Two games do not define an NHL season; teams can lament losses in the final two games of a season costing them a playoff spot or two wins propelling them in, but the fact remains that the other 80 on the schedule need to be accounted for as well. Despite the fact that each of the 82 in a current NHL season is important, the Devils find themselves with a back to back situation tomorrow and Saturday where this pair of games represents a chance to gain some ground in their division. More importantly still is that this could be a weekend to give them some momentum.
The team has struggled all season; we’ve watched the games, lamented the performances and even been concerned over the amount of games lost to injury so far. Yet after last night’s victory over the Washington Capitals, the underachieving, struggling Devils still find their 20-14-2 record good enough to occupy a wild card spot. Jersey’s Team also has games in hand on the Hurricanes (2), Islanders (2 after they play tonight) and Second Rate Rivals (also 2 after tonight) who could all be jumped by the time play concludes on Saturday.
Friday’s game sees the rebuilding Chicago Blackhawks come in to The Rock. They’re not a team to be taken lightly as Connor Bedard has shown to be the prospect he was projected to be and then some. He is, however, just one player. The Hawks are a banged up team, and again, just not a very good one overall right now. They’re also going to be on the back half of two in a row, as they play Our Hated Rivals tonight. I’ll be honest when I say I couldn’t care less about the result of tonight’s game, just as long as Chicago comes into tomorrow’s game tired and sluggish. If the Devils play smart, they should take home two points here, but this team does not like to make things easy this season as we know.
The Hughes Bowl will see part two on Saturday with the Canucks coming to town on Saturday. As Vancouver plays tonight, they’ll have a day to travel and rest prior to puck drop, meaning it will be the Devils playing for a second night in a row this time. That said, the Devils have shown they can beat the Canucks, despite them giving away a lead and needing some Jesper Bratt heroics to save the game. This time the Devils will have last change, so hopefully Lindy Ruff will exploit some of the matchups in our team’s favor and maybe our goaltending won’t try to choke this one away.
Four points this weekend is absolutely within reach, and i things bounce the Devils’ way, they could find themselves as high as second in the Metropolitan Division. Again, not bad for a team that has absolutely not played like the group they were expected to be at season’s start. Two more wins for a Devils team that has won four of their last five could be absolutely critical right now. Picking up wins in six out of seven in spite of defensive mistakes and some shaky goaltending (to put it lightly) could be what sparks this team to play the way we know they can.
This weekend is the time to seize momentum. It’s the time to start cleaning up the defensive mistakes. It’s time to find ways to make passes connect. Time for the Devils to get back to the basis of what makes their attack so successful. To pick up points and some ground in the standings.
Two games will not define the New Jersey Devils or their 2023-24.
But they could certainly go a long way to inspiring the confidence this team needs to keep the ball rolling in the second half of this season.
What are your thoughts on this weekend’s pair of games; do you think both are winnable contests? Is there one you see as more important than the other? Are you concerned that the better team comes in with our Devils on the latter half of a back to back? Could a successful weekend propel the Devils to greater success in the second half of the season? Leave any and all thoughts down below and thanks as always for reading!