Not a lot has gone right for the New Jersey Devils this season. They've dealt with as many, if not more, injuries to star players than any team in the league. Right now, they are peddling out a lineup without Jack Hughes, Dougie Hamilton, Jonas Siegenthaler, Ondrej Palat, Timo Meier, Nolan Foote, and Tomas Nosek. Now, Brendan Smith might also be injured, putting the Devils in a very unfortunate position. On top of the injuries, Tom Fitzgerald's decision to forgo a superstar goalie move has bit him in the rear. The Devils have the worst goalie stats in the league.
This is why the Devils find themselves outside the playoffs as we approach the All-Star Break. They've navigated the injuries to stay within striking distance of a playoff spot. As of this writing on Monday evening, the Devils have a better points percentage than any team fighting for a Wild Card berth.
The Devils just had a very hard road trip, playing the Lightning, Panthers, and Bruins. Nico Daws played the harder of the three matchups, taking the net against Florida and Boston. He went 1-1, but the Boston game was hardly his fault. He faced a ton of pressure and stood up, only letting in two goals.
It's a theme since Daws' call up. The 23-year-old has played five games in the NHL this season. He has a .922 save percentage. That is 40 percentage points ahead of Vitek Vanecek. For reference, Daws has allowed 13 goals this season. Vanecek would have allowed 20 with his current save percentage. In five games, Daws stopped seven goals more than the previous starter.
That's not even what's most impressive. While his .922 save percentage would have him in the top 10 in the league (for any goalie who's played at least five games), he leads the league in an even more important stat. With the Devils defensive injuries and a young defense overall led by Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec, they will give up high-danger chances. Since Dougie Hamilton's torn pectoral cost him likely the rest of the regular season, the Devils have given up 240 high-danger chances.
While Vanecek has stats that are literally worst in the league, the Devils have a goalie with the best high-danger save percentage in the league. According to Natural Stat Trick, Daws has stopped 52 of the 57 high-danger shots against him. That .912 HDSV% is better than any other goalie (who's played more than one game) in the league. Better than Connor Hellebuyck. Better than John Gibson. Better than Jacob Markstrom.
Does this mean the Devils should see where this Daws experiment goes? There are some major red flags, but he's proven himself on the ice. The Devils still have to be careful with Daws, as he's coming off a major hip injury. However, he says he's never felt better. Right now, the season is on his shoulders, and he's stepping up in a big way.