The preseason in the NHL is always funny; sometimes teams work really well during this and don’t work as soon as the real thing starts. Other times, teams have a terrible preseason and do well in the regular season; sometimes during the campaign, teams behave exactly like they did in the preseason, for better or for worse. If the latter part is true for 2022-23, I think we’d all like it New Jersey Devils to continue doing what they have been doing up until now. 2-0 heading into tonight’s home-and-home, fans, pundits and team personnel should be happy to see that.
But is it real? Is it sustainable?
Obviously, these questions cannot be fully answered until the season begins, as there are a number of variables that could affect the final outcome. Personally, from the two games, I am inspired by the results, but I can understand that there are some doubts due to the circumstances. Today, we’re going to take a look at the final outcome of each game, and why we should be encouraged by it, as well as why we might be hesitant to be positive about it.
Defeat of devils Montreal Canadiens 2-1
This game featured fewer players who played in the NHL last season for both teams, and while I can’t speak for the Canadiens, I expect less than 10 Devils who played in this game to be on opening night list this season. I think the swing to feeling positive about this game would be that the Devils didn’t perform better against a team projected to be at the bottom of the standings. In fact, the third leg was almost a tie if not for Montreal being offside during the play.
What was encouraging was that the Devils won the game with just 11 hitters for much of it after Niko Hischier left the game in the second period with a cramp. Considering the Devils have less NHL talent on their roster and almost none at center, going 2-1 under the circumstances has to be seen as a good thing. Mackenzie Blackwood’s performance should also be encouraging; although he did allow a goal on the power play, it was the only puck to beat him on 16 shots for a .938 field goal percentage on the night. While some of these shots were taken by players who won’t be on an NHL roster, at least this early in the season, the way Blackwood looked during the game (along with his stats) should make Devils fans ” at least feel a little better about goaltending.
Defeat of devils New York Islanders 4-1
Speaking of good goalie feel, how about some of Vitek Wanacek’s saves against the Islanders? Although his field goal percentage was slightly lower than Blackwood’s from the night before, Wanacek also managed just one goal as the rest of the team in front of him controlled (and at times dominated) play. Akira Schmidt also had a good game in relief, stopping all 11 shots he faced as the Islanders tried to get back into the game.
This group played with some more players who will be/are expected to be NHL regulars this season and some of them looked very good. The line of Jack Hughes, Alexander Holz, Ondrzej Palat already looked like it had hit the ground running, while Erik Haula, who scored a goal and was named the first star, showed he has the potential to play an important role for the D “apples”. The defense had a strong game and several defenders also chipped in on offense, another advantage that will hopefully continue into the regular season.
As for what might make someone hesitant about this game… I have to say that I haven’t seen anything in this game. The Devils got three goals past the expected Ilya Sorokin in the Islanders’ opener, and while they managed just one through Cory Schneider on 14 shots, much of what was sent his way wasn’t nearly as dangerous as the shots that challenged Sorokin. Even after going down by one early, the Devils played a strong game, putting up four unanswered and going all the way. If that’s not a desirable outcome for all games this season, I don’t know what is.
Final thoughts and your opinion
Next week’s games will likely be the best indication of the Devils overall, as by then cuts will be made and players’ uniforms for each game will be more similar to what we’ll see in the regular season. However, the early return from the list still makes me happy with the group. A variable that affects the team will be noted, and the hope is that adjustments by the coaching staff will help address anything that needs to be changed or fixed during the season. Again, it’s still early and maybe the Devils are just setting the stage to break our hearts again, but I’d rather be optimistic and excited and get injured again than just end up on this team.
What do you think of the Devils’ preliminary results so far? Are you inspired by what you saw? Do you think the results are explained by the weaker opposition? How do you feel about the goaltending compared to last season? Are we just setting ourselves up to get hurt again? Leave any comments below and as always, thanks for reading!