Devils Win! They Get the W in the First Two Games of 2017-18
The Devils have been an offensive juggernaut through the first two games of 2017-18.
Welcome to a New Season
When we last left the embattled New Jersey Devils in April they seemed like a team without a prayer. The goaltending was less than desirable no matter if it was Corey Schneider or Keith Kinkaid. Scoring was a difficult task. John Hynes was questioned every which way. Devils Win was not often uttered by announcers.
There was a lot of doubt if a team full of young players could really step up this season. They would need to make a team with a 200-1 chance of winning the Stanley Cup this year competitive.
If the preseason did not show the promise this team has, the first two games of the ’17-18 season sure did. One thing that sets this team apart from teams like the Capitals or Penguins is there is not a superstar. Certainly, there is a case that in a season or two, Nico Hischier will be one of the NHL’s brightest stars. Right now though, he is playing equally among the team.
The Youth Movement
It is no secret the Devils owe their new-found winning ways to their youth. Last season I stressed the fact that John Hynes coached the Baby Pens, Pittsburgh Penguins minor league team. He is a developmental coach and can show his skills with a youthful staff.
The Devils have also been strategic in their picks during drafts. At the Devils draft party this summer many were stunned that Nolan Patrick did not get the top pick of Hischier. While both young men currently hold a point a piece for an assist in their short NHL careers, Nico seems to be the better fit for the Devils. He is a team player as shown by his instantaneous reaction to defend an injured Kyle Palmieri. Hischier could certainly grow a big head in the next few seasons but he has a humbleness about him that can not be taught making that prediction less possible. At least in my opinion.
Aside from number 13, there is also Miles Wood. Last year, Wood was a force to be reckoned with on the ice. He was a healthy a scratch from Saturday’s home opener against the Avalanche. Monday he made his presence known in his first game of the ’17-18 season. Miles brings something the Devils have been lacking, an enforcer. He is a talented hockey player but he is a better physical player.
Who is Will Butcher?
That was a question after the home opener. The rookie defenseman picked up by the Devils in the offseason post 3 pts in his red and black debut. With a shaky defense last year Hynes needed to find talent to help veterans Moore, Lovejoy, and Green. When Colorado failed to sign him, Ray Shero stepped in and picked up the collegiate talent.
Last but not least, Jesper Bratt and his power play skills. He is another rookie who is shaping this new Devils team. His intense play has gotten him points in his first two NHL games. This has put him in the spotlight of players to watch.
Important Take-Aways from the First Two Games of the Season
Not only can the Devils score power play goals again, they can score shorthanded. The Devils scored shorthand in both of the first two games of the season. Last year a shorty would be a figment of fans imagination. This year it is the reality of what this team can do.
We are only two games into the 2017-18 season, there are 80 more to go. There will be ups and downs, it is not going to be peaches and cream every single outing for this team. This is not the same team as last year. I personally think the 200-1 odds are ridiculous after watching the preseason. However, I don’t think the Devils will be hoisting the cup this season…maybe in two-three seasons. I do think though the Metropolitan division is only going to be separated by a few points from first to last. Both wild cards will come from the Metropolitan division, the Devils will make it competitive.
Kyle Palmieri did not play Monday after leaving Saturday’s game in the 2nd period. He was listed as a game-time decision on Monday but ultimately did not play. Palmieri is a key component of the Devils offense who can’t miss too many games without his presence being missed.
Travis Zajac and Brian Boyle will be out for some time. Boyle is working on recovering from a leukemia diagnosis. He currently does not have to undergo any surgery or chemotherapy treatments he will need time to adjust to the medication he has been prescribed. He will need to see how this medication will affect his play.
Zajac, on the other hand, is rehabbing after surgery to repair a pectoral tear. I saw Zajac at the NextGen AAA event two weeks ago at Chelsea Piers and he seemed in good spirits. I asked him what he was looking forward to this season, “The youth we have the team is going to bring a lot of excitement, a lot of skill, and a lot of speed. Maybe something different we haven’t had in years past. For some of the older guys it’s going to bring a lot of energy to us. It is exciting to see these guys develop and hopefully I can have some kind of (positive) influence on them”
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