For the last four seasons, the month of November has not been kind to the New Jersey Devils. In the 2018-19 season, they went 4-8-3 with just two road wins. In 2019-20, the Devils were more or less OK with a 7-7-1 - except that followed a terrible October and the month ended with confirmation that Taylor Hall would be traded by Ray Shero. In 2021, there was no November as the pandemic-shortened season ran from January to May. The second month of that season (as November is the second month of the regular season) saw the Devils go 3-5-0 in what would begin the downfall of that season. In 2021-22, the record was not so bad at 5-5-3 but, again, the flaws in that month would grow as the season went on. The point is that the Devils have not been particularly successful. This season is different. Very different. Gloriously different.
The Devils arguably had their best single month ever in November 2022. The Devils went 13-1-0, won all eight of their road games, swept two separate road trips through Canada, extended a winning streak to match the franchise record (13), and ended the month by matching the franchise record for road wins (10). The New Jersey Devils have received increased amounts of attention throughout their winning streak. They have been streaking. They have been called a “wagon.” They have been a juggernaut more often than not. It is mind-boggling how the team has glowed up and shined throughout the whole month. So much so that they were first place in the entire NHL after Monday’s month-ending game in Manhattan.
As ever, hockey does not stop. The December schedule begins tonight. The Devils will have 13 games to play with eight of them at the Rock. There are six games against divisional opponents. The Devils will need to keep their good times rolling in order to end the 2022 part of their season as well as they have started it. Before then, let us take one more look back at a month filled with goals, saves, wins, goals, saves, wins, more goals, more saves, and more wins than anyone would have honestly predicted the Devils to get.
The Games of November 2022
The Devils began the month with a challenge: a road trip through Western Canada. This kind of trip can and does mess with East Coast teams between the travel and unfamiliar climates. It began on December 1 in Vancouver, who won their first two games of the season prior to this matchup. The start was slow and reliant on Mackenzie Blackwood to make plenty of stops. Fortunately, Nico Hischier re-directed a puck into the net for the Devils’ first shot of the game and a second period revival saw the Devils take the game over. The Devils, who won three games going into this one, beat the Canucks by a decisive 5-2 score. On December 3, the trip took the Devils into Alberta. First against the then-hot and still-frightening offense of Edmonton. While the start was not slow, the game turned unfavorable within a 100 second time period in the second period. Where Derek Ryan scored, Damon Severson took a penalty, Blackwood got injured, and Vitek Vanecek conceded the power play goal on his first shot against to put the Devils 1-3. But the third period saw a comeback. One started by a Miles Wood snipe off a faceoff win. One continued with Vanecek denying the Oilers. And the quickest pair of goals in Devils history with Ryan Graves tying up the game from the slot and Jesper Bratt scoring right after a center-ice faceoff win. The Devils stunned the Oilers 4-3 (in regulation!) to keep on winning. The trip would end in Calgary, who were starting to slide but still a formidable opponent. In a game filled with beef and the Flames battling back from a 3-1 deficit to make it 3-3 in the third, the Devils embarked into overtime for the first time this season. Elias Lindholm took a costly penalty. Fabian Zetterlund hammered in a feed from Dougie Hamilton to make it another win at 4-3. The Devils swept their trip through Western Canada. They were up to six wins.
The Devils would return home for the following week for three more games. They would host Calgary on November 8. Despite the Flames playing in Long Island the night before, the Flames got off to a fast start. Only to fall victim to another excellent second period by the Devils where Graves and Hamilton scored. While Tyler Toffoli converted a power play, Hischier broke the deadlock with a great shot past Jakob Markstrom to make it 3-2. The score held; the Devils swept the Flames. On November 10, Ottawa visited the Devils. This one would get challenging. Ottawa would trade goals in regulation. Worse, Thomas Chabot ran into Vanecek and his knee collided with his head. Vanecek would stay in the game until about 10 minutes left in regulation when he was pulled for precautionary reasons. Third-stringer Akira Schmid had to play. In overtime, John Marino took a penalty. Schmid and the Devils managed to survive the penalty kill. Chabot held up Jack Hughes afterwards for a Devils power play of their own with about 40 second left. Faceoff win, pass, shot, deflection by Hischier - a 4-3 win to extend the streak to eight games. Schmid would get the start on November 12 against Arizona, who was warming up going into the Rock. Arizona started off well, but the Devils would get the goals past Karel Vejmelka thanks to Tatar and Hughes. While Arizona would tie it, Jesper Boqvist’s first goal of the season would break the tie and a Hamilton PPG would extend the lead. The Devils cruised to a ninth straight win - and another swept week - with a 4-2 final score.
Thanks to Hughes, the word “heater” got a whole lot popular as the Devils began another road trip through Canada. Eastern Canada this time. On November 15, the Devils visited Montreal. Vanecek returned to the net and was crucial in the first period. Once again, the second period was when the Devils shined. A brace by Hughes and a goal from Hamilton off a steal meant a 3-1 lead going into the third. A lead that would be extended by Bratt and an empty-netter from John Marino. The Devils won 5-1 to make it a 10-game “heater.” On November 17, the Devils went to Toronto to take on a formidable Maple Leafs squad. Matt Murray gave the Devils the most issues since Pavel Francouz. Even so, Bratt responded quickly to a Matthews PPG to make it 1-1. Hischier made it 2-1. It took a near-perfect bounce from William Nylander to force overtime late. There, Hughes picked off a pass from John Tavares, drove the net, Murray knocked it away, and Yegor Sharangovich buried the rebound for a third OT win in November. The 3-2 win made it 11 in a row. The trip ended with a rematch against Ottawa in Kanata, Ontario. This game against the Sens would be more decisive. And it would feature goals from the Devils’ depth players. Erik Haula finally scored his first goal as a Devil on a power play. Nathan Bastian put home a rebound. Boqvist put in a rebound. Sharangovich finished a rebound for a shorthanded goal. McLeod put in an ENG to end a very solid 5-1 win featuring plenty of smart stops from Schmid. New Jersey became the first team to sweep two separate Canadian road trips in a season and start to seriously make history with their winning streak length.
Thanksgiving week would be a very busy one with the Devils playing four games in six nights. The first would be a rematch against the Oilers. The game followed a common template throughout this winning streak. A not-so-strong start despite the score (Bratt scored first), a stronger second period, and a third period to close it out. Vanecek limited the damage by Edmonton to two goals; the Devils scored five; and the Devils tied a franchise record for wins in a row with 13 with the 5-2 win. November 23 would be a day of infamy than history. Toronto returned to the Rock and the script was different. The slow start by the Devils led to two goals against. Despite their offensive efforts, Matt Murray stopped a lot of rubber and the referees disallowed three goals. The frustration from the team was apparent and even worse from the fans as many pelted the rink (or attempted to) with whatever they have in anger. While Hamilton made it a 1-2 game with five minutes left, the Devils could not complete this comeback. The winning streak was over. The Devils lost 1-2 to Toronto. The fans did not cover themselves in glory, adding to the ugliness. This also raised a question: How would the Devils respond?
According to Buffalo, it was like nothing really changed. Schmid got the start. While he had a lot of work to do, the Devils got off to a fast start. The scoring would happen and in bunches yet again in the second period. Jack Hughes started it, Boqvist continued it, and Tatar provided the insurance that would hold up in a strong 3-1 win. Would this continue against Washington? In a sense, yes. The Devils were sloppy and undisciplined at points, giving the Caps plenty of chances to repeat what they did to the Devils in October. Except that Vanecek was dialed in and the Devils beat Charlie Lindgren many times. The highlight was clearly The Big Deal, Jack Hughes. A goal from rounding Lindgren and putting a puck off his skate. A goal from the goal line off Lindgren’s helmet and into the net. A goal to finish a 2-on-1 and have the rink littered with hats. Hughes scored his first ever hat trick - a natural hat trick - to put the Devils up big-time. The Devils sealed the win at 5-1. Revenge over Washington was obtained. The four-games-in-six-nights did see an end to the winning streak. And it ended with a 3-1-0 week to keep the Devils safely in first place in the division.
By all accounts, November was an extremely successful month for the Devils. Of course, one game remained and it is the one game that the People Who Matter always want the Devils to win. A game against Our Hated Rivals. A game against the New York Rangers. And, once again, a not-so-great start put the Devils down early. Only on the night of November 28, the Devils came back. They tied it up. They kept coming in the second period to extend the score. Even Igor Shesterkin was jeered in his own building - further evidence that things are different this season. So was the third period. New Jersey kept taking penalties and Our Hated Rivals attacked like few have done to the Devils this season. They pulled within one. But the Devils would hold on. When Sharangovich put in an empty net goal, the People Who Matter could relax and cheer. The Devils won 5-3. The Devils ended November with another winning streak of three games - just as they ended October. The Devils capped off one of the best months, perhaps the best month, in franchise history at 13-1-0. And, for at least a little bit, first place in the entire NHL.
To call it a good month is a huge understatement. To call the 2022-23 season as very different from the past four is entirely correct.
By the Numbers
While the Devils won an incredible 13 out of 14 games this month, the team’s stats provide evidence that the team is doing more than shooting pucks in at a high and near-impossible-to-maintain rate and getting saves at a high and near-impossible-to-maintain rate. The Devils got that too in November, but their 5-on-5 numbers show that the team was more than a team getting a bunch of bounces their way for a couple of weeks. This wagon has a strong undercarriage.
All stats come from Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com where mentioned. Data was pulled on the night of November 30 so ranks may be off by a spot or two depending on Wednesday night’s results. It does not dramatically impact how the Devils performed in November since their last game was on Monday.
5-on-5 Play: The Devils averaged just over 47 minutes per game of 5-on-5 hockey in November. This was the 23rd most in the NHL. It is tight between the teams. An extra minute would have put the Devils in the upper half in the NHL in that stat. Given how they performed and produced in 5-on-5, then the Devils should aim to keep more games in this situation this season:
Goodness gracious. Look at all of that green. Outside of the allowance rate of scoring chances, the unadjusted allowance rate of high danger chances and 5-on-5 expected goals against per 60 minutes, the Devils were a top ten team in every category. The score and venue adjustments were favorable across the board. Have you seen such dominance in 5-on-5 hockey before? You should; the Devils were first across the board in October. That was a nine game month of mostly home games. To be this good after 14 games and most of them on the road and well away from New Jersey at that? It has to be seen as elite. Throw in super-high team shooting and save percentages and you have the highest scoring and nearly least allowed team in the whole NHL last month. I absolutely love to see it. You should too.
These are the kinds of on-ice rates that makes me believe this team is a lot more legitimate than most teams that go on hot streaks. Those teams tend to shoot hot for a spell and have amazing goaltending to keep them in games they normally would not be in. The Devils absolutely got that in November too. But the other on-ice rates and the Natural Stat Trick expected goals model point to a team that can absolutely crush it in the run of play even when the team shooting and save percentages fall down to less ridiculously awesome figures. As with last month, this is not the result of one line or pairing dominating and the others following along. No, no. A whole lot of the team is involved in these fantastic 5-on-5 figures. And even the players who did not have positive on-ice rates in November - the BMW line, the pairing of Marino and Graves, and Sharangovich - all contributed elsewhere. The fourth line provided crucial points. Sharangovich started to find the back of the net amid moving around the lineup. The pairing of Marino and Graves soaked up tough minutes to help others soar. The larger point remains: these are team-based results for a squad that can and has beaten teams through multiple units. The processes and strategies by Lindy Ruff and his staff are working as well as you can dream of. The performances on the ice by the players have been sensational over the whole month. With stats like this, it was expected that the team would win a lot of games. Going 13-1-0 was perhaps too much to fathom, but they did it.
What makes this more impressive is that the special teams play in November was not impressive.
Power Play Situations: The power play in November was not great overall. I can forgive you if you felt otherwise. The power play did convert in nine out of the team’s fourteen games and even had a five-game PPG streak. The power play struck for two overtime winners, making it crucial to keep the heat going for the 13-game heater. The issue is that the Devils had a lot of opportunities to score even more and they did not. As such, there is room for improvement.
Whereas the power play in October had great on-ice rates to go with a bottom-third set of results, the November power play was a bit below league median all the way around. Part of how the Devils were able to get PPGs was because they drew a lot of calls. While there were certainly man advantages where the Devils did it all but score, the lack of results yields these kinds of figures.
A part of me wants to say it will work itself out. Should that team shooting percentage go up and the Devils keep drawing a fairly high rate of calls, then we will see more PPGs and the power play will become more of an asset again. A part of me thinks it may be time for Andrew Brunette to tinker a bit. The team’s power play largely leans on the first unit as it is given that is where the talent is all loaded up on. The xGF/60 between that first unit (and Dawson Mercer) and the second unit is starkly different. So much so that it may be worth moving some guys around. Perhaps also giving more of a chance to Sharangovich or Zetterlund in place of some who have not produced much on a power play unit. Should Holtz stay in the lineup, then he should be a part of at least one of the units. I am not calling for a wholesale change to the system. It has been fine in November, but not impressive or particularly successful. But some tinkering and experimenting is warranted going into December.
Penalty Kill Situations: If there was a concerning part of the Devils’ performances throughout November, then it was their penalty kill. The numbers are fairly self-explanatory.
The Devils only killed 75% of their shorthanded situations in November. Just as they drew a lot of power plays, they took even more penalties that put them down at least one man. It may have been two more, but 48 is still a lot. While a pair of shorties cut down the goal differential to -10, it could be stated honestly that the penalty kill hurt the Devils in several of the games that they played in. Nine of them to be exact. With three of them yielding two power play goals against. Fortunately, they got enough from their power play and a plethora of 5-on-5 goals to overcome the damage in all of those games.
Still, the Devils would have been a lot wiser to have practiced better discipline in November. Six different Devils took at least four minor penalties in the month: Brendan Smith, Damon Severson, Dougie Hamilton (4 each), Erik Haula (5), Miles Wood (6), and Jonas Siegenthaler led them all with 8. That did not help the cause, especially as that is two-thirds of the Devils blueline and a regular penalty killer in Haula. What also did not help is that the discipline issues were frequent throughout the month. The Devils had four or more shorthanded situations to kill in nine of their fourteen games. If you felt the Devils took too many penalties in too many of their games last month, then your feelings are backed up by data.
The thing is that the Devils’ on-ice rates while shorthanded were still quite good. Befitting of a team that can defend well. Three top-ten rates and a decent xGA/60 rate all suggest they could have killed more than just three-fourths of the calls they took. Only three regular penalty killers had on-ice xGA/60 rates notably higher than the team for the month. The culprit appears to be in the net. The goaltending was not as supreme in shorthanded situations as it was in 5-on-5. Not in the bottom third, but still a big downturn to be below league median by a couple of percentage points. Schmid beat the league median of 86% by a bit and Vanecek did not (and Blackwood did not by a lot, but he also just played in two games and did not even finish the second). It could be argued the goaltenders just have to be better and the PK success rate will rise up in the future. I can buy that based on the on-ice rates.
I will still call for the best kind of penalty kill: not having a penalty to kill. Which was a problem in November. Be smarter with your hands and sticks, Devils!
Additions and Subtractions
The New Jersey Devils suffered a few injuries of note throughout the month. Blackwood was injured in the middle of the first game against Edmonton. It was a MCL sprain and it was announced on November 8 that he would be out for three to six weeks. At the same time, Ondrej Palat had surgery on his groin at the beginning of the month and the team announced he would be out for eight to ten weeks. While Palat was already out since October 25, the news confirmed the Devils would be without a goaltender and a top-six winger for quite some time.
With Blackwood injured, Vitek Vanecek has taken over as the starter. It has gone very well. Akira Schmid was called up to be the back-up. When Vanecek was knocked in the head by Chabot in the win over Ottawa on November 10, Schmid had to come in to finish off the third period and survive a power play in overtime - which he did. Schmid has been excellent in spelling Vanecek. When Vanecek was out or Schmid was sick, Nico Daws was brought up as cover. Daws has yet to see the ice in New Jersey.
With the Blackwood injury announced just over three weeks ago, his return to the team should be in the near future. Jonathan Bernier was traveling with the team on the Western Canada trip and even participated in practices. However, unless I missed it, he did not travel on the Eastern Canada trip and has not practiced recently. To that end, I doubt Bernier will be coming off long term injured reserve soon. Still, Blackwood’s return combined with a potential return to Earth of Vanecek’s and Schmid’s amazing November could lead to a perception that Blackwood is a problem. It may seem a bit far-fetched, but it is something to keep in the back in your mind when he does return in December.
The only other major injury suffered came near the end of November. Nathan Bastian left in the first period against Washington on November 26 with an apparent shoulder injury. Fabian Zetterlund was moved to the fourth line in the game against Our Hated Rivals in the short term. There has been no update yet about the severity of the injury or a timetable for Bastian’s return.
Prior to Thanksgiving, the Devils demoted Alexander Holtz and Kevin Bahl to Utica. The two were just scratches and not getting into any games as the Devils kept on winning. Rather than continuing to have them sit, the Devils decided that a couple of games with Utica will sharpen them up. Both were recalled prior to Monday’s game - along with Daws as Schmid was sick. Holtz would get in the lineup and draw a penalty against Our Hated Rivals. It was his first appearance since October 25, the very first win of the 13-game heater. As for Bahl, his re-debut may be imminent as John Marino was held out of Wednesday’s practice and announced as “day to day” with an “upper body injury.” Lindy Ruff via Amanda Stein said Marino’s absence from practice was for precautionary reasons, so it is possible Bahl may have to wait a bit more. We shall know soon.
Amid all of this, there were brief call-ups for forward Andreas Johnsson and defenseman Tyler Wotherspoon to be an extra body on hand for a game or two. Neither played and have since been returned to Utica. It was a relatively quiet month for additions and subtractions to the roster. Which makes sense given the injuries were kept to a few players and one of them, Vanecek, returned rather quickly.
Devil of the Month
Victory has a lot of fathers. As such, this month’s Devil of the Month honors is one of the tougher ones I ever had to do. Since it is my site, I am going to count down those who fell short of the honorable mentions first because they deserve your attention and support.
- Akira Schmid may have only played in four games. But he has been sensational in all four with a 5-on-5 save percentage of 96.7% and an overall save percentage of 95.3%. He was clearly not ready last season. When he had to come into the Ottawa game and hold it down, he did just that. He performed very well against Arizona, Ottawa, and Buffalo. Time will tell if it was just a heater of his own, but Schmid has made the #2 position in net a conversation in New Jersey for the time being. Why is he not the honorable mention? Again: four games.
- Jonas Siegenthaler has emerged as a rock-solid, shut down defender. One-on-one with McDavid or Draisaitl? Siegenthaler can and has won those matchups. One-on-one with Matthews or Marner? Ditto. He played the most 5-on-5 minutes of all Devils and opponents have scored just twice when he is on the ice. Opponents have a rate of fewer than 27 shots per 60 minutes when he is on the ice, bested only by a more limited third-pairing. Siegenthaler was the best defensive defenseman on the Devils in November now that John Marino fell to Earth. Why is he not the honorable mention? It’s a two-way game and he does not have much of one with four assists and 19 shots on net (and one disallowed goal). Worse, Siegenthaler had 16 PIM - the second most on the Devils in November. Given how problematic the PK was last month, that is a mark against Siegenthaler.
- Tomas Tatar flipped the opinion of many of the People Who Matter in November. He was not just a guy with great 5-on-5 numbers and little else. No, in November, he had great 5-on-5 numbers along with five goals and seven assists to finish third on the teams in scoring. His production helped keep him on a line either with Hischier or Hughes and deserved to fit there. Why is he not the honorable mention? The production was not that consistent and other forwards did more than him. This logic also applies to Sharangovich, Mercer, and Zetterlund.
- Jesper Bratt is going to get Paid. He was outstanding again in the run of play. He put up four goals and seven assists to remain among top Devils scorers. His own heater ended. But, like the team, he keeps popping up to do damage and help get results. Why is he not the honorable mention? Same reason as Tatar, but Bratt is good enough to warrant his own bullet point.
- The honorable mention to the honorable mention may be the one who some think should be the Devil of the Month. The Captain, Nico Hischier. Hischier has been able to do it all in all three zones. Tough matchups? Faceoff wins? A game slowing down or speeding up? Keep shifts going or try to spark the team himself? Hischier has been involved in all of that and has done it well. Hischier was remarkably consistent with his 16 points in November. He was held scoreless in just one game - the one the Devils lost in. Six goals, ten assists, 40 shots, and whole lot of smart plays that do not end up on the scoresheet but make many commentators, fans, media people, and hockey players take note. So why is he not the honorable mention? Because his very good 5-on-5 on-ice rates pale to the guy who did get it (and they also pale in comparison to Tatar and Bratt).
The honorable mention for November 2022 is The Big Deal himself, Jack Hughes. Given how much I have supported highlighting players who produce a lot, produce regularly, and put up strong on-ice rates, I pretty much have to give it to Jack Hughes. Unlike Hischier, Hughes’ on-ice percentages were at another level in November. A CF% just above 60%. An xGF% above 63%. An actual GF% a touch above 70%. This is just dumbfoundingly good for a player who plays as much and gets targeted as much as Hughes. While Bratt, Erik Haula, and Tatar are up there with him in some or all of those stats, the difference is in the production. Hughes finished November with nine goals, nine assists, and 64 shots. No Devil had more goals, shots, and points in November than Hughes. Hughes’ 18 points put him in the top-ten in league scorers for November. And these points did not just come in bunches. Hughes was held scoreless in just four games in November with none repeating. He made up with it with five multi-point games. Hischier may have been more consistent, but I have to give an edge to more total points and better 5-on-5 on-ice rates. In a tough decision, Jack Hughes is the honorable mention for the Devil of the Month of November 2022. A fine reason to just chill and get some gato.
If an 18-point month with mind-boggling on-ice rates stats is only good enough for honorable mention, then what is worthy of Devil of the Month?
To turn a phrase from the 1990s: It’s the goaltending, stupid. Many have lamented that if the Devils have received average goaltending, then they would be good. I did the math on that back in April, and I found that they would need more than average goaltending to make up a near-40 point deficit in the standings. They would need more goals and/or top-level goaltending. Goaltending on the level of Igor Shesterkin was what I called it. Well, the Devils clearly had both in this past month; and guess who out-performed Shesterkin and a whole lot of other high-reputation goalies in November? Vitek Vanecek.
His 5-on-5 save percentage for the month of November was an incredible 95% over ten games. Even without filtering for minutes played, only Ilya Sorokin can claim a better November among starters (and Alexandar Georgiev but he’s more of a #1A in Colorado than a pure #1). What about all situations? Vanecek remains among the best in the NHL for November with an overall save percentage of 93%. (Here, Karel Vejmelka and Sorokin are ahead of him.) The Devils won 13 out of 14 games but most of those games (and the one loss) had situations where the Devils needed the goaltender to bail them out or step up as the skaters found their way into the game. Vanecek did an excellent job of that when called upon. Vanecek had to come in to replace an injured Blackwood, gave up a goal, and then went from strength to strength from there on out. He has yet to give up more than 3 goals in a game since that awful home opener, which further shows how important he has been to the Devils when he is in the crease. We should be grateful Chabot’s knee did not do any damage as well as thankful that Vanecek has kept up his excellent play for weeks. While Hughes, Hischier, Tatar, Bratt, Siegenthaler, and Schmid all played huge roles (not to mention Hamilton, Marino, Mercer, Wood, and Sharangovich), Vanecek was the most central to the Devils’ awesome run of success in this past month. I do not think we are happy about a 13-1-0 month without Vanecek. I do think there were a lot of great performances by Devils this month. Vanecek’s was the greatest in my view. Hence, Vitek Vanecek is the All About the Jersey Devil of the Month for November 2022.
Concluding Thoughts & Your Take
In the October 2022 Month in Review, I wrote how I was not ready to write a “I’m sorry, Ruff and Fitzgerald, your team is now really good and I was wrong to doubt you this time” kind of post until January 1, 2023. I wanted to see how November would go. As it turned out, November turned out so well that the Devils can be a bit below average from here on out and still have a 100-point season and make the playoffs. I could very well write that post now. It is certainly earned. Fitzgerald’s moves for this season have paid off huge. Ruff and his staff clearly have the team playing exceptionally well and winning loads of games. They are more than doing something OK, to use a phrase from a weepy ex-Canuck captain.
Stubborn as it may seem, I still want to wait until January as past Decembers have been rough, if not rougher, than Novembers in recent Devils history. As much as I risk falling to the Gambler’s Fallacy, I am not confident the Devils will keep firing pucks in at a rate of 10% in 5-on-5 play, or that the goalies will keep posting 95% save percentages in 5-on-5 hockey. I also think some of their issues like starting off games or periods slowly, discipline, and the penalty kill will cause them more issues down the road if not addressed. There will be some cooling off and I want to see how the Devils will handle it. Especially in a month filled with more home games and games within the division. I know December 2022 will not likely end with a 12-1-0 or 11-2-0 or similarly gaudy record for the month. Although that would be sweet. I still do not want December to be a total let down where it looks like all of the good things earned so far become at risk at falling apart.
I will say that I doubt that will happen in full. The excellent 5-on-5 numbers point to a team who knows how to handle their business in the most common situation in hockey. Special teams could be better, but they have not been a total weakness that opponents have picked on. While they cannot do it every time it happens, the Devils have been able to come back from one and two goal deficits multiple times in this past month. They have not wilted if the opposition ties it up. They can take control and finish games either in regulation or in overtime. It is a minor miracle the Devils have not had a shootout yet and yet I feel more confident than in past seasons they would do better in those too. The quality of Hughes, Hischier, Bratt, Hamilton, Siegenthaler, and so forth are clearly on display. And the depth of the lineup has been and is good enough to do more than just have the occasional good shift or night. Sure, losses will happen. But with all of what they have shown so far, I really doubt the Devils will transform from a juggernaut to a jabroni. That in of itself is a great achievement compared with recent seasons.
I will also go as far as to say that the 2022-23 Devils have been playing like and earning results like an actual contender. Such teams may have slumps and go through some rough patches, but they continue to get enough results that it does not matter much. The Devils have put themselves in a position where they can do that. At some point, you have to admit that the animal that waddles and sounds like a duck could very well be a duck. I am getting there with the Devils being legitimate contenders instead of a team hoping to play some meaningful games past the NHL Trade Deadline for a change. A successful December where the Devils sustain the good things about their performances and improve the not-so-good things should get me there. Then, I think I can honestly write the apology to Tom Fitzgerald and Lindy Ruff that they deserve.
Of course, after a month like this, the expectations are also higher, so it is important that Fitzgerald, Ruff, and the Devils organization does not get complacent. With eight home games and six games within the division coming up, they should get the incentive to avoid resting on their earnings. Given how they play on the ice and have performed this season, I would be more shocked if they became complacent enough to drift down to the rest of the Metropolitan Division teams scrapping for a playoff spot (e.g. Our Hated Rivals).
As one final point, I will say that this past month is among the best in Devils history. I still have a strong spot in my heart for April 2006. The Devils were on fire led by the EGG Line, won 11-straight games, took first in the Atlantic Division, and swept Our Hated Rivals. The latter point is the one that puts that month over the top for me. This is not to say that this past month was not incredible. It was more than impressive. The Devils tied the franchise record for consecutive wins - which is among the most in NHL history; still have a road-game winning streak still alive; and responded to the loss before Thanksgiving with three straight wins to streak into December. So many Devils have done so well and so many have contributed in so many ways. To make the most of it, the Devils need to keep pushing ahead. Starting tonight against Nashville at the Rock.
Now that you have read my take and review of November 2022 for the Devils, I want to know what you think. How much can the Devils possibly keep up from what they did in November? Were you surprised with the team stats in November? Which of the 14 games the Devils played in November impressed you the most? Would you agree that Vanecek was the best Devil of the month of November? Or that Hughes was the runner up ahead of Hischier, Bratt, Tatar, Siegenthaler, and Schmid (among others)? Please leave your answers and last thoughts about the near-perfect November in the comments. Thank you for reading.