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How Likely Do You Think That Will Happen Again?

The 2022-23 season was an incredible one for the New Jersey Devils. Literally. Ahead of the 2023-24 season, this is a post to point out that it may not be repeat of what happened last season.

Columbus Blue Jackets v New Jersey Devils
The People Who Matter saw a lot of greatness in 2022-23. It was incredible. Literally.
Photo by Rich Graessle/NHLI via Getty Images

The 2022-23 New Jersey Devils were incredible. I mean that literally. In retrospect, it is remarkable how much went the Devils way last season. Earlier this week, Jared wrote about whether the “vibes” were “too good” and a lot of that is based on what happened last season. Earlier this Summer, Alex wrote about the team’s luck and concluded that the team did get some big swings their way. I think both are correct but they do not go far enough. I agree with many of the People Who Matter that the Devils should be seen as contenders going forward. As Mike wrote after the second round loss to Carolina, the team has a new challenge: Expectations. I think they are able to meet them next season. What I do not think will happen is a repeat of last season. Simply because last season was incredible.

I am going to present a number of facts about the team last season. This is all with a big-picture view. What I want you to do is to ask the same question I asked myself when I looked them up recently: How likely do you think this will happen again?

Final Record: The New Jersey Devils finished the 2022-23 season with a record of 52-22-8. The team set a franchise record for wins with 52 and points with 112. The Devils have had one season ever before last season where they won 50 or more games: the 51-win 2008-09 season.

How likely do you think that will happen again?

Head-to-Head Matchups: The New Jersey Devils swept 12 different opponents last season. The Devils went 2-for-2 against Anaheim, Arizona, Calgary, Chicago, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, San Jose, and Vancouver. They went 3-for-3 against Columbus (two blowouts sandwiched by a 1.4 second-left winner by Ryan Graves) and Ottawa. They went 4-for-4 against Pittsburgh. Calgary and Pittsburgh both narrowly missed the postseason. This all combined for 28 of the team’s 52 wins in 2022-23. Colorado, Edmonton, and Los Angeles comfortably made the playoffs.

On the flipside, the Devils only had two opponents where they earned zero points from their games: two games against St. Louis and three games against Boston. Yes, the 65-win, 135-point earning, record-setting Boston Bruins. Overall, the Devils took fewer than 50% of the points against six out of 31 opponents last season.

How likely do you think that will happen again?

Record Versus Divisions: The New Jersey Devils achieved the following with each of the four divisions last season:

  • Devils vs. Metropolitan - 18-6-2, 38 points, 73.08% of all points
  • Devils vs. Atlantic - 12-11-1, 25 points, 52.08% of all points
  • Devils vs. Central - 8-5-3, 19 points, 59.38% of all points
  • Devils vs. Pacific - 14-0-2, 30 points, 93.75% of all points

I am not making that last one up. The Devils were a shootout against Adin Hill and an overtime loss to Seattle away from sweeping an entire division last season.

How likely do you think that will happen again?

Road Trips: As an Eastern team, the Devils often play out West as part of larger road trips. I typically classify that any run of three or more straight road games is a road trip. Here is how those trips went last season based on a review of the Devils’ schedule:

  • Western Canada (November 1-5): 3-0 at Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary (OT)
  • Eastern Canada (November 15-19): 3-0 at Montreal, Toronto (OT), and Ottawa
  • California Plus (January 10-19): 4-0-1 at Carolina, Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose (SO), and Seattle (OT Loss)
  • February Trip (February 11-18): 2-1-1 at Minnesota (SO Loss), Columbus, St. Louis (L), and Pittsburgh
  • March Trip (March 1-5): 2-0-1 at Colorado, Las Vegas (SO Loss), and Arizona (OT)

The Devils went a combined 14-1-3 on these trips. They swept Western Canada, Eastern Canada, and the State of California all in the same season. They were an April 2 bad time in Winnipeg away from sweeping the Great White North in their buildings in this past season.

How likely do you think that will happen again?

Winning Streaks: The New Jersey Devils all but locked up a top spot in the Metropolitan Division on the back of a 13-game winning streak last season. They won 13 straight from October 25 through November 21. This included two of the above trips, sweeps of Calgary and Edmonton, a 1-0 win over Colorado, three OT wins, and eight of the other nine wins featured four or more goals scored by New Jersey. It ended with a controversial 1-2 loss to Toronto prior to Per Champs or Chumps, this tied a franchise record set by the amazing 2000-01 team. They won 13 straight from February 26 to March 23; which included two OT wins, all wins had 3+ goals, and nine of those wins had 4+ goals.

How likely do you think that will happen again?

Consecutive Losses: The 2022-23 Devils had only five instances of consecutive games without wins in the season. Thanks to Champs or Chumps for highlighting it:

  • 2 Games (0-2-0) - October 13-15: At Philadelphia, vs. Detroit
  • 6 Games (0-5-1) - December 9-20: vs. Islanders, at Our Hated Rivals (OT), vs. Dallas, vs. Philadelphia, vs. Florida, at Carolina
  • 2 Games (0-2-0) - December 23-28: vs. Boston twice
  • 3 Games (0-2-1) - March 14-18: vs. Tampa Bay, vs. Tampa Bay (SO Loss), at Florida
  • 2 Games (0-1-1) - March 21-24: vs. Minnesota (OT), at Buffalo

The first two games of the season hurt but that is history at this point. The only real slump from last season was that six-game skid in December, which was somewhat beefed up by the consecutive losses to Boston. You could argue that the nine game run of 1-7-1 in December was the slump. It was more than made up in January and February. After all, it was not until March where the Devils did not win for two or more games in a row. Even that happened just twice and did not persist. You could combine them but even that was in between much more winning. The worst case look is that the Devils had two extended slumps all season.

How likely do you think that will happen again?

Results by Goalies: Vitek Vanecek was the team’s #1 goalie as he played 52 games last season. He finished it with a respectable overall save percentage of 91.1%. Akira Schmid played in 18 games before his playoff heroics. His stints combined with a great overall save percentage of 92.2%. MacKenzie Blackwood got 22 games to prove he still had it. He did not given his poor overall save percentage of 89.3%. Here is how the Devils performed with each goalie.

Vanecek (52 GP, 48 starts, 91.1 Sv%): 33-11-4, 70 points, 72.9% of all points

Schmid (18 GP, 14 starts, 92.2 Sv%): 9-5-2, 20 points, 62.5% of all points

Blackwood (22 GP, 20 starts, 89.3 Sv%): 10-6-2, 22 points, 61.1% of all points

Goalies are going to have good and bad nights. Over a season, the good ones will stand out. Clearly, Blackwood played his way out of New Jersey. Still, the Devils found ways to make up for Blackwood’s performances and get results. They found ways to do it with Schmid starting or being the goalie of decision twice in relief. They clearly found a lot of success with Vanecek. So much so that they were better than just good with either goalie in the net for them over the course of last season.

How likely do you think that will happen again?

Reiteration: I think I have made my point clear. Allow me to make this one clearer. By no means I am stating the 2023-24 Devils are doomed or going to fall short or that they will not be good. I think they will be very good. I think they will compete with Carolina to for the division lead once more. What I am stating is that last season was incredible. Whether you just became one of the People Who Matter - a Devils fan - or you paid attention for the first time after a long rebuilding process or you were that captivated by the 2022-23 season, I hope you understand how incredible it was. The team’s results alone justify that. And as the question itself implies, it is not very likely it will happen again.

This upcoming season can be great. I think it will. But it will be great in its own way. Thank you for reading.