Back near the beginning of August, Gerard did a post about the importance of winning streaks. While he left it up to the reader to ultimately decide, it seemed to me that winning streaks are certainly an important part of any playoff team's repertoire. If the New Jersey Devils are going to make the playoffs with some breathing room, as Mike believes and I want to believe, then winning streaks will need to happen more often this season. However, does the schedule this season give the team strong possibilities at sustained winning? Or is it set up for another year of treading water? Let's take a look at the schedule, specifically looking for places where winning streaks seem possible or even likely.
First, however, since the opportunity was not taken before:
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And perhaps if the Devils can string together some consecutive wins, it might be like...(note: some adult language is prevalent)
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Who's who? Maybe Mike Cammalleri is the new gun like Rick Vaughn, Patrik Elias is the aging yet still performing Jake Taylor, Jaromir Jagr is the home run hitting, exercise guru Pedro Cerrano, and Damien Brunner is the speedy Willie Mays Hays. Any ideas for Roger Dorn?
Anyway, Now Back To Hockey...
So to decide where winning streaks are possible, I think that some criteria needs to be laid out first. Otherwise, the task of finding weak points in the schedule becomes too arbitrary. Of course, everyone can have different criteria, which will make the number of potential winning streaks in the schedule different. For the purposes of this article, however, I am going to lay two ground rules:
1. First, I will go along with Gerard and Indians manager Lou Brown and say that a winning streak consists of at least three straight wins (otherwise, it is just two in a row).
2. Second, I am going to define a weak area of the schedule as one where the Devils play at least three straight games against teams that did not make the playoffs last year. I know that is very arbitrary, and some teams that did not make the playoffs last year arguably look better now than teams that did, but I feel like using the playoffs as a cutoff line is a fairly solid one nonetheless.
Finally, all scheduling information comes from the Devils team website, and information about last year's standings comes from the NHL's main website.
Weak Points in the Devils' Schedule:
Below, here is what I found using the criteria listed above:
Weak Point #1:
11/18 at Winnipeg
11/21 at Edmonton
11/22 at Calgary
11/25 at Vancouver
Weak Point #2:
12/4 at Toronto
12/6 vs Washington
12/8 at Carolina
Weak Point #3:
1/31 vs Florida
2/3 vs Ottawa
2/6 vs Toronto
Weak Point #4:
2/14 at Nashville
2/17 vs Buffalo
2/20 vs Vancouver
2/21 vs Carolina
2/23 vs Arizona
2/25 vs Calgary
(Sort of) Weak Point #5:
12/15 at NY Islanders
12/17 vs Ottawa
12/19 vs Tampa Bay
12/20 vs Washington
12/23 vs Carolina
Analyzing the Data
So using the criteria I listed above, the Devils have four weak points in the schedule where winning streaks of 3 games or more are definitely possible. I also added in the 5th one because New Jersey plays four games in 5 contests against teams that missed the playoffs, and the 5th game is against Tampa Bay during a long home stand, so that game could be considered winnable. I would even argue that weak point #5 is easier than weak point #1 because the latter is the dreaded Western Canadian road trip.
Nonetheless, I would argue that there are five points in this year's schedule that, when reached, the Devils really need to put together a string of wins. This is especially true with #4, where the Devils have quite a long home stand against teams that are mostly beatable. The most interesting part about the data, at least to me, is that all of these weak points come after October and before March. So while it may be tough to get off to a good start or to finish strong, it is absolutely imperative that New Jersey dominates the middle portion of the schedule. The team needs to start with some winning streaks come the middle of November, and it really needs to use the relatively easy month of February to jump out to a comfortable lead over other teams in the division. If the Devils can do that, then most likely all they would have to do in March is simply tread water.
What do you think about all of this? Are winning streaks really important, or was this article a waste of time? If they are important, how do you see the Devils doing this season in terms of putting together strings of wins? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading.