Jake Allen Becomes A Silver Lining For Awful New Jersey Devils Season

There have not been many bright spots this season for the New Jersey Devils, but there have been a few silver linings that could and should make this group better next season and beyond. Jake Allen might be one of the biggest despite having the shortest timetable in the Garden State.

Winnipeg Jets v New Jersey Devils
Winnipeg Jets v New Jersey Devils / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

There have not been many bright spots this season for the New Jersey Devils, obviously we’re not breaking any news there, but there have been a few silver linings that could and should make this group better next season and beyond.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the arrival and play of goaltender Jake Allen. Still, other silver linings this season include the extended and extensive experience - for better or worse - that Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec have gained. Jesper Bratt proved that the Devils’ investment in him was a wise one, as he is on pace to set a new career-high in points and assists while being one of the team’s most (and only) consistent players all season.

But back to Allen. Granted, it has only been five appearances for the team’s new netminder, so take all of this for what it is - a small sample size. Allen’s play has shown what New Jersey could have been during the season with a reliable, NHL goaltender. He’s made the saves he’s supposed to make, and a few that he maybe shouldn’t have stopped as well - while giving the team in front of him a different kind of confidence.

Allen has really liked what he’s seen - again, in a short sample size, from the youthful trio on defense - Nemec, Hughes, and Kevin Bahl.

“I was playing behind a really young D corps in Montreal, too,” Allen revealed. “You can see what these guys’ instincts are, especially Luke and Nemo: really good at what they do. Puck moving, getting up on the rush, simple plays, get out of your zone and into the O-zone. Bahl uses his big stick; he’s tall and takes away space (from the opponents). There is a bright future for them and we have to remind ourselves how young these guys are. For them to be here, and at that age - it’s pretty impressive.”

Three of his first five starts for the Devils were against three of the Western Conference's most successful teams - at Dallas, at Vegas, vs Winnipeg - where Allen won two of three, surrendering only five goals total. Imagine if they had been able to swing a deal for him earlier in the season. But it’s tough to make a trade for a goaltender when everyone knows you want/need one and they ask prices not worth paying.

“Probably the most complete game, since I’ve been here. I can’t comment on before that,” Allen said following New Jersey’s 5-2 triumph over the Pittsburgh Penguins. “We came out in the third and killed their will; we played a very mature game.”

It’s been few and far between during this season where the Devils’ killed their opponent’s will or played a mature game. It’s all a part of the growth of this young core, who - were the hunted this season instead of the hunters like last season…when EVERYTHING went right.

With Allen under contract for another season, and GM Tom Fitzgerald already hinting that he’d like to have the netminder around next season to work in tandem with whomever he acquires this summer, whatever happens from here until the end of the season will be a nice foundation for the following one and it seems that Allen has already earned the trust of his teammates.

“He’s been unbelievable for us,” Dawson Mercer said of Allen’s arrival in the Devils’ crease. “Every game he’s been in net we have felt really confident with him back there; he’s really proven why he is a great goalie in this league. He’s made a lot of great stops for us. He’s (already) had a lot of big moments for us,” Mercer added with an ear-to-ear grin.

“Our guys have been playing solid for the most part. We’ve just struggled to get some goals and confidence, but I thought it was a confident group in front of me tonight,” added Allen. “When I see that, I feed off them, too.”

“My first couple of games here I got to watch, and I think that helped me, to be honest, to see how they play - like on the penalty kill - from a Birdseye view and structure-wise,” the netminder told Pucks and Pitchforks. “The guys have been good getting back to pucks, making my puck handling fairly easy, (by) giving me good exits.”

“(Our communication), it’s a work in progress. Part of my goal here is to get as comfortable as I can by the end of the season with my surroundings, the group, the guys, the on-ice and off-ice stuff. It’s a big change (for me).”

So far, so good for Allen in New Jersey. He also told us that he never talked to his former St. Louis Blues’ teammate and boss, Martin Brodeur before the trade was consummated. Perhaps, Brodeur should have reached out earlier in the season to ask Allen to waive his no-trade clause! But, he’s here now. And been a silver lining in a mostly pretty dismal season.