In the past 6 games (dating back to the December 8th loss to Columbus), the Devils have gotten production from absolutely bizarre places. What prompted me to write this article was a graphic shown on MSG+ after the comeback win against the Ducks.
I saw that on the broadcast and thought there was a typo somewhere, but it’s 100% accurate. For that matter, most of those guys are at the top of some category for us. The chart below shows various statistics for the entire Devils Roster since December 8th. The only site I’m aware of that allows for filtering by dates is offsidereview.com and so that is where this is from. The Gold highlight means they are first in a category, Silver means 2nd. Game Scores (GS) were calculated by hand using Dom Luszczyszyn’s Model.
Brian Boyle is playing like an absolute monster right now. Stats not shown here are also “Game Misconducts” and “Cancers Beaten”, both of which he leads the team in. The most obvious category he’s in front in would be points where he has 8. But he also has drawn 3 penalties, won 56% of his faceoffs, and been a positive possession player despite high defensive zone starts. He’s simply doing EVERYTHING right now.
Brian Gibbons is no longer just a goal-scoring machine. He is now a playmaker. In the past two weeks, he leads the team in helpers with 4, and takeaways with 9. Having 9 takeaways, 1 penalty drawn, 0 penalties taken, and 0 giveaways, give you an idea of just how important his play is to this team. It’s a reminder that the scoring is a bonus — his identity is as a guy that does the small things extremely well.
Stefan Noesen, Blake Coleman, and Miles Wood all have their spots as well. Coleman has the most multi-faceted game with 5 points (3rd), physicality with 13 hits (2nd), and overall impact at 5v5 with a 9.59 Game Score (2nd). All three of these guys rank towards the top of the team in Game Score — and all of them over Nico Hischier.
Speak of the Devil, (get it?) Nico Hischier is an interesting one. He’s actually in his longest pointless streak (6 games) as a pro. Yet his numbers show a guy that makes an impact anyway. He leads the team in shots (iCF), is 2nd in shots on goal (iSF), and is first in penalties drawn (PD). In fact, this brings him to a tie for 6th in the NHL in penalties drawn this year. Even when he’s not getting on the scoresheet, he’s making teams hustle, putting teams in the box, and forcing goalies to make the first stop.
Damon Severson is another interesting case. He’s one of the few players that didn’t lead in any category until I calculated 5v5 Game Score. But due to the fact that he is #1 on the team in 5v5 shots on goal and in on-ice goal differential, he actually has the highest Game Score on the team.
Then there’s a few quirks of sample size. Nick Lappin leads the team in game score rate (GS/60) and Ben Lovejoy leads in shots per 60 (iCF/60) and is 2nd in shot share (CF%). These are relevant not because they tell us that these players need more time, or that they are the best players on the team, but because it shows just how deep this team is, how well Hynes’s system is working, and how good the chemistry of the team continues to be. When called upon, those guys did their job, and then some. When you get big games from guys like Lappin and Lovejoy, to make up for injuries, you know things are going well.
Let’s list the Devils point leaders in the last fortnight in order. Ready? Okay:
Brian Boyle (8), Stefan Noesen (6) , Brian Gibbons (5), Blake Coleman (5), Jesper Bratt (4), Miles Wood (4), Will Butcher (3), Jimmy Hayes (3), Andy Greene (3), Pavel Zacha (3).
There... is the first name that was listed as a top 6 forward in our Season Preview. And it was Pavel Zacha. None of the first 5 names I mentioned were even in the top 9(!) forwards in our preview.
I’ve been pretty bullish on the Devils all year. I’ve said they are on the outside looking in of the playoff bubble for a while. And I’ll almost definitely regret saying the next sentence, but screw it, I’m pumped.
This is what a Stanley Cup contender does.
When the big players go down, everyone else steps up in the aggregate. No Zajac or Boyle early? No sweat, we’ve got a 26-year-old who’s played almost a game for every year he’s been alive to be our 4th center. Lost Johansson? How about a 29-year-old 5’8’’ 175lb winger who saw the NHL as recently as 2014-15? He’s good for at least 20 points in 33 games. Mueller injured? Well we’ve got a bajillion centers now that they’re healthy so let’s trade the face of the franchise for another defender and play him 22 minutes a game. Palmieri goes down with injury? Zero problem, sir. We’ve got a 19-year-old, and I know that might young, but he was drafted 162nd overall and we’re gonna play him on the wrong side, so that’s gotta be good enough for 2nd on the team in total points.
As I said in the tweet above, this is absolute nonsense. This team is an anomaly. They don’t listen to analytics, or logic, or talent evaluation, or any conventional wisdom whatsoever —- and I freaking LOVE IT.
What do you think of the places the Devils have gotten production from? Who’s the most surprising? How fun is this team to watch? Are you rooting for any guy in particular. Leave your thoughts below and thanks for reading!