New Jersey Devils: Is Nico Daws the Answer in Net?

Nico Daws sits with a 2-0 record, a 2.52 goals against average and a .906 save percentage through two games. Is this sustainable for the New Jersey Devils to keep winning?

New Jersey Devils v Washington Capitals
New Jersey Devils v Washington Capitals / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages

The New Jersey Devils have been lacking stability in their goaltending this season. That is no secret. The Devils have credentialed All-Stars from front to back. However, when it’s time to come the other way the Devils get beat. 

As of January 4, the Devils have a 20-14-2 record and hold the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. That's not too bad, but the motor of the team and the reason they are in that position is because of the offense. Right now, New Jersey gives up 3.53 goals per game. The only teams that let up more are the Senators (3.58), the Blue Jackets (3.67), the Blackhawks (3.76), and the Sharks (4.08), all teams who have constantly floundered near the bottom of the standings.

You could point fingers at the young defenseman who drive the Devils defense as a reason for the lack of stops. Players like Lughes Hughes, who is 20 years old, Simon Nemec, who is 19 years old, and Kevin Bahl, who is 23 years old, have been solid on the defensive end. Surely, they will make some mistakes - and they have - but if you have watched Hughes, Nemec, and Bahl, you will see that they are not to blame for the amount of goals let in thus far. 

Last year's starting goaltender, Vitek Vanecek, started terribly this season after a dominant showing last campaign. Vanecek signed with the Devils during the 2021-22 offseason and skyrocketed past his expectations, logging a final record of 33-11-4 and a final goals-against average of 2.45. This season's beginning was showing no signs of last year as Vanecek gave up an average of 3.25 goals per game in October and 3.66 goals per game in November. Vanecek found some of his rhythm recently, finishing December with a 5-2-1 record and a 3.11 goals-against average. He is still not close to performing the way he did last season, but he is getting better. 

Vanecek’s partner, last season's playoff hero and Rangers killer, Akira Schmid crashed as an everyday starting goaltender early this season. Rightfully so, Schmid was given an opportunity to play as an everyday NHL netminder but could not continue his playoff success. In 15 games and 13 starts, Schmid logged a 5-7-1 record while giving up 3.26 goals while boasting a .893 save percentage. Due to this, Schmid was sent down to the Utica Comets (AHL). The Devils called up Nico Daws to take over backup duties.

Daws played 25 games for the Devils during the 2021-22 dumpster of a season - the year seven different goaltenders suited up for New Jersey - and last logged a game on April 16, 2022 against the Seattle Kraken. With Schmid being sent down, Daws was given a fresh opportunity in the big leagues He's capitalized so far.

Daws led the Devils to a 6-2 victory against the Ottawa Senators on December 29th. He stopped 25 out of the 27 shots thrown his way en route to his first NHL win since April 12, 2022. Two games later, Daws saved 23 out of 26 shots, helping the Devils to a 6-3 win over the Capitals. Now, as Daws sits at 2-0 with a 2.52 goals against average and a .906 save percentage, we are struck with a new wonder: can the Devils ride it out with Daws and Vanecek as the goaltending tandem? 

We have constantly seen how a fresh goaltender can change the outcome of a game or, better than that, a season. St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington was given a shot in the 2018-2019 season and ended up leading the Blues to their first-ever Stanley Cup win in history. Another example is Igor Shesterkin, who caught fire near the end the 2021-22 season and led the Rangers to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Better yet, Schmid caught fire after Vanecek's first-round collapse and led the Devils to the second round of the playoffs. The main theme is that goaltending is important, and you simply cannot win without it, and if the Devils tweak that one hole, they will be golden. Right now, Nico Daws is the closest thing they have to a competent goalie.