It was announced yesterday that New Jersey Devils forward and leading points scorer Taylor Hall will miss 3-4 weeks with a torn meniscus. So that’s it, right? Game over, kill the lights, time to start talking about who we can draft and acquire in free agency. Not so fast; while the team was not predicted to be all that good on paper, the Devils have put together a solid 9-3-3 start to the season and (not to jinx anything) could find themselves in sole possession of 2nd place in the Metropolitan Division should they knock off the Anaheim Ducks tonight.
Without Hall and Michael Cammalleri, the Devils will have to dig deep if they hope to stay afloat in an extremely competitive division, but there’s reason to believe they can do so. First and foremost, New Jersey has two talented forwards who have yet to hit their offensive stride this season in Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieri. The last two games have been encouraging for the pair; Palmieri scored against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday and stripped Tyler Seguin of the puck before setting Rico up for a tap in on Tuesday night to defeat the Dallas Stars. In addition to Tuesday’s game winner, Henrique tallied 2 assists against Buffalo to give him 3 points in the last 2 games. With two of the other “big guns” out, perhaps last season’s 30 goal scorers have finally awoken from their early season hibernation.
The Devils have also been receiving contributions from all over the ice; Damon Severson is tied with Hall for the team lead in points while having already tripled his goal production from last season . Sevs also is just 1 assist shy of being halfway to his total from all of last season in a fraction of the games played. His defense has been excellent and his decisions on the ice have been smart; I would say he has comfortably been our #1 defenseman this season.
How many of us expected Travis Zajac to be 3rd on the team in scoring after 15 games? Travis has been playing excellent hockey and his 4 goals and 6 assists are part of the reason why the team is performing as well as they are. New Jersey can always count on Trav for solid defense, and he has stepped up offensively so far this season with some of the team’s more potent scoring options not starting out the way we had hoped.
Our defense has been excellent for the most part as both John and CJ have already discussed this week. I won’t bother with much more in terms of defense specifics, but I think Andy Greene has been gone, Kyle Quincey has been passable, and Yohann Auvitu should be getting more time on ice than he did against Dallas. John Moore and Ben Lovejoy have been the weak links so far, and hopefully Jon Merrill strengthens the defense, even though CJ feels (and I agree based on his preseason performance) that he won’t.
The team will also need role players to keep playing as well as they have. Beau Bennett had a monster of a game against the Stars and while he hasn’t hit the back of the net yet, if he continues to play the way he has been, it won’t be long before he does. Devante Smith-Pelly and Sergey Kalinin have been bringing a physical, hard-nosed game to the lineup that New Jersey needs to continue seeing as well. Vernon Fiddler continues to bring strong penalty killing and a steady force in the face-off circle. Nick Lappin has been a welcome addition that has provided some secondary scoring to a team in need of goals.
In short, the Devils should not give up especially considering that Hall could be back with the team around mid-December and Cam should be back as soon as his personal issue is resolved. The Devils will need to continue to play teams tightly as they did the Stars on Tuesday and if they continue to grow and gel as a team, they should be able to stay in the playoff race.
Now I’d like to hear what you think about the Devils minus Taylor Hall; do you think this is a team that can continue with the current momentum? Do you think they will take a step backwards? Who do you see stepping up offensively with Hall out of the lineup? Leave any and all comments below and thank you as always for reading!