The Devils have played three games so far this month, including their 2-1 victory over Buffalo last night. And in each of their three games, New Jersey has managed to get points. Although the team was dead last in the Eastern Conference only a little more than a week ago, as of this morning, the Devils were only two points out of the playoffs. The true picture is a bit more tenuous, as both the Maple Leafs and the Islanders (which are ahead of New Jersey in the standings) have played three fewer games, but the Devils have the advantage of playing seven of the next eight games at home.
I say advantage because most teams play better at home than on the road, but that has not been the case for the Devils recently. Last night’s win was the first in eight home games that New Jersey won at the Prudential Center. But, there is reason to believe that the recent past is just that, as the Devils started the season on fire at home. Overall their record is 11-9-4 at the Pru.
This coming week is the Devils bye week, so it’s a good time to once again take stock. What does the near future look like? Who is now hot, who is not?
How the Devils play these next eight games will seal their fate for the season. Six of the next eight games are against Eastern Conference rivals. Although those rivals have not been especially kind to the Devils this season (New Jersey’s Conference record is 13-13-5), it is not a terrible record, either. What needs to happen is for the Devils to tighten up. Which is exactly what they did against Columbus on Saturday night and the Sabres last night. But can they do it against the firepower of Washington, or the canniness of Montreal, both of whom will come into the Pru later this month? It remains to be seen, But even if they do not, there will be two games against Ottawa, one against the Rangers and one against Colorado–all teams that have been beatable recently. In addition, two of the games are a home and home against the Islanders, who despite being on a roll since their coaching change, do not have enough staying power to continue their winning ways for long.
So, it should be an exciting rest of the month in New Jersey. And although it is still a long shot for the Devils to make the playoffs, it is still not impossible. Stay tuned next week for four games in seven nights.
Several players have gotten hot over the last few weeks and contributed to the renewed hope in New Jersey. Not the least of whom is Pavel Zacha, who was the first star last night. The rookie winger scored the game-winning goal on the power play at 12:33 of the third period, and had an assist earlier on Adam Henrique’s PP goal. Zacha has four goals, three assists and seven points over the last nine games.
Henrique has also been on a roll. The center extended his point-streak to five games last night when he scored the Devils’ first-period goal. Henrique has recorded four goals and three assists since January 26th.
And New Jersey’s leading scorer Taylor Hall continues to rack up points this month. Although he was held off the scoresheet last night against Buffalo, he has posted two goals and two assists in the last four games.
Who is not hot recently?
PA Parenteau, who has always been a streaky scorer, has had real trouble scoring goals this season. With only 12 goals and 12 assists this season, including only eight points since the new year, Parenteau is pretty cold. It is too bad too, because Parenteau is probably the most tradable player that the Devils may want to deal at the deadline. Hopefully, the 33-year old heats up during the next three weeks. It will help the Devils greatly if he does.
This entire season has been a disappointment for Sergey Kalinin. Expected to improve on last year’s numbers during the 2016-17 season, Kalinin has not recorded a single point since January 2nd. It would be great if he did other things well instead, but Kalinin is not shooting as much as he did last year, his shot percentage is down, and the center’s faceoff percentage is still in the 41% range.