With a new NHL season upon us, we New Jersey Devils fans are feeling pretty good about this team. Some upgrades were made over the summer, some young players made the team, and the group went 7-0-0 in preseason play. Expectations and excitement are at aa high, and with that we need a small dose of reality. After all, there was some confidence around the 2022-23 squad, and that resulted in an 0-2-0 start and the now infamous “Fire Lindy” chants.
The Devils open 2023-24 with a back to back set at home, first tonight against the Detroit Red Wings, followed by a visit from the Arizona Coyotes tomorrow. While the Red Wings were part of the Devils’ opening pair of games last year, both teams have enough differences to make tonight’s tilt a complete different experience. With a team just beginning to climb out of a rebuild followed up with a team that is in one, the Devils need to have a strong start. Two early victories would help to set the proper tone for this season, and to cement the idea that the Devils are back in a very real way.
Looking forward into the remaining games in October, the Devils only have a pair of contests next week, first facing the Florida Panthers at home, followed by the first away game of the season against the New York Islanders. Week three of the season sees the second back to back already with a game in Montreal before coming back home to face the Washington Capitals. The Devils will also play Buffalo at home to end that third week before their final October game on Sunday the 29th, also a home contest against the Minnesota Wild.
Based on how these teams have done in the past seasons, changes (or lack thereof) to their rosters, and expectations on each squad, the Devils should realistically come out of October with a strong record. If the Devils play their way, they realistically could come out of the month with 16 points. I will give some leeway though, and not expect al eight of those contests to be wins for the team. With how competitive the Metropolitan Division, and the Eastern Conference, could be, the Devils need to take advantage of easier parts of their schedule and accrue as many early points as possible. It never hurts to build a buffer or to capitalize on easier segments of the season.
I could see the Devils maybe dropping a point or two against the Panthers (who are also a good team) or perhaps on the back half of the second back to back when travel could take a toll on them. Otherwise, a lot of the teams being played in October are declining, or at the very least, not on the level that the Devils have shown that they can be on. The Devils need to use these early contests to set the tone for the season. A hot start could lead to another big winning streak, another season with a big win total, and hopefully a season where the Devils go even further than last. We know that teams in playoff position by American Thanksgiving and Christmas typically wind up being playoff teams; a good early start could help the Devils to solidify that positioning to propel them closer to their ultimate goal.
What ae your thoughts on the Devils’ early schedule; do you think starting off hot is necessary? Are there any games in this opening month that you think will be tougher contests? Any that you think the Devils should be winning under any circumstance? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!