You don’t have to be more than a casual sports fan to know that preseason does not count towards the regular season. Well, it partially doesn’t. While it doesn’t count towards the physical standings, preseason gives young players a chance to acclimate to the fast-paced, physical style of the NHL. It also gives veterans, All-Stars, and average players a chance to get back into the swing of things before the games become meaningful.
The Devils went a perfect 7-0-0 in preseason for the first time in franchise history, and while it is nice to hold that title in the record books, it truly doesn’t mean anything as the regular season has started off nothing like preseason.
To many NHL enthusiasts and Devils fans, the start of this year is being considered “slow,” as the Devils are 2-1-1 through the opening four tilts (prior to the Montreal Canadiens game). The Devils are riding a wave full of pressure as they need to prove they belong in the playoff chatter after last year’s postseason run.
An opening night victory over the now red-hot Detroit Red Wings, followed by a shootout loss to the Arizona Coyotes, a regulation loss to the Stanley Cup finalists in the Florida Panthers, and an overtime win against the New York Islanders on Friday night is not enough to calm the “overrated” taunts being thrown the Devils way.
As a whole, it is no secret that the Devils have not looked like what they should. Most are not too fond of the Devils losing to the Coyotes, who finished 28-40-14 last season with 70 points. Along with a bad loss to Arizona, Timo Meier and Dawson Mercer, two guys who are expected to greatly contribute to the offense, are yet to find the score sheet. But have no fear; the Bratt man is here! Sorry, we had to. Through all the trouble, there is one player for the Devils that has brought great relief, and that is forward Jesper Bratt.
Moving back to preseason, Bratt has played many preseasons in his seven-year tenure with New Jersey, but one that stands out the most is the recent one from this season. Through five preseason games, Bratt scored five goals and added four assists, finishing with nine points. Yeah, but it’s just pre-season, who cares? Well, you should care because it actually helped Bratt gain momentum, which he carried into the regular season.
The Swede has really brought his A-game in the first four games. Bratt recorded only one shot on goal in the opening contest against Detroit and a +1 rating. The following game against the Coyotes, Bratt found the back of the net twice and recorded an assist, earning three points. Then, against the Panthers, Bratt scored once more and grabbed an assist, boosting his season point total to five. Finally, in the fourth game in Belmont, N.Y, against the Islanders Bratt kept his point streak going as he had three assists.
It is not to be mistaken that two-time All-Star Jack Hughes has been the main light of this team thus far, as he has four goals and six assists through four games, but it is worth noting that Bratt is right there in his shadow with three goals and five assists through four games.
At the conclusion of last season, Bratt’s stat sheet’s main highlight was that he finished with 73 points for the second season in a row. Now, with more weapons on the Devils, it seems like the bar has been raised a little higher regarding expectations from Bratt.
For now, it seems like the expectations will be fulfilled. Yes, there will be ups and downs, but Bratt has to keep up this ongoing firepower through the rest of the season and battle through the difficult times to help lead New Jersey back to the postseason.