Back on Sunday, I decided to “honor” Columbus trading forward and noted thorn in the side Oliver Bjorkstrand, by looking at who has done the most damage against the Our Favorite Team since the 2015-16 season. Which was Bjorkstrand’s first season as well as a low point in what was the Ray Shero Rebuild for the Devils. Some of the People Who Matter liked the post. Others were bothered that while Bjorkstrand cannot be ruining the New Jersey Devils in future Devils-Jackets games, Johnny Gaudreau absolutely can with the help of Jakub Voracek. One of the People Who Matter, DayOneFan82, had a request:
Fun article John. Thanks for putting this together
Could you think about the reverse and see if there are Devils that have favorite teams to score against?
I wrote that I would and this is that post. This time it is to see whom certain Devils have put up points against.
As the Devils Killers post started with 2015-16, I decided to use the same time frame of the last seven seasons for this post. I also decided to look at both the team and player level of opposition splits in this timeframe. How the team or player did against the various other teams in the NHL. This will both check whether Columbus has been a problematic opponent for New Jersey (spoiler: yes); and find if there are any teams where the Devils seemingly have their number. NHL.com’s team stats section does this well across multiple seasons, albeit with a little work to check each opponent. As the NHL’s schedule has changed throughout the last seven seasons, this will be organized by points percentage (points earned over potential points).
For the players, I decided to focus on the more prolific producers on the team. I do not think anyone really wants to know who, say, Michael McLeod has lit up. (Aside: It’s Philadelphia in terms of points with 8, Seattle in terms of points per game with 1.50.) I went to NHL.com to find out who were the top ten scorers for the Devils from 2015-16 to 2021-22. They were: Kyle Palmieri, Damon Severson, Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, Travis Zajac, Pavel Zacha, Miles Wood, Jack Hughes, and Will Butcher. Five of those players are no longer Devils anymore. Therefore, I identified Severson, Hischier, Bratt, Wood, and Hughes as players I want to see their career opposition splits to find out who they have produced the most against. I also decided on adding two notable Devils who are more recent to the organization: Dougie Hamilton and Ondrej Palat. Both will be Devils for quite some time, so it would be of interest to see if there are any potentially preferred opponents for them. Hockey-Reference easily has opposition splits for all players, so that data comes from there. To account for the difference in games played, I organized each split by points per game.
Can We (Not) Play You Every Week?: The Team Splits
Since 2015-16, here is the total record of the New Jersey Devils against each opponent. I colored each row for the current division. Light green is the Pacific Division; light purple is the Central Division, blue is the Atlantic Division, and red (and most important) is the Metropolitan Division. The red, uh, has not been kind to the Devils.
Let us get the bad news out of the way first. It is not your imagination that Columbus has been eating the Devils’ lunch for years. The Devils have taken the fewest amount of potential points against them. They are dead last in points percentage. They have also been outscored by the Blue Jackets by 35. Surprising to me, the Washington Capitals are right there with them. They have outscored the Devils by 39 and the Devils have beaten them just six times out of 31 games over the last seven seasons. Given that both are in the same division as the Devils, this is absolutely not good for any cause to push up the standings.
In fact, most of the Metropolitan Division teams have done well against the Devils. New Jersey has a points percentage below 50% for five of their seven opponents in their division. As bad as it to see Our Hated Rivals have a winning record against the Devils, it is a better record than the past seven seasons against Pittsburgh, the Islanders, Washington, and Columbus. If you’re looking for the Devils to return to some kind of glory, then it is imperative that they not be doormats for their closest opponents. The current schedule may not be as division heavy as it was in the past, but with playoff spots being driven by divisional places, those games matter.
Other troublesome teams include plenty of Western Conference teams, often a part of long trips out there or a part of trips out East for them. Calgary, Winnipeg, St. Louis, and Colorado have taken plenty of points from the Devils. Las Vegas and Nashville have also done well against the Devils too. Notable among those is that the Devils have only been a high scoring squad in their games against Las Vegas. The others have kept the offense to relative minimum. They have also lit up the Devils; only Colorado has averaged fewer than three goals per game against the Devils over the past seven seasons.
There are some positives here though. The Devils have absolutely dominated Vancouver for the last seven seasons. 11-1-0 is just brilliant to go with a goal differential of +15. The Pacific Division opponents run the gamut from teams the Devils have done well against (Vancouver, Seattle, Los Angeles) to opponents who have given the Devils problems (San Jose, Las Vegas, Calgary). Alas, the Devils do not see them very much.
The same can be said for the Central Division. Half of the division has decisively been better than the Devils in their games. The other half has been quite good for the Devils. That better end is led by Chicago and Arizona of the Central Division. The Devils-Blackhawk games have been especially high scoring with the B-Hawks averaging over three goals per game and the Devils averaging just over four per game. If you like goals and wins, then look forward to those Chicago-New Jersey games. Arizona games have been more even in terms of scoring, but the Devils have come away with more wins than not. Minnesota-Devils games are similar to Arizona-Devils games where both teams are even in goals but the Devils have the edge in total results.
Over in the Atlantic, the better teams have, as you may have expected, done well against the Devils over the last seven seasons. Toronto and Tampa Bay being the teams the Devils have struggled with the most. The Devils have been able to take more advantage of the current lesser teams in the Atlantic. Martin Brodeur may not be frustrating Montreal anymore, but the Devils continue to do so with a 10-4-4 record against them. As Montreal is seemingly rebuilding, this may continue. It has been a bad decade for Buffalo and the Devils have been quite successful against them too with an 15-8-2 record. That may continue as Buffalo is still trying to find a direction for progress. While the records get closer to 50%, Ottawa and Detroit have not been consistently a problem. They might be as both teams are better now than they were; but we shall see.
As for the Metropolitan Division, the Second Rate Rivals has been the better one for the Devils to beat up on. A positive goal differential, a healthy 3.06 goals per game average, and a successful 17-11-3 record clearly shows who is the better of the two teams. Since Philly stopped at nothing this offseason and stayed there, the Devils may continue to get the better of the Orange and Black. Surprising to me, the Devils have had a winning record against Carolina over the last seven seasons. Carolina was lost in their own way for a good chunk of that time period, but they were never total doormats. They are excellent now, though. (More on that in a future post) That does not bode well for the Devils maintaining a favorable record against the Canes. But we shall see.
In short, from a team perspective, enjoy those games against Vancouver, Seattle, Chicago, Montreal, Arizona, and Buffalo. Continue to dread the nights where the Devils are playing Columbus, Washington, Calgary, Winnipeg, St. Louis, and Colorado.
Notable Devils Splits
Against those 31 opponents, the range of leading Devil scorers against each is a bit broader than you think. Kyle Palmieri is the leading scorer in this timeframe against 13 of these opponents. That will surely change over time. It has happened in a couple of cases, where Nico Hischier is now the team’s leading scorer over the last seven seasons against Washington, St. Louis, and Las Vegas. Likewise, Bratt became the current leading scorer in games against Los Angeles, Edmonton, Anaheim, Colorado, and Winnipeg. As Hischier will be a Devil for a while and Bratt should be. Jack Hughes will surely show up soon. To that end, it is more useful to look at who is still on the team that can crush it against specific opponents. In order to total points with the Devils, let us go to the first of two defensemen in this post.
Damon Severson - 213 Points in 515 Games
Severson is the current games played leader with the Devils over these seven seasons, so he has done it all against everyone. He is also a defenseman so one should not expect a massive amount of production.
In terms of total points, Severson has brought it against the Metropolitan Division. 17 against the Pens is his high, 16 against the Flyers and 15 against the Capitals and Our Hated Rivals follow closely behind. Of course, he played over 30 games against each. If you go by a per-game average, you will see that Severson against Chicago has been incredibly fruitful. Anything above a 0.5 point per game average is certainly worth highlighting, especially for a defenseman. Therefore, enjoy #28 against Florida, Las Vegas, Edmonton, Ottawa, and Los Angeles. Seattle too, although those were literally the first two games ever played against the Kraken. At the opposite end, do not hold your breath for Severson putting up much against Columbus, Toronto, Calgary, and Colorado.
Nico Hischier - 206 points in 300 games
Nico Hischier has been quite good for the Devils. He is the highest scoring forward among the active forwards on the team over the past seven seasons. Which is impressive since he has only played in five of those seven seasons.
The Captain has been the most productive against Washington, one of the teams to give the Devils fits over the years. 14 points in 15 games is certainly an example for the team to follow if they want to get some wins over the Caps in the future. Hischier has also been very productive against Carolina, Ottawa, and Montreal. He has done the most damage to those five teams. He has a healthy amount of points against Detroit, Edmonton, Winnipeg (another bogey team for the Devils), Philadelphia, and Florida too. Hischier is not just a guy who built up a bunch of points against a handful of teams; you can see the rates down the whole list. If anyone has given Hischier problems on the scoresheet, then it is the three California teams where Hischier’s production just drops to a relatively low rate.
Jesper Bratt - 203 points in 307 games
As of this writing, Jesper Bratt has not been Paid yet. With his 203 points in 307 games in five seasons with the teams, Bratt should be getting Paid. And there are plenty of opponents who would agree with that.
Bratt has averaged at least a point per game against Colorado, Anaheim, Edmonton, and Winnipeg. Sure, only a bunch of games against each, but two of those teams have given the Devils a lot of issues and Bratt still found a way to produce against them. Going further down the list, you can see that Bratt loves playing Buffalo with his 17 points in 18 games against them, enjoys the two Pennsylvania teams, and has put up high rates of points over teams the Devils have enjoyed playing against (Chicago, Arizona) and not (Toronto, Tampa Bay). The only downside with these splits are the bottom six teams on this list. Five are within the Metropolitan, and two include the Devils’ most problematic opponents. Oddly, San Jose has kept Bratt to a minimum, but you would like to see #63 do more against the division.
Miles Wood - 121 points in 326 games
Wood has the lowest point per game rate among the Devils in that NHL.com list. He is also the only non-top six forward as Wood has largely played in a depth role for the Devils. Longevity plus some bursts in scoring clawed his way up the list.
Wood has absolutely enjoyed his games against Chicago, Tampa Bay, and Arizona. Buffalo and Philadelphia too; even with the lower point per game rates, he has 8 goals and 11 points against each. Unfortunately, between Wood’s limited role and limited skillset, the production rates are not that high against most opponents. He even has yet to register a point against San Jose, Dallas, and Colorado and just has the one point in multiple games against Las Vegas, St. Louis, Winnipeg, and Nashville. I suppose I have to say, keep chopping, Wood.
Jack Hughes - 108 points in 166 games
The Big Deal is the youngest member in this post as he has only played in three out of the seven seasons covered in this post. That he is already this high up in scoring speaks to his growth as a scorer. Expect him to join Bratt and Hischier soon and maybe even sooner than you think.
Since Hughes has only had three seasons of NHL hockey and one of those three - 2021 - was limited to just seven opponents. This means he has eight points per game averages but it does not mean a ton as all eight were for opponents he has played just one to four times. However, in terms of gross, you can see some opponents where Hughes has crushed it more. 9 points against Our Hated Rivals and Pittsburgh so far is appreciated. 8 in 10 against Buffalo is helpful. Even 8 in 13 against Boston and 7 in 13 against Washington are positive developments. There are some opponents who have limited Hughes from hitting the scoresheet. San Jose has shut him out and Hughes’ point per game rates against Philly, Anaheim, Dallas, the Islanders, and Detroit are notably lower than the rest. Among that group, the Islanders and Philadelphia are the more concerning ones as the Devils will see them more than the others. Then again, Hughes has 6 points already against the Flyers. It’s really the Islanders that is the troublesome divisional opponent for #86. For now, at least.
Dougie Hamilton - 30 points in 62 games as a Devil (288 in 491 games total)
The Devils’ biggest free agent signing of 2021 is going to be a Devil through the 2027-28 season. He is also one of the most productive defensemen in the last seven seasons; he is tied with Ryan Suter for the 15th most points in the entire NHL. It is valuable to see whom has been damaged by the Dougie. Perhaps he can continue it for the Devils.
Compare this with Severson and you can see why Hamilton was so sought after and paid as much. Severson has averaged 0.5 or more points per game against 7 opponents, including Seattle. Hamilton has averaged that many against 19 opponents - which does not include Seattle, the only team he has yet to register a point against. Impressively, Hamilton has done the most to Calgary from a PPG perspective, a team he used to play for. In terms of raw points, Hamilton has the most against Florida (23), Buffalo (20), and Tampa Bay (20) with Nashville (19), Edmonton (19), and Detroit (18) close by. As Hamilton previously played for Carolina, Calgary, and Boston, his range of opponents is much different. But those are the teams I would expect him to do well against. Also, the Islanders - which would be useful as they are in the division.
Ondrej Palat - 0 points in 0 games as a Devil (297 in 458 games total)
The Devils’ biggest free agent signing from the market this Summer is Ondrej Palat. The Devils signed the long-time Bolt to a six-season contract. He has been quite productive over the last seven seasons on a squad with Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman, and Nikita Kucherov among others. The hope is that he can bring some of his success up from Tampa Bay to Newark, New Jersey. His splits suggest some opponents whom he may shine against.
Palat has been a fairly consistent scorer. He’s only struggled to produce against Anaheim, Los Angeles, Minnesota, and St. Louis. In terms of who he has produced a lot against, the most common opponents have been his Atlantic brethren: Detroit (28), Florida (26), Buffalo (25), Montreal (21), and Ottawa (21). Boston may be low on the PPG rate but Palat has 16 points against the B’s too. Not a total surprise given how good Tampa Bay has been. But Palat putting up 25 points in 22 games against Dallas is a bonkers stat, as is putting up 15 in 16 against Winnipeg. Palat has absolutely enjoyed those games from a production standpoint. We shall see if he continues all of that as a Devil. (And if he turns it around against Philly, Our Hated Rivals, and Washington too. That would be nice.)
Thanks to DayOneFan82 for the request that led to this post. It is a bit more positive in terms of showing whom the team has done well against as well as the various opponents Devils players have been successful. It is a wide array across the different players in terms of which teams have been good for their production. Buffalo and Arizona were common names, as expected since the Devils have done well against them. However, there have been some individual surprises at both ends of their respective splits. If nothing else, it is good trivia. And we have confirmation that, yes, those games against Columbus have been that awful for this long. And Washington. And others. Alas. To that end, please let me know what you’ve learned in the comments. Thank you for reading.