Coming into last week, the Devils were on a four-game slide and in desperate need of a lift. Enter Nico Hischier, who had arguably the best week of his rookie season, finishing with seven points in four games, including four goals. Combine that with Taylor Hall’s torrid scoring pace, and suddenly the Devils find themselves climbing back towards the top of the Metropolitan Division.
Hischier’s Confidence Growing
The Devils have been one of the streakier teams in the league since the start of the calendar year. They’ve had a few losing streaks (one as large as six) that set them back in the standings. They found themselves slowly losing ground in the division and were in danger of falling out of a playoff spot they had held all season long.
Fortunately, their luck began to turn last Tuesday evening after defeating the Flyers 5-4 in a shootout. Although it didn’t tie the game up, Hischier’s goal was the beginning of a Devils comeback and also marked the beginning of his goal streak. He followed it up in similar fashion just two nights later against the Hurricanes, where he chose to shoot instead of pass on a 2-on-1.
Way to be selfish, kid. Great rip.
— Devils Insiders (@DevilsInsiders) February 16, 2018
“It’s funny,” Hynes said of Hischier, “We came in after the game and the coaches said the same thing. ‘He finally shot the puck.’ But that’s him. He’s a young guy. He learns and he understands he was a little bit passive. That’s something that comes from having confidence. Sometimes, it’s OK to be a little bit selfish.”
Confidence goes a long way in hockey (and any sport for that matter) but for Hischier, it’s peaking at the right time. The Devils are reaping the benefits of it as of late, and as he keeps maturing, his production should only continue to come at a consistent pace.
Nico Taking Reigns of Playoff Push
Prior to last week’s point streak, Hischier was not finding the scoresheet as often as he was earlier in the season. That doesn’t mean he was playing poorly, but with the Devils falling in the standings, they needed more from the 19-year-old center. Without hesitation, Hischier rose to the occasion.
“I like those challenges,” Nico said after a 5-2 win against the Hurricanes. “I just like that process, big games. I like to play in that. There, I’m having the most fun, so it’s probably that.”
The Devils coaching staff has taken notice as well. “He’s a gamer. That’s what separates some players,” coach John Hynes said, “There’s a lot of talented players in the league, but there’s other guys, when the pressure gets turned up or the games become more intense or you need guys to step up and make plays and have strong games, Nico’s done that. The last few division games we’ve played, he’s been a major factor. It’s not surprising, but it’s nice to see.”
There’s no doubt the Devils will need Hischier for the home stretch. It’d be unfair to expect him to produce at the almost two points a game he averaged last week. However, as his confidence continues to grow, they’ll be able to rely on him the rest of the way.
Hischier Racking Up the Accolades
Not only has Hischier been lighting up the scoreboard, but he also made some team history in the process. He was the fifth rookie in franchise history to score at least one goal in four consecutive games, and there’s a chance for him to add to his streak when they take on Columbus tonight.
In addition to finding his way into the record books, he was also named the NHL’s First Star of the Week for his contributions to the Devils win streak. Coyotes goalie, Antti Raanta, and Winnipeg Jets forward, Mark Scheifele, joined Hischier as the three stars of the week.
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In getting to his seven points, Hischier had some strong performances, specifically in the 5-4 shootout win against the Flyers and the 5-2 victory against the Hurricanes. In those two games combined, the Devils out-attempted the opposition 31-8 and out-chanced them 13-6 when he was on the ice. He also managed to rack up two goals and three assists between those contests.
The Devils don’t need Hischier to be the league’s First Star every week, but he is a key part of the rest of their season. With him starting to find the back of the net on a more regular basis, they should be feeling pretty good about themselves going forward. Especially with some key divisional battles against the Hurricanes, Penguins and Capitals to close out the season. If he can continue lighting the lamp, then the Devils should find themselves in a pretty good spot come the start of the postseason.
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Advanced stats from Natural Stat Trick
Alex Chauvancy is a New Jersey Devils writer for The Hockey Writers who has a penchant for advanced stats, prospects, signings and trades. He previously wrote for Devils Army Blog, a New Jersey Devils fan blog, from 2015-2017