There’s been a lot of news and noise surrounding the New Jersey Devils lately. Winners of ten straight and owners of the second best record in the league at the moment, fans and pundits alike are finally talking about this team for all the right reasons. With that being said, today we take a look at a few different narratives around the team at the moment, with some being hot issues and others being a bit more under the radar:
1.) Damon Severson Has Locked Better Defensively...but Offensively?
Okay, he’s still not the perfect defender, and when he makes a blunder, oh boy is it noticeable, but in general Severson is playing some great defense this season. He made a quite a few great plays against Montreal to break up scoring chances, and in general has had less breakdowns. This, however, has seemingly led to a decline in his offensive production; through 16 games he has only one goal and two assists. Over the entire season, this projects to just 15 points over 82 games, which would be a career low for him.
Of note is that Severson is also playing on the bottom pair this season, so he’s not working with the team’s top talent as much as he used to, and he is also seeing less ice time. While the team is winning, I don’t think anyone is going to question how personnel is being deployed, but this reduced usage could lead to Severson leaving as an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.
2.) Vitek Vanecek Could be the Answer
We’ve discussed the whole “goaltending is holding the Devils back” narrative more than any of us probably would’ve cared to at this point. With the way that Vanecek is playing so far in 2022-23, we may finally be able to either focus on the good, or nitpick over something else. Sporting a healthy .915 save percentage, Vanecek has given the Devils an option that, outside of his season debut, is providing the team with quality starts. While Mackenzie Blackwood looked good in quite a few of his starts prior to his injury, he also still had some shaky games, and Vanecek to the eye is more consistent within games.
Now, we could discuss Akira Schmid and his play, but I feel that might be best served for a separate article.
3.) The Stretch That Could’ve Gone Wrong but Didn’t
After sweeping the Western Canada trip, and getting their win streak up to six, a lot of fans (myself included) seem to feel as though the team was due for a letdown. When they pushed it to seven by beating the Flames for the second time in as many games, there was a lot of concern that something would go wrong over the span of the next three games, which even prior to the start of the season, seemed like a winnable stretch.
And then everything went right.
The Devils played a tight contest against the Ottawa Senators, and even when Vanecek went down injured, Schmid came in and did his best impression of a brick wall. He would start against Arizona and help lead the team to a ninth straight win, while Vanecek would return in Montreal to push the streak into double digits
Toronto will be another test tonight, as they are a team that has had some recent success...well, at least in the regular season. With how right everything has gone though, why not have things keep going?
4.) Kevin Bahl and Alex Holtz Still Sitting is Not a Good Thing
Now this isn’t so much a commentary on the player potential, but rather a byproduct of the current win streak and not fixing what isn’t broken. With the Devils staying as hot as they have, outside of swapping players on lines (and the aforementioned goalie changes for different reasons), the team hasn’t rotated their healthy scratch players into the lineup. Normally, this wouldn’t be so bad, but when you have two of your more highly touted prospects watching from the press box for roughly a month, with their only on ice action being practice, well that’s not ideal.
While I think we honestly hope the Devils never lose a game again this season, it will eventually happen. Even still, I don’t know if one loss alone will be enough to tinker with the lineup; Bahl and Holtz might have to wait for a pair of losses or even an injury before they get back into a game. For their development, and long-term contributions to the team, let’s hope they get back in soon even if the team continues to read.
5.) Sorry Lindy
That’s it...that’s the entry...that’s my official apology.
Now I’d like to hear your thoughts on these storylines around the team; are you also apologizing to Ruff at this point? Does the lack of offense from Severson or lack of playing time for Bahl/Holtz have you concerned? Is Vanecek (or Schmid) the answer? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!