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Five observations from New Jersey vs Dallas:
1. Defense continues to excel
It must be 2003 again because the Devils are completely shutting down opposing offenses on a nightly basis and making it look easy in the process.
Against a solid Dallas team featuring high-end talents like Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov, and John Klingberg, the Devils gave up just 24 shots on goal and seven high-danger chances.
They once again did an excellent job of keeping everything to the outside and making life as easy as realistically possible for Keith Kinkaid.
Through four games the Devils have taken on last year's Stanley Cup winners (Washington), a top favorite for this year (San Jose), the best and most dynamic player in the NHL (Connor McDavid), and one of the league's top offensive trios (Benn + Seguin + Radulov). They have given up four goals.
They're due for regression – as well as they have played, their xGA is 5.6 higher than their actual GA – but I couldn't be more impressed by their defensive play so far.
2. Secondary scoring has not been an issue
If I told you Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, Miles Wood and Pavel Zacha combined for zero (0) goals in the first four games, you'd expect the Devils to have maybe one win to their name. Yet they're 4-0.
Kyle Palmieri going on a heater only college kids on spring break can rival has helped the cause, of course, but the Devils have also benefited from consistent production from their bottom-6ers.
J.S. Dea has made an immediate impact potting three goals. Blake Coleman and Travis Baejac have already netted a pair. Stefan Noesen and Brian Boyle have scored, too.
Depth guys have picked up the slack while the top dogs have been a little snakebitten, which was rarely the case a season ago.
3. Nico Hischier still can't buy a goal
Speaking of snakebitten, I'm not sure there is a word to better describe Hischier. The guy has been a scoring chance machine in the early going and still has nothing to show for it.
He leads the team in chances (17) and has eight more high-danger chances (13) than the next closest teammate (Kyle Palmieri has five) and, again, he remains goalless.
Of the 23 players who have recorded *more* than 10 high-danger looks thus far, Hischier is the only one who hasn't scored.
He is not pure finisher at this point in his career but the tide will turn sooner than later if he continues to pile up the chances.
4. It's time to give Damon Severson some credit
Everyone knows I really like Severson's game. This isn't me being a biased fanboy, though. He is legitimately playing excellent hockey.
Against Dallas, he was on the ice for nine Devils chances at 5v5, which led the team. Will Butcher aside (he missed plenty of time due to injury), no Devils defender was on for fewer chances against. Severson posted the best 5v5 chance differential (+5) in the game and also chipped in offensively with his 4th assist in as many outings.
His strong showing was not a one-time thing, either. On the year he ranks 1st among Devils blueliners in Expected Goals For% at 67.45%.
5. Another good night for the PK
The Devils killed off all three penalties they took and looked very good doing it. The Stars entered play ranking 1st in Corsi For/60, Shots/60, and Expected Goals For/60 and the Devils held them to zero (0) high-danger chances while generating one of their own. This is the best I've seen the PK play since 2011-12 when Ilya Kovalchuk, Adam Henrique, Patrik Elias and co. seemingly scored a shorty every other game.
Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com and Corsica.Hockey.
Five observations from another impressive win vs San Jose
On lineup decisions when Bratt returns, 5v5 dominance, and Butcher
On Johansson, Butcher, and a clear matchup pairing