The past couple seasons have been nothing if not immensely frustrating for Devils fans. Following 2012's run to the Stanley Cup Final, things have gone anything but smoothly for the New Jersey Hockey Club. Between the departure of multiple star players, a mind-numbing lockout, and non-playoff finishes in the face of strong underlying numbers, Devils fans have had a few years they'd probably rather forget. With a fast start out of the gate, perhaps the team is on its way to trying to erase the past few years of not-so-fond memories.
Who Needed a Good Start?
Pete DeBoer - Nobody in the Devils organization needed a strong start from this team more than Peter DeBoer. Despite votes of confidence from players and one Lou Lamoriello, it was hard to not see DeBoer's seat as at least a little warm heading into this season. It wasn't too hard to fathom the Devils' head coach being shown the door after two straight playoff misses if the team got off to a similarly rough start, compared to 2013-14. Maybe a slow start wouldn't have definitively meant curtains for DeBoer, but with a return to the playoffs more-or-less a must for this franchise, having to play catch-up right out of the gate would not have been an ideal situation for the coach. Obviously, it's early, but with the Devils already matching last October's win total three games into the season, DeBoer's seat has cooled for the time being.
Cory Schneider - The Devils last campaign featured a bit of a messy transition in goal, with Cory Schneider splitting the starts evenly with his predecessor, Martin Brodeur, over the course of the season, despite being the superior goaltender a majority of the time. With Brodeur moving on in the offseason and Schneider getting a lucrative extension, the keys to the crease are solely in Schneider's hands. With this in mind, and coming off a season where the team seemingly refused to give him goal support, he probably was hoping to start off in the W column early on. He certainly has, as he is now 3-0-0 after three games and has received goal support he was scarcely familiar with in his first year with the Devils. To get to the 13 goals the Devils have provided him thus far, Schneider had to wait until November 29th last season. Safe to say he is probably pretty pleased with this change of pace.
Mike Cammalleri - There are expectations for any free agent entering a new situation, but those stakes are a bit higher when you are brought in as something of a "missing piece." With the Devils in dire need of a goal scorer this offseason, Cammalleri was their answer to the issue. New Jersey gave him 5 years at $5 million per season to bring him aboard as a 32-year-old, so the fears of the signing being a bust were certainly out there. The scoring winger has started as well as could be hoped, though, scoring in each of the team's first three games and totaling four goals and five points overall out of the gate.
The Young Defensemen - A big question heading into this year seemed to be whether or not the defense could sustain its past success with the Devils' younger players now shouldering the load. It's hard to say anything near a clear picture has been painted of the ultimate answer to that question, particularly with two games featuring huge early leads, but all of the young defensemen in the lineup have been mostly solid and have been involved in the Devils' early season offensive outburst. There remains some controversy over Adam Larsson being once again relegated to the scratch suite, but overall, the young d-men, including rookie Damon Severson on the top pairing, haven't looked overmatched and have contributed to the fast start on the scoreboard.
Lou Lamoriello - Lou is the New Jersey Devils, but that doesn't mean he is immune to criticism. After missing the playoffs three of the past four seasons and struggling to replace departed stars, Lamoriello probably wants to see this team back on track more than anyone. With the team looking strong to start the season, plus new acquisitions Mike Cammalleri and Martin Havlat performing well in particular, Lou has to be pleased with the way the opening week has gone.
The Fans - The fans have certainly been a frustrated bunch for the past couple seasons, and for good reason. With so many good performances by skaters squandered by poor goaltending or a lack of finish over the past few years, it's been enjoyable to see the team both finishing opportunities and getting solid goaltending at the same time out of the gate. Most of all, a strong start prevents what would have likely been a crowded ledge the fanbase would have been teetering on with a few losses out of the gate.
Last Thoughts on a Strong Week
It has certainly been a good first week, but obviously it's just that: a good week. Still, the Devils getting off to a fast start after sputtering so often over the last season and a half is definitely refreshing. They hung big numbers on the Flyers and Panthers and survived a tough test against a very strong Tampa team, and did it all on the road, where the team struggled for much of last season. A strong start guarantees nothing, as we saw in 2012-13, but every game counts the same and how the team has looked to start the season is definitely encouraging. It's also nice to see them roll off three straight wins to start the year when they had done that once since early February of 2013.
So what are your thoughts on the strong start? Who do you thing really needed this quick start out of the gate? Do you think this week bodes well for the season? Do you think there were any red flags that showed up in the team's performances over the first week?