On this New Year’s Day, it is only fitting to come up with some resolutions the New Jersey Devils should try to adhere to if they want to be more competitive and win more games than they have so far this season. Resolutions are a sort of tradition that a lot of people take on at this time, and even though most of those people probably break those resolutions long before the new year’s end, let’s hope the Devils try to stick to these and get better as the season progresses.
1. Keep Up the Improved PP Output
New Jersey has scored on the power play in consecutive games now since returning from the long break. That is both incredibly unexpected and great at the same time. They opened the scoring against Edmonton and against Buffalo with power play goals, and they were nice goals at that. If they can continue to execute crisp passes, gain the zone easy, and control the front of the net, this could certainly continue moving forward, something none of us would have expected just a few days ago. Of course, I probably would not bet on it continuing, as two games does not mean anything has truly improved long term, but the resolution should be to continue working on executing passes, zone entries, and setting up plays, and perhaps they won’t end the season ranked 31st in the league in PP%.
2. Keep Some of these Lines Together
When the team started struggling, Lindy Ruff and Co. decided to shake up the lines somewhat to generate some sort of spark. Yeah, that didn’t work much at all. Instead, it took the lines that were working and split them up which helped no one.
Over the last couple of games, some of these lines are working again. The line of Jesper Bratt - Jack Hughes - Yegor Sharangovitch had a strong couple of games. They dominated Buffalo in possession, with 18 attempts for versus only 7 against at 5 on 5 play. And they were strong against Edmonton too, up 18-12 after two periods, the best of any line. No other line had even more than 7 attempts for after 40 minutes of play, so that they were at 18 already is saying something for sure. There is zero reason to split them up in the near future.
But beyond them, you have to like what else is happening too, even if not as much. Pavel Zacha - Nico Hischier - Jesper Boqvist has also played well together. It has helped Zacha especially being with Nico, and his game is improved for sure when they are together. Boqvist has not been an anchor either, although I am not sure I see him there long term, that could certainly change. But if Zacha and Hischier develop a good connection on the ice, then keep it together! Same with Dawson Mercer centering Janne Kuokkanen and Andreas Johnsson. It isn’t the dynamite that was Mercer’s line back in October, but it isn’t floundering either, so worth seeing what it can do over a longer stretch.
3. Keep Pressing the Attack in the First Period
Before the long break, the Devils were atrocious in the first period, going down two goals or more regularly. It was extremely frustrating and tough to watch, and too often their lackluster third periods at 5 on 5 could not generate comebacks. But since the break ended, the Devils have had way better starts to games. They out-attempted Buffalo 24-13 in the first period, and ended the period up 2-0 to boot. You can’t do much better than that. Against Edmonton they came out of the gate flying offensively, even if their defense was porous. After 1, the attempts were 20-21 in favor of the visitors, but the Devils were right there, and did have a 3-2 lead, so they did not dig themselves a big hole or anything like that. They were in front, a novel concept.
Moving forward, keeping up these strong first period performances will be vital if they want to try to turn things around. The team cannot go down early so often and expect to do anything other than be a bottom 5 team in the NHL. But if they can open games like they have over the last two games? Maybe they can do something positive in 2022.
And there you have it! Three resolutions that the New Jersey Devils should follow if they want to have a better 2022 than they did 2021. However, those are far from the only resolutions they should follow. What are some other resolutions the team should look to keep and work on? What would make them a better team the rest of this season and help them to win games? Please leave your resolutions and comments below, thank you for reading, and have a Happy New Year!