The Devils came out the gate looking every bit as bad as we all reluctantly "knew" they would. But then something bizarre happened. We won. Then we won again. And a-freakin-gain. OMG 4 in a row! This Devils team is going to make the playoffs and get hot and win the Stanley flipping C----- .... we lost to who? You've got to be kidding... Wait so do we suck again? What gives.?
Well heres one thing to be encouraged by.
The graph below is the game-to-game Scoring Chance Ratio for the Devils (50 is even) and was retrieved from War-on-Ice.
The Flyers game is not included because I am watching it now (Kyle Palmieri literally just scored, Woooooo!). But the point is that after straddling the even ratio early on, the Devils have been consistently outperforming their opponents in scoring chances and that is a recipe for continued success. Now its worth noting that the low point on that graph was the game against Our Hated Rivals. Since then we have played against Arizona, Ottawa, Buffalo, and Columbus. That sounds like an easier schedule than it is though as Arizona and Ottawa are both over NHL .500. So rather than just looking at the raw numbers, lets look at how the Devils have been playing in comparison to how the opponent normally performs.
|Game||Opponent||OppCF%||OppSCF%||NJCF% in Game||CF%net||NJSCF% in Game||SCF%net||PDO|
The "Opp" columns are what the opponent has averaged on the season. The "NJ in Game" is how the Devils performed against the opponent in that game. The "net" columns are how much we outperformed the expectation based on the opponents percentages. You'll notice that the perceived improvement we've seen in our team in these statistics is not solely due to the lowered quality of competition. We have raised our level of play, especially in the last two games (one of which was unfortunately a loss).
If you crunch the numbers, you'll see that we are, on average we are outperforming the expected Scoring Chance ratio by 1.75 percentage points this year. However we were under-performing by 4.24 percentage points in the first 5 games and have been averaging a ridiculous +9.24 percentage points since.
All of this indicates to me that, despite the lowered competition, we are still performing at a higher level now. Remember that the first 3 games saw Lee Stempniak average around 15 minutes per game in comparison to just over 20 since. Also as I sit here, the Zajac-Palmieri combination has just led the Devils to their 5th win so that is an improvement as well. The Devils seem to have lucked into a legitimate top two forward lines which, coming into the season, seemed like a pipe dream. Now whether that is sustainable remains to be seen. Adam Henrique probably will see his percentages decrease, and Stempniak might remember who he is. But the team as a whole is playing legit NHL hockey and might have just added themselves into the list of Metropolitan Division teams that are going to give nightmares to one another.
Leave them thoughts below! Are we good? Are we bad? Are we improving or is it just an easier schedule? Will the new win streak (1-game) continue? Let us know what you think in the comments.