Let me start today’s piece by stating that when I say “this weekend” I’m including tonight’s contest where the New Jersey Devils stop off in Pittsburgh to face the Penguins. Tonight and Saturday will both see games played within the division, with the aforementioned away game, and a home tilt against Our Hated Rivals on Saturday. Seasons are obviously not made or lost less than a quarter of the way in, but the Devils have quite a bit to do to ensure they turn things around. Winning two games that are essentially worth four points each would be a good way to start that process.
As of this writing, the team sits sixth(!) in the Metro with a paltry 7-6-1 record and 15 points. Now they do have games in hand on two of the teams in front of them, and they could use to make good on that to climb back into contention. In the conference as a whole, the Devils are currently 12th out of 16 teams, and again the games in hand they have on a bunch of them are good, but only if the team makes good on them. The imminent return of Jack Hughes (hopefully tonight) will help, as might the debut of Colin Miller (who should get Brendan Smith bounced to the press box as Chris pointed out earlier this week); the team also needs Nico Hischier to get healthy sooner rather than later.
The remainder of November as a whole could wind up being very important to the overall success of this season. With seven games remaining, including tonight, there are still 14 points overall that the Devils could add to their total. Additionally, five of those seven contests are against divisional opponents, with the three I’ve yet to mention being against Columbus, the Islanders and the Second Rate Rivals. All of those teams are beatable and these are games that could again represent a four point swing. The Devils cannot keep dropping games with or without their top centers; the depth needs to step up and allow the Devils a chance in the remaining November contests.
So what constitutes a realistic number? I think for the ship to be righted, the Devils need to take at least five of these next seven games. With so many divisional points at stake, there’s not a ton of room for error, and the Devils certainly don’t want to dig themselves deeper before the calendar changes over to December. Additionally, having a successful back half of this month would mean momentum being built entering the last month of 2023, where the Devils could continue to amass more points as they continue to get closer to full strength and health.
Maybe this weekend isn’t the be all end all of the season, but what better time to turn around a subpar season than now? Jersey’s Team has had a rough run so far, and the team has yet to start firing on all cylinders. Start strong tonight, pay attention to where teammates and opponents are, minimize the mistakes, and play Devils hockey. For all we know, the entire season might depend on it.
What are your thoughts on this weekend for the Devils; is it as crucial as I believe it to be, or am I overstating the importance? Do you think the five divisional games this month will affect the Devils season outcome, be it positive or negative? Are you more of the mindset that there’s plenty of season left to play even after November and the team will be okay even if this weekend is lost? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as aways for reading