Monday, January 29, 2018

N.J. Devils: Newark Arrives at Pitchfork in the Road

From the desks of:  THE BRICK CITY STYX

Bedeviled By Inconsistency

Eastern Conference
7) Devils         24-16-8 (56-points)
9) Rangers     25-20-5 (55-points)
10) Islanders  25-20-5 (55-points)

New Jersey Devils: The final thirty-four games will reveal how good they really are.

Who could have predicted the rebuilding Devils would achieve 56-points by the break, and be in sixth place of the conference standings?

So far, it's been a great story.  But they're slipping, and the only thing giving pause to their plight is this all-star break.  Otherwise they're presently in the midst of a four game skid.  But if you circle back to their five game win streak in December, the Devils have gone 2-7-3 since.

At this point last year, the Devils were floundering along with a 20-21-9 record and 49 points.  After which, their season really took a turn for the worse.  Having endured losing streaks of ten and six games respectively, the Devils went on to post an 8-19-5 record over their final 30 games.

Newark ended last year's regular season with a 28-40-14 record and 70 points, tying them for third worst in the league.  Through the NHL lottery system, however, they were awarded the first overall selection of the 2017 June entry draft.  

The Devils used that pick to select forward Nico Hischier.  Having turned 19-years old earlier this month, Nico has played in all of Newark's 48 games to date.  And with eight goals and 21 assists, he is third on the team with 29-points.

They've also had goalie issues of late.  Starter Cory Schneider and back-up goalie Keith Kincaid both have recently missed games with groin injuries, thus necessitating the services of Ken Appleby, called up from Binghamton.

Taylor Hall, the team leader in goals and assists, has recently missed a few games as well, and will certainly benefit from these few days off.

It is very clear what the Devils must do over their final 34 games of the regular season: avoid what happened last year.  

Easier said than done ...

But if they are to sustain their standing, they must obviously first snap their present losing streak with haste, then limit any potentially lengthy streaks down the stretch.  They've already suffered losing streaks of four losses or more on three different occasions this season, and might not survive many more.

That said, they also leave too many points on the table.  Their eight OT losses still remain tied for second most in the league.

Therefore the quicker the Devils learn the art of closing out games, the better off they'll be.

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