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The Devils Need to Beat the Bad Teams

So far this season, the Devils have not looked like the bad team that most everyone expected them to be. If they are not a bad team, then they need to beat the bad teams. However, as I will show, they have not been doing that very effectively.

NJ needs to beat teams like Columbus.
NJ needs to beat teams like Columbus.
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, I was intrigued by CJ's article looking at the splits between the New Jersey Devils' bad start and how they have played since.  One thing that it made me do was think about the team's past performances from a broader perspective, looking at the entire season as a whole.

As I did so, one thing that stuck out to me was that the Devils seemed to play poorly against teams that are not performing well this season, and they seemed to play very well against the stronger teams in the league.  This, of course, does not make all that much sense.  Why would a team be able to hang with the best, but not be able to deal with the worst?

To showcase what I mean, here is a quick chart (all records were taken before Friday's games.  Also, I had to write this before last night's game against Montreal.  Add whatever the Devils' did to the right side of the chart.  Doesn't change my point much regardless):

Devils' Record vs. sub-500 teams

Devils' Record vs. above-500 teams



There you have it.  Against teams that have more losses than wins (I did not count overtime losses as losses for this chart), the Devils are a whopping 2-5.  They have lost to Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, and Columbus twice, and have only managed to beat Philadelphia and Buffalo.

Meanwhile, on the flip side, the Devils have a real solid record against teams that have more wins than losses (OTL's not included).  They have only outright lost to Washington, Nashville, the Islanders, and St. Louis, and lost to San Jose in extra time.

Now, one could look at this information and take it one of two ways.  On the optimistic side, look at how the Devils have done against the quality teams of the NHL!  If they can hang and defeat the likes of the Rangers, Chicago, Ottawa, and Pittsburgh, then they can surely continue their winning ways and have a decent shot at a playoff berth.  On the pessimistic side, NJ cannot even beat the basement dwellers.  We all know that those losses haunt a team come April, and if the Devils cannot beat lottery teams, they have no shot.

Realistically, the answer probably falls somewhere in the middle.  The Devils have shown so far that they have the ability to contend for a wild card position, despite what everyone believed in September.  However, they clearly have a lot to work on and iron out, as losses to bad teams are exceptionally painful when on the bubble, as they tend to leave teams on the outside looking in.

Just for some clarification purposes, let's look at some number differentials between the two different sides.  How have the Devils done in some key statistics when playing the good teams and when playing the bad teams?

For this information, I used, as they have an easy way for people to track stats by specific dates.


Vs. sub-500 teams

Vs. above-500 teams

Shots For per Game



Shots Against per Game



Corsi For Percentage



Goals For per Game



Goals Against per Game



PDO per Game



There are some interesting notes to point out, as the numbers on the left side are not as bad as the 2-5 record would indicate.  First, the shots for vs shots against differential is better against the bad teams.  Against the above-500 teams, New Jersey gives up around 3 more shots per game than it takes.  Against the bad teams, however, they only give up about 1.3 more.  Next , the team's Corsi is way better against the bad teams.  The Devils are way in the positive with a CF% of nearly 53% against the bad teams, but they have a miserable 47% against the good teams.  And finally, the PDO about says it all.  The Devils have been very unlucky against the bad teams, but have been fairly lucky against the good ones.

Now, given all of that, it still is not all good.  The Devils are scoring a half goal less per game when playing sub-500 teams, and give up about a half goal more per game.  That means worse goaltending against the poor teams, and less goal support for that goalie.  And also, even though the shot differential is better against the poor teams, the Devils are still shooting less against them, almost a shot less per game.  That may not seem like a lot, but considering that they are losing most of their games to these teams, they should be shooting more as score effects would dictate that.  Instead, they clearly are not.

So, what does it all mean?  I guess for me, I would say that the numbers are almost irrelevant here.  There are some differences between both sides, especially the PDO, but in the end the Devils should not be looking at those numbers and using luck as an excuse.  The good teams in this league find ways to beat the bad ones.  Period.  The Devils, however, have not consistently been able to do that this season, and if they want to make a serious playoff push come April, then they need to start doing that.

Your Thoughts

What are your thoughts on this?  Have you seen the worse play when the Devils are playing worse teams?  Does the eye test show that?  What do the Devils need to do to be able to start beating teams they should probably be beating?  Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading.