The New Jersey Devils are in a tight playoff race. They’re competing for a wildcard spot or potentially the third (maybe even second) in the Metropolitan Division against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, and Columbus Blue Jackets. The Florida Panthers were also vying for a spot but they’ve dropped back a bit in the standings.
The Devils are already having a better season than many thought they would. They finished fourth to last in the league last season and are now likely to make the playoffs. Taylor Hall along with Nico Hischier and Brian Boyle have been consistently putting up points for the team. The goalie tandem of Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid have a league-average save percentage, which is good enough to keep the team afloat. A few months ago, the team traded forward Adam Henrique to the Anaheim Ducks for defensemen Sami Vatanen, and a rewarding decision at that. Vatanen has provided a lot of support and talent on the blue line, proving the trade to be a success so far.
The last few weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster for the Devils. They haven’t been consistent, going 4-4-0 in their last eight games. Bouncing in and out of a playoff and the top three Metro spot can have fans frustrated and stressed, but as long as Schneider can get his game back, good things will be coming for the team.
Schneider didn’t play for a month, missing 16 games, because of a groin injury. He was sent down to their AHL affiliate, Binghamton Devils, on a conditioning stint but after getting called up, he’s had below average goal tending. In his last eleven games, counting the ones before his injury, he’s gone 0-9-3. While Kinkaid has proved to be a solid backup goalie, the Devils will need Schneider to regain his confidence if they want to make a serious playoff push.
The Devils have won their past three of five games, showing that maybe they’re starting to gain back the momentum they created in the beginning of the season, but consistency is going to be the key for this team. Not only to make the playoffs, but also to secure a great spot in them.
Even if the team misses the playoffs or gets knocked out early, the Devils have showed a lot of promising talent. The team has gotten exponentially younger throughout the last few seasons and they have a great group of prospects down the pipeline which can only mean great things for their future.