3 reasons why the New Jersey Devils can still sneak into the NHL playoffs

It’s been beyond a tough year for the New Jersey Devils, but they are not out of the running for a playoff spot thanks to turbulence in the Eastern Conference.

New Jersey Devils v Dallas Stars
New Jersey Devils v Dallas Stars / Sam Hodde/GettyImages
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Revamped goaltending could help the Devils

One of the biggest reasons for the Devils decline in 2023-24 came thanks to horrendous goaltending. Vitek Vanecek regressed following a solid season, and neither Nico Daws nor Akira Schmid looked like the answer this year. With 29.6 shots against per game, it wasn’t like New Jersey’s goaltenders were facing a plethora of challenges. 

The aforementioned number ranks 12th-lowest in the NHL, and their 505 high-danger chances against is right in the middle of the league at 16th overall. No, neither statistic is elite, and they can both stand to decrease a little, but at least for Vanecek, these should have been manageable numbers. 

Enter Kaapo Kahkonen (traded for Vanecek) and Jake Allen, a pair of goaltenders who aren’t the most ideal names you want for a playoff contender, but they could at least fare as admirable in the interim. Each goaltender had gotten off to a hot start. And since the Devils can score and play solid defense, Kahkonen and Allen will be good enough for the remainder of the regular season. 

That wasn’t the case for the former in his second outing, but it also shouldn’t define what he will do in New Jersey for the rest of the season. 

Sure, the Devils still need to see the Sabres, Islanders, Capitals, and Red Wings slip up, and they need to finally get consistent. But they’re still close enough to confidently say, “This season isn’t over just yet.”

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(Statistics provided by Hockey-Reference)