Preseason in the NHL is always a funny thing; sometimes teams perform really well during it and don’t do great once the real deal starts. Other times teams have an awful preseason and wind up doing well during the regular season; sometimes during a campaign, teams perform exactly the same way they did in the preseason, for better or for worse. If that last part is true for 2022-23, I think we would all want the New Jersey Devils to continue doing what they’ve been doing so far. 2-0 prior to the start of tonight’s home and home, fans, pundits and team personnel have to be happy to see that.
But is it real? Is it sustainable?
Obviously those questions can’t be answered in full until the season starts, as there’s a number of variables that can affect the end result. From the two games, personally, I’m encouraged by the results, but I can understand there being some doubt as well due to the circumstances. Today, we’re going to take a quick look at the end result of each game, and why we should be encouraged by it, and also why we could be hesitant to feel positively about it.
Devils Defeat Montreal Canadiens 2-1
This game featured a lesser number of players who were in the NHL last season for both teams, and while I can’t necessarily speak for the Canadiens side, I would expect that less than 10 Devils who played in this game will be on the opening night roster this season. I think the hesitancy of feeling positive from this game would be that the Devils didn’t perform better against a team that is forecasted to be towards the bottom of the standings. In fact, the game was almost tied in the third if it hadn’t been for Montreal being well offside on the play.
What was encouraging was the Devils winning the game with only 11 forwards for most of it after Nico Hischier went out in the second period due to cramping. Considering that left the Devils with less NHL talent in the lineup, and almost none at center, pulling out a 2-1 under those circumstances has to be seen as a good thing. The play of Mackenzie Blackwood should also be encouraging; while he did allow a power play goal, it was the only puck that beat him on 16 shots for a .938 save percentage on the night. While some of those shots were coming from players who won’t be on a NHL roster at least to start the season, the way that Blackwood looked during the game (along with the stat line) should have Devils fans feeling at least a bit better about goaltending.
Devils Defeat New York Islanders 4-1
Speaking of feeling good about goaltending, how about some of the saves Vitek Vanacek made against the Islanders? While his save percentage was a bit lower than Blackwood’s from the night prior, Vanacek also only let in one goal as the rest of the team in front of him controlled (and at times dominated) the game. Akira Schmid also put on a good relief performance, stopping all 11 shots that came his way while the Islanders tried to pull themselves back into the game.
This group played with some more players that will be/are expected to be NHL regulars this season, and some of them looked really good. The Jack Hughes, Alexander Holtz, Ondrej Palat line looked to be clicking already while Erik Haula chipping in a goal and being named first star showed that he has potential to play an important role for the Devils. The defense played a strong game, and a couple of defenders chipped in offensively as well, which is another strength that hopefully carries over into the regular season.
As for what might make someone hesitant from this game...I have to say I didn’t see anything in this one. The Devils put three goals past anticipated Islanders started Ilya Sorokin, and while They only got one through Cory Schneider on 14 shots, a lot of what was sent his way wasn’t as dangerous as the shots that challenged Sorokin. Even after going down by one early, the Devils played a strong game, put up four unanswered, and played their way until the end. If that’s not the desired result for all games this season, I don’t know what is.
Final Thoughts and Your Take
The games next week will probably be a better indicator of the Devils overall, as by then cuts will be made and the players dressing for each game will be more like what we will see come the regular season. The early returns from the roster so far however has me feeling good about the group. There will be said variable affecting the team, and the hope is that the adjustments to the coaching staff will help to address anything that needs changing or fixing throughout the season. Again, it’s early, and maybe the Devils are just setting the stage to break our hearts again, but I’d rather be optimistic and excited and get hurt again then just be down on this team.
What are your thoughts on the Devils preseason results so far; are you encouraged by what you’ve seen? Do you think the results are due to weaker rosters from the opposition? How do you feel about the goaltending compared to last season? Are we just setting ourselves up to be hurt again? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!