanecek’s rocky postseason cameo for New Jersey brought on a deluge of trade rumors that were mainly centered around the Winnipeg Jets’ Connor Hellebuyck.
The former Washington Capital had a very solid outing against the Detroit Red Wings, saving exactly one goal above expected on 3.997 xGA. Overall, Vanecek finished with 32 saves on 35 shots, posting a 0.914 save percentage.
If the Devils – as a team – continue to struggle to prevent shots in general and fail to limit high-quality chances, they’re going to need to rely on Vanecek and Akira Schmid. The 27-year-old gave them a shoulder to lean on in Game 1, but they just can’t expect Vanecek to be lights out every night if they allow 33 or more shots on goal each game. However, ‘The Vitek’ has proven that he’s put his dismal spring in the rearview mirror early on in the new season.