With many expecting the New Jersey Devils to take a bit of a step back this season, they are proving their critics wrong 10 games into the season.
The Devils sit 3rd in the Metro with 6 wins, 2 losses, and 2 overtime losses for 14 points. The biggest reason for this is that the Devils sit 2nd in the Eastern Conference in goal differential (+8), only behind the high-flying Carolina Hurricanes.
The goaltending duo of Darcy Kuemper and Jake Allen have shut down the opposition. Kuemper boasts a 0.930 save percentage and a 2.10 GAA, while Jake Allen has a 0.911 save percentage and a 2.60 GAA.
In a surprise turn of events, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has dethroned Jonathan Toews from the top line. The Nuge is also scoring at a furious pace, with 6 goals, 8 assists for 14 points in 10 games. Meanwhile, Jonathan Toews has 4 goals, 7 assists for 11 points in 10 games.
Reporter Jason Gregor caught up with the Devils after a shootout win against the San Jose Sharks.
Gregor to Toews: Hard-fought win tonight against the Sharks in a nail-biter.
Toews: It’s always a challenge in the second half of a back-to-back to maintain that stamina and intensity level, especially with heading to overtime and then a shootout. I’m glad we got a W for Jake.
Gregor to Toews: What’s different this year? The team seems to have a little bit more swagger than last season, the guys seem to be having fun out there.
Toews: I think there is less pressure on the team as a whole this year. When you come out of a dispersal draft, most of the guys have never played together, and you struggle to find that chemistry, that familiarity with the guys. While we did have some changeover this year, most of the guys are familiar with each other in the room, with Coach Torts and what is expected of everyone. We’re not gripping the stick as tight.
Gregor to Toews: Does it bother you to have your ice time reduced, playing on the 2nd line behind Ryan Nugent-Hopkins?
Toews: We are a team, and I’ll battle as hard as I can, wherever I play in the lineup. I joked with Nuge saying that he should have played like this last season, during his contract year.
Gregor to Tarasenko: Off to a great start this season with 4 goals, 4 assists for 8 points in 10 games. Your offense is back, you’ve got a smile on your face, what’s different this season?
Tarasenko: I struggled with shoulder issues throughout last season. You try to play through the injury, but when you can’t perform as well and don’t get the results, you get frustrated, and it just snowballed from there. You end up traded mid-season. It was a mess and I’m happy to leave it behind. I feel good this year, I’m gaining back my confidence.
Gregor to Aberg: You were lights out on the farm last year and earn your way onto the pro team this year, but instead of having a bottom-six role, you battle and earn your way into the top 6. How does it feel?
Aberg: Yeah its been quite the whirlwind, I’m 28 now, so I know what I need to do both on and off the ice to stick with the Devils. It helps to have clear expectations. I’m not taking it for granted and intend to work my tail off to stick with the team and to keep my ice time.
With only 1/8th of the season in the books so far, there’s plenty of games left to be played. Luckily, the arrows seem to be pointing in the right direction for the Devils.