Six games; six games stand between our New Jersey Devils and a return to the playoffs, a piece of the hockey season they haven’t seen in the past five NHL seasons. With the Toronto Maple Leafs doing us a solid by beating the Florida Panthers last night in regulation, preventing them from climbing closer to us in the standings. That leaves us with 12 possible points to earn; get them all, and we’re automatically in.
In reality, winning the final six games isn’t statistically likely. The team needs to maximize its ability to earn points, and have enough of a combination of wins and Florida losses to qualify for the dance. With Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, Kyle Palmieri, Will Butcher and others playing well coupled with Keith Kinkaid playing out of his mind, this is the best the team has looked since their run at the beginning of the year. With the momentum behind them, this is their best chance to string together some wins.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are back in town tonight, and the Devils need to play them the same way they have the past three times the teams have met this season. While I’m sure there are fans who expect the Penguins to come out hard, I think the Devils have had their number all season and will continue to do so. Chalk up two points for the boys in this one; you heard it here first...maybe!
The final back to back of the year this Saturday and Sunday, with a home game against the New York Islanders, and a game in Montreal against the Canadiens. This honestly may be the most difficult games to take all of the points from; both the Isles and Habs will be looking to play spoiler for teams attempting to make the playoffs, and a back to back situation could prove difficult, especially with New Jersey essentially riding one goalie at this point. I’d take 3 out of 4 points from the weekend.
The New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals round out the season; while the game in Washington will prove difficult, they may choose to rest players on the final day of the regular season, which could result in an upset. The home games against the Mathematically Eliminated Rivals and the Leafs need to be won.
9 of 12 points would see the Devils complete the season with 95 points, a number usually good enough to earn the right to compete for Lord Stanley’s Cup. Another factor that could lead to an easier way in is Florida’s remaining schedule; of their seven games, three of them are against the Boston Bruins, and one against the Nashville Predators. If the Bruins can take two of those three games, and the Preds can helps us as well, that would give Florida 8 more points for a total of 93, in which case, the Devils could afford to lose one game on the back to back.
The best part of all of the above hypotheticals is that Jersey’s Team has the ability to just win and get in; again, it may not be likely, but the Devils have the talent and are playing well enough to take the remaining six games. They’re certainly not a team without flaws, but they’re playing for each other right now, and that mentality could be what ensures they’re not on the outside looking in.
What are your thoughts about the Devils controlling their own destiny? How many of their remaining games do you think they will wind up winning? Are we more reliant on winning or hoping Florida (or possibly another cusp team) loses games? Can the Devils who ate playing well sustain their pace and carry the team forward? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!