I think we all as New Jersey Devils fans are realistic in our expectations of the team this season; before the start of the season, at best they were a bubble team, and at worst, a group of pretenders that could complete for the first overall pick this year. Right now they look like the former more than the latter, mainly due to the ineptitude of the Colorado Avalanche (seriously, what’s in the water over there) this season. Additionally, the team does technically sit only 5 points out of the playoffs, even though there’s a large number of teams in front of them.
While I’m still skeptical of these Devils as being a playoff team, it’s still within the realm of possibility. This year’s NHL schedule features a 5 day “bye week” built into it where teams can not even practice, let alone play any games. New Jersey has 3 games remaining before their bye week, but while they’re off for 5 days, other teams who are close to them in the standings will still be playing, able to gain points and climb the standings. I’m still not sure if making the playoffs this year is a good thing or not, but if that is New Jersey’s goal, the next 3 games are a make or break.
Friday sees the Calgary Flames comes to the Prudential Center followed by the team travelling to Columbus the next night for its first meeting of the season with the Blue Jackets. The final game prior to five straight days without Devils Hockey will be at home against the Buffalo Sabres. If the Devils want to even hope for a shot at the postseason for the first time since 2012, I firmly believe they need to take all 6 points remaining before the bye.
The Devils sit in 13th in the conference at the moment, but have the worst goal differential (-30) in the East while also being tied with a number of teams for 2nd most games played at 51. Three of the four teams ranked 9-12 have multiple games in hand each as of the time of writing. Combine those factors and the outlook is grim, but if New Jersey wins all 3 games before their week off, they can roll into a rest period not only on a 4 game winning streak (including Monday’s victory over the Detroit Red Wings) but with 57 points in 54 games. It’s not exactly an amazing number, but certainly would put them much closer in the playoff hunt, especially if some of the teams with games in hand drop one or more.
If the Devils drop one or more (especially more) I think that’s officially the nail in the coffin for attempting to end our 5 year postseason drought. The team played very well coming out of the All-Star break, and I like the addition of Stefan Noesen so far, so perhaps the season isn’t lost yet after all. The return of Andy Greene (which I’m assuming will happen in one of these games) should boost the team’s overall play as well. If the Devils stay close in the standings, with 28 games to go in the season after the bye, anything is possible.
Now I’d like to hear what you think about the Devils chances to win out before the bye week; can it be done? Is the season essentially over if they falter before this break? Is the negative goal differential and number of games played too large of an obstacle to overcome? Leave any and all thoughts below and thanks as always for reading!