I don’t know if you’ve heard, but today is Thanksgiving here in the United States of America. It is a day of family, of celebration and for many also of football. It is also a day of thanksgiving. A time to be thankful. To count the many blessings you have. And you have them. Like being able to read a hockey blog about our favorite team, the New Jersey Devils. Because who knows if it would ever go away? Or if it was in danger of leaving? More importantly, if you can spend a little of your day reading our words about devils, you can be thankful. We at All About the Jersey are very grateful for your attention. They are indeed the people who matter.
I don’t know if you heard it, but the New Jersey Devils were on the hottest of all hot strands. It ended yesterday. It was still an incredible run of fame. They set a franchise record of 13 straight wins. 13 straight wins puts the 2022-23 Devils in rare company in terms of league history, as only a handful of teams have ever won 14+ (and the league record stands at 17). In addition, all 13 wins were either as a rule or in overtime. There were no shootings. Additionally, the run has a franchise record for Edmonton’s fastest pair of goals (7 seconds between Ryan Graves and Jesper Bratt), a 1-0 defensive special against Colorado, two wins in overtime on power plays and the incredible rare feat of sweeping western and eastern Canada on separate voyages. Jack Hughes, The Big Deal, called it a heater. Others have dubbed the team a wagon for destroying the flow of the game with all those wins. Different terms apply: The Devils are a juggernaut, the Devils are steamrolling teams, the Devils are a force of nature, and so on. Since this is a franchise record run, all Devils fans around the world should be thankful for it.
It’s also something the Devils themselves should be grateful for as the 2022-23 season progresses. They may or may not know it, but that long winning streak has put the Devils in a fantastic position to make it through the postseason.
Sure, it’s November 24th, 2022 right now. There are 62 games left to play. However, it’s no coincidence that sides like Moneypuck already have the Devils on a near-lethal suspension for a playoff berth. Why?
For one thing, the Devils, who are racking up so many points now, mean they don’t have to be that great for the next three quarters (or so) of the season. As of this writing, the Devils have 32 points in 20 games. That’s an 80% point percentage, which is remarkable. Last season, the last wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference was taken by Washington with 100 points accumulated. I would hope that all eight playoff teams don’t need to hit triple digits to qualify for a second straight season, but let’s consider that a worst-case scenario. With 62 games left in the season, 124 points are still up for grabs. The Devils only need 68 points to get to 100 points. 68 (which must be earned) over 124 (the maximum that can be earned) gives the point percentage earned to reach 100 points. That is 54.8%. Since each game is potentially a three-point game, the average point percentage is around 55%.
In other words, the 2022-23 Devils just have to be Average to reach the playoffs this season. You don’t have to maintain that winning streak and aim for a 79-3-0, as nice as that would be. They don’t have to be dominant opponents like some of those simulated EHM teams I’ve managed during the pandemic. You can afford to lose a few games. Even a few in a row. They can have a short to medium slump and are ultimately fine. Unless the Devils go on a 13-game losing streak to end their winning streak, the Devils can just win a little more often than they lose, and they can still be in the mix through March. For the first time since 2017, the Devils’ season will not be effectively over by the turn of the year barring a disastrous losing streak that would also set some records.
I don’t think that will happen. My confidence is fueled by how the Devils won those games. Sure, the Devils were hot (10.14%!) and the goalies (95.17%) were fantastic in 5v5 play during their winning streak. They’re also deservedly one of the best 5-a-side teams in the NHL this season. The Devils’ power play could be successful around the league median. That’s an upgrade from last season’s debacle with a man advantage. At the team level, the Devils have achieved more than just becoming decent goalies. In fact, they got great goalies overall from Vitek Vanecek, Akira Schmid and (just before his injury) Mackenzie Blackwood.
This is not a team run by a line or a top six or a defensive pairing. Almost everyone has contributed to this torrid winning streak. You would have to make an effort to identify someone who was really bad on this list. Brendan Smith? Certainly not bad given its on-ice xGF% of 62.42 – a result of an on-ice xGF/60 of 3.11 and xGA/60 of 1.87, both of which are fantastic numbers (and per Natural Stat Trick). Jesper Boqvist? He’s not the worst 5v5 forward among the Devils and has already scored a couple of goals. One of the fourth liners? They’ve been quite productive and if the lowest xGF% on the team in 5v5 is 54.26% (Michael McLeod) then it’s the team crush it in 5v5. Everyone has played a part in this run except for the injured Ondrej Palat (injured just before the streak started), Kevin Bahl (scratched and recently demoted) and Alexander Holtz (also scratched and recently demoted). No player has been overly terrible or held the team back on this winning streak. How can they since they have won 13 victories.
This is all to indicate that this team is unlikely to fall to earth in 2022-23 and will not get back up. This is a team capable of scoring a lot of goals, preventing a lot in reaction, and doing more than just doing business in all three zones. This is a team that plays way better than your average NHL team. This gives the Devils really good earning potential more than 100 points this season. They have their 13-game winning streak to thank for setting them on the path to doing just that.
Again, I know yesterday’s loss was close, tough and controversial. I ask you to look past that on this day. Instead, appreciate the phase that just ended and be thankful for it. As a result of that heating, the Devils have put themselves in a great position to succeed – something they haven’t really done in recent seasons. They effectively eased the rest of their season since they don’t have to excel in all 82 games. I want them to be. You surely want them. There’s no need for the Devils to play meaningful games in March or achieve the higher, more desirable goal of making the playoffs for the first time since 2018. There can be less pressure to do this because they put themselves in that position. And they’ll probably get there based on how they’ve played in those first 20 games of this season. Last but not least, the Devils ensured there will be no repeat of the last two this season – something I’ve admittedly worried about after the first and second season games. Instead, they can try realistically.
Thank you 2022-23 devil. Get on your way now and keep winning matches to reach Season 2 in April. I suggest starting in Buffalo tomorrow.