Last season, the New Jersey Devils shocked the hockey world by making the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 season when they lost to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final.
Going into this year, the goal for the Devils was to improve upon last season’s performance and show their fans and the rest of the league that they are for real. This isn’t exactly an easy feat considering how competitive the league is nowadays.
Through the team’s first three games, they have made it pretty clear that they are going to be a very tough hockey team to play against this season. While they may have only played just three games so far due to starting the year in Sweden, they are 3-0 to start the season and look even better than they did last year.
For the Devils, it starts with their work ethic. This is a club that is not afraid to forecheck, has no problem playing a physical brand of hockey, and one that does not shy away from the league’s better teams.
This was exactly the case in two out of their first three games when they took on the Washington Capitals and the San Jose Sharks. Against Washington for their home opener, they completely dominated the Caps and won by a score of 6-0 and on Sunday afternoon against the Sharks, it was a big team effort that led them to a 3-2 victory.
Speaking of big efforts, Devils’ netminder Keith Kinkaid is doing just that between the pipes. With Cory Schneider still out with groin issues, Kinkaid has started the year as the team’s number one goaltender and through his team’s first three games, he has done everything and more to earn that role.
As of this writing (October 15), he has started all of his team’s game (3-0) and has a 1.33 goals against average, a .949 save percentage and one shutout. He was especially good against the Sharks on Sunday afternoon when he stopped 37 of 39 shots in defeating what is supposed to be one of the league’s best offensive teams.
The team has also shown some depth on offense this season instead of relying on last year’s Hart Trophy winner as the league’s most valuable player in Taylor Hall. Kyle Palmieri is off to a great start with six goals while the team is also getting solid contributions from Hall (3 assists), Travis Zajac (2 goals), Brian Boyle (1 goal and 1 assist), Jean-Sebastien Dea (2 goals), and others.
Defensively, this team has been one of the league’s best in the early going. They have allowed just four goals in their first three games and have played well against three pretty-solid offensive teams, thwarting the likes of Connor McDavid and Alex Ovechkin.
There is still a lot of hockey left to be played, but right now, the Devils are off to a quick start and are playing a winning brand of hockey. If they can do this consistently, they could end up once again surprising the hockey world.
Photo: The Trentonian