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It's going to be really interesting to see what Marcus Johansson gets on his next contract – be it in New Jersey or elsewhere (I'd still bet on the former). Last year his 5v5 performance was quietly strong, however, he missed a good chunk of the year due to concussions.
This season his ability to produce points is being completely hindered by his linemates. His center has scored 16 goals in 147 career games. His wingers – at least to this point – have been a combination of a pair of waiver claims in J.S. Dea and Stefan Noesen. Useful players? Absolutely. Top-6ers? Not even close.
When you're a playmaker like Johansson, you rely heavily on others to actually finish what you create. That's not happening and it's very difficult for Johansson to find the scoresheet as a result. Against Nashville, for example, Johansson made two or three excellent passes to set up Grade A chances. None were converted on. He's doing his part and not getting rewarded, which is going to hurt come contract time.
I absolutely love what I'm seeing from Damon Severson these days. His defense has improved and he's playing with the most confidence I've seen since he broke into the league with Pete DeBoer in charge. He's taking chances, he's making plays. It's just great to watch.
Severson is up to six points in seven games and leads all Devils blueliners in 5v5 ice time. Deservedly so. In that game state, the Devils have won the high-danger chance battle 29-5(!!) with him on the ice. As expected, he has killed it without John Moore weighing him down. Let's hope it continues.
We're still dealing with small samples but the Devils' 5v5 performance to date is quite encouraging.
They have played seven games and faced some really tough opponents (Nashville, San Jose, Washington, Connor McDavid, etc.). Despite this, 20 of 22 players who have appeared in games for the Devils are sitting even or positive in high-danger chance differential. The lone exceptions? Sami Vatanen and Mirco Mueller (both -1), which is hardly concerning given the tough minutes they have logged.
The Devils might not be a dominant possession team but they're finding ways to consistently create looks in dangerous areas while (mostly) doing a good job of keeping things to the outside in their own end. If that continues, they will have success.
On Dea, Hischier's strong start, and Boyle's PK usage
On the top line, 2nd pairing, and Zacha's slow start
On lineup decisions when Bratt returns, 5v5 dominance, and Butcher
On Johansson, Butcher, and a clear matchup pairing