Follow me on Twitter @ToddCordell
I take notes while watching, or tracking, New Jersey Devils games so I can pinpoint what I want to focus on in future posts. One constant has been the Devils' ability to keep shots to the outside and defend the slot. I've highlighted that as a positive in almost every game thus far.
Though I knew they were doing a good job, the numbers are still pretty staggering.
Through eight games they have given up just 35 high-danger chances at 5v5. That leads the league by an insane margin of 32. The Devils have played fewer games than every other team, though, so per 60 is a better indicator than the raw numbers. Well, they're still a distant 1st there. When they do give up chances, they're also better than any other team at ensuring they're not of high quality.
We're dealing with a small sample, however, the Devils have already faced several elite teams and/or offensive talents so there is certainly reason to be optimistic about how they've defended so far.
This will be a good playing environment for Cory Schneider to return to and, hopefully, find his game.
I think most would agree the Devils' biggest concern is scoring depth. There aren't many consistent contributors throughout the lineup, especially when the top line is stacked. That surprisingly hasn't been an issue so far.
Lines 2 through 4 have played teams even at 10 apiece during 5v5 play. That's pretty good considering Marcus Johansson and Travis Zajac have both been banged up/ill and Jesper Bratt is yet to play a game.
If L2-L4 can continue to tread water, the Devils will be in pretty good shape moving forward considering the way their top line is dominating. Having plus special teams doesn't hurt either (the Devils are winning the battle by .50 per game).
I would like to point out Nico Hischier already has a +9 penalty differential (zero taken, nine drawn) and is getting the Devils more than one power play opportunity every night.
That pace is obviously not sustainable but it's hardly surprising Hischier has the league's best differential on a per game basis. Since the beginning of 2017-18, Hischier is 3rd to Johnny Gaudreau (+37) and Connor McDavid (+33) with a +31 differential. If the Devils were to convert on 19% of the opportunities, that's six extra goals created. Drawing penalties is such a valuable skill that doesn't get nearly enough attention.
Numbers from NaturalStatTrick.com and Corsica.Hockey.
On Johansson, Severson, and 5v5 play
On Dea, Hischier's strong start, and Boyle's PK usage