March 23, 2024

Bryce Salvador

Hey everyone! 

Tonight, the Devils have a chance to win 3 in a row on a home stand for the first time since Nov. 12, 2022, as part of that 13-game W streak last season! Coming off of one of, if not their strongest all-around performance of the season on Thursday night against a stingy WPG team, I'm eager to see what the Devils can do against an OTT team (28-36-4) bleeds the 3rd highest rate of goals in the NHL and conceded 6 to the Devils back in December (6-2 NJD W).

Not shown in this graphic is that the Devils outshot WPG 41-19 overall, the largest margin the Jets have been outshot in their entire season thus far. After a great showing on Tuesday night vs. PIT, it was extremely encouraging to see the Devils build off that effort in such a big way and ultimately put together back-to-back regulation wins.

And, yes, Devils Fans, that scorching hot PP1 unit (5 for its last 7 opportunities), is giving us glimpses of the NJD PP from the first 20 games, rising from its grave and bringing the Devils a chance to win each and every game. There's lots of movement; Timo is establishing a gritty, net-front presence; and pucks are finally finding the back of the net again at a high rate. The PK units have been equally as impressive, killing off 21 of the last 23 PKs they've been tasked with. Finally, the PP & PK are clicking simultaneously!

For me, what's most remarkable in the last couple of games is the completely different ways the Devils have won each game. In Tuesday’s win over PIT, even strength made an impact, the PP was excellent, and Jake Allen made massive timely saves at key points in the game. Then, vs. WPG on Thursday, it was special teams that they relied on against a stingy Jets team that doesn't give up much at 5v5. What was really interesting in these 2 games, though, and what I’m going to talk about in tonight’s pregame show, is that not a single Devils goal was registered as off-the-rush in either of these games.The Devils did a remarkable job taking what the game gave them on Thursday. When they realized in the 1st period that WPG was going to take away their rush game, they slowed the game down, didn’t force things, and waited for their opportunities — which came on the PP! — and capitalized on those PP opportunities 3 times. This mature process of winning that the Devils have put on display this week, which they've quite frankly been lacking all season, is exactly what they’ll need to build on if they want to make a push for a playoff spot.

To say I have been thoroughly impressed with the way the young defensemen have been able to defend at 5v5 and on the PK, particularly against one of the heaviest forechecking teams in the league (that being against the Jets on Thursday), would be an understatement. With Dougie, Seigs, and Marino all out due to their respective injuries, this group of 5 has done a tremendous job in all situations for the Devils.

The fact that the Devils have had two 20-year-old D averaging 20+ min TOI for over half the season is already super impressive when you look at how historically unprecedented that is. But, when you consider that NJD is still fighting for a playoff spot and shutting down a top team with this D core, it just speaks volumes to the job these players, and the Devils' coaching staff, have done working through the growing pains on the back end. 

Now, It appears Marino will be replacing Hatakka tonight as he returns from his upper-body injury, so, it'll just be the '4 inexperienced D,' at least for tonight vs. OTT. Join Erika and me as we continue this discussion on our MSGSN pregame show, live from the Rock at 6:30 PM!


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