November could have easily given any New Jersey Devils fan whiplash. The team experienced somewhat of a roller coaster littered with highs, lows and everything in between. But one thing was certain: it provided some exciting hockey.
Scoring – B
Goal scoring has been a notable area of concern for the Devils throughout not only this season but previous years as well. November delivered a glimmer of hope that more goals may be on the horizon.
While that could sound odd to some considering the Devils lost a handful of games by one goal and were also shutout in November, their previous struggles not only reflected the team’s quantity of goals but also when and how they scored them.
Throughout the team’s five-game winning streak, New Jersey’s offense was clicking and at times looked unbeatable. They were making their opportunities count and applying consistent offensive pressure, which was something that was often absent in previous years.
The Devils displayed tenacity and continued to present a resilient front. New Jersey managed to tally up points, even if it meant getting them in unconventional ways, as was the case in Andy Greene’s overtime game-winning penalty shot against the Buffalo Sabres.
November’s schedule was not going to be easy, and when the team lost two of their top scorers, forward Taylor Hall to a knee injury and Michael Cammalleri for personal reasons, the Devils were facing an uphill battle. While some of the games were ugly and resulted in several losses, the team still managed to scrape out important points and find goal scoring from other players in the lineup.
The biggest takeaway from the month and the reason why people should be optimistic going forward is that the Devils delivered several games that resulted in four goals or more, and much of that scoring came at even strength.
Specialty Teams – C
There is an old cliché: it is not about how you start but rather how you finish, and fans have to hope that is true when it comes to New Jersey’s power play. November was not good to the Devils’ power play.
While Hall and Cammalleri’s absences would undoubtedly impact the unit, the power play could not find any rhythm throughout the vast majority of the month. It struggled to even set up and rarely found any pressure when it did, which resulted in the unit going 0-for-29.
New Jersey’s power play almost took on a Jekyll and Hyde persona. Everything positive the team was doing at even strength disappeared when the Devils had a man-advantage. However, while there is still plenty of work to do, slowly but surely the unit broke out of its drought to close out the month.
In contrast to the power play, the Devils’ penalty kill continued to hold strong. Similarly to October, the penalty kill bent but never broke and came through when the team desperately needed it to.
While the penalty kill has remained solid, though, the unit is seeing too much ice time. The Devils were a team known for rarely taking penalties, but that part of their identity is beginning to disappear. If the team continues on that path, it will eventually cost them, regardless of how strong the kill has proven to be.
Overall Grade – B
The Devils are not a perfect hockey team and no one has ever claimed that they are. But when New Jersey plays a full and consistent team game like they did in their 2-1 overtime victory against the Dallas Stars, they can hold their own against anyone.
The defense was dominant during the team’s winning streak, and the goaltending served as the club’s backbone as it has many times over the years. Furthermore, the offense was playing supportive hockey and finding the chemistry that eluded them for some of October. When the Devils were winning, the team exuded confidence, but more importantly they were having fun, which translated to positive results.
Nevertheless, when New Jersey lost two of its top players, the team spiraled and veered away from its standard game plan, which centers around strong defensive hockey. The month closed with uncharacteristically sloppy defensive play.
That could reflect the fact that the defense was pinching in offensively, but it cost the Devils in the end. The Devils were finally breaking through on the scoreboard but losing high-scoring games. The club’s defense proved early in November that it can be a stingy, structured unit and not give the opposition much room on the ice to navigate or create scoring opportunities. The Devils have to regain their identity on defense and return to being a defensive-minded team in December.
Throughout the team’s five-game winning streak, the Devils looked as if they were racing toward collecting an ‘A’ for the month of November, but the final two weeks of the month negated that. While November delivered its fair share of adversity, the Devils survived, showed improvement and can say that they are still in the thick of the tight Eastern Conference race.
Amanda Rosko is an avid hockey fan. This is her second year covering the New Jersey Devils for The Hockey Writers. She graduated with honors from Rutgers University in 2014 with a B.A. in Journalism and Media Studies.