New Jersey Devils Season Previewby Liz Pendergraft September 27, 2021 0 comments
The New Jersey Devils appear to be on a downward trajectory after finishing 26th in 2019-20 and 29th a season ago. There are a few that might place the blame on the young players. However, one cannot discount the roles that player performance, terrible special teams, and losing shootouts played in their downward slide. General manager Tom Fitzgerald took the time to pick up a few veterans to help the young team in the offseason. However, only time will tell if Fitzgerald’s plan for the Devils will come to fruition.
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When you look at the roster, you might think the Devils have a chance at getting at least three great lines. However, you’ll need to keep in mind these are basically the same players they had last year. Same players, different outcome? Maybe. They have talent who are able to score goals, but they can’t seem to do it consistently. The Devils will need Jack Hughes to step up after such a lackluster year. However, other players like Yegor Sharangovich, Tomas Tatar, and Nico Hischier will also need to contribute more if the Devils want to outscore their opponents.
New Jersey acquired Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Graves to shore up their defense in the offseason, which is great, especially since they lost Ryan Murray and Will Butcher to other teams. It’s hoped that Hamilton will help fortify New Jersey’s power play that was 28th in the NHL. If the defense can keep the opposing team contained and not let them be comfortable making a home near the Devil’s net, they’ll be way ahead of last season. The defense has disappointed fans before, but it can keep from being the reason opposing teams rack up five or more goals against them with a bit of retooling.
The Devils have a promising netminder in Mackenzie Blackwood. In addition, they’ve signed veteran Jonathan Bernier, who performed well despite backstopping a not-so-great Detroit Red Wings team. Having these players share the load should allow Blackwood to bounce back from the not-so-great ending to last season.
For New Jersey, every player is a key player. Even the fourth-liners and bottom pair defensemen. Everyone will have to do their part to the best of their ability, no matter what.
The Devils need him to be at his best, especially if both sides of the puck don’t show an improvement. Blackwood is the goaltender New Jersey needs; he needs to put last season in the rearview mirror and focus on what he can control.
With the Colorado Avalanche, Graves proved he could pair well with any defenseman they had and still be productive. This could bode well for the Devils, especially if coach Lindy Ruff decides to pair Graves with Hamilton.
He needs to have a breakout year. Last year may not have been what fans were expecting. However, in spite of that, he still improved in his game. The Devils will look and feel different when he does, being able to retain possession of the puck more and put it in the back of the net.
Biggest Question Facing the Devils
Even if they make the playoffs, are they playoff-ready? The first answer that comes to mind is that they’re not. As mentioned previously, there’s a lot of talent on the team, but could it be cemented together cohesively to last through a postseason run. It’s possible but doubtful. As they are now, they wouldn’t make it out of the first round. The actual answer to the question will be found only through watching the Devils play throughout the season.
It’s difficult to see the Devils making the playoffs this season. Though always a possibility, it will take all the players on the roster to make it happen. The Metropolitan has at least four teams ready to go back to the playoffs. Fans shouldn’t be disappointed if they miss the playoffs if they make noticeable progress throughout the season.
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