Devils’ Resilience Key to Perfect Western Canada Road Trip

The New Jersey Devils are finally returning home after eight days on the road. The club made a big statement by sweeping their three-game Western Canada road trip and pushing their record to 9-3-0.

Every season a certain theme or mantra emerges that fans will repeatedly hear from both the players and coaching staff. Back in 2012 when the Devils made their Stanley Cup Final run their motto was “swarm it up” and last season it was all about having the “next man up mentality.” Even though the season is still early, there are two words that keep coming up among the players and head coach Lindy Ruff and they are, consistency and resiliency.

Devils Proving to Be a Resilient Team

Team captain Nico Hischier has repeatedly said the players can’t get too high after a win or too low after a loss. After the team’s win over the Edmonton Oilers Jesper Bratt addressed the media and said that if they expect to play meaningful games at the end of the season they need to be resilient and find a way to earn those character wins.

The most impressive thing about the Devils’ three latest victories was how they earned the win. Against the Vancouver Canucks, New Jersey displayed their offensive depth with eleven different players earning at least a point. At Rogers Place in Edmonton, they quickly tilted the ice in their favor scoring two goals in seven seconds, setting a new franchise record. On Saturday night (Nov. 5) the club blew a 3-1 lead to the Calgary Flames, but rallied back to win in overtime.

Nico Hischier New Jersey Devils
Nico Hischier, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

After the team’s impressive win over Connor McDavid and the Oilers, hockey insider Elliotte Friedman summed it up best by saying, “Not only does New Jersey look like a really skilled team and a really fast team, they look like a very, very resilient team. And it’s a great combination.”

As I write this, the Devils are the third-best team in the NHL behind the Boston Bruins and Vegas Golden Knights. Their record over their last 10 games is 9-1-0, which is the best in the league. As Leo Scaglione, Jr. shared, the team’s .750 winning percentage through their first 12 games this season is tied for the best in franchise history. New Jersey has proven they are a resilient bunch, but it is still too early to say if they can consistently keep up their current performance, which is something for fans to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

Making a Statement in Calgary

When I glanced through New Jersey’s schedule for this past week, I circled their Saturday night game against the Flames because I knew it would be their biggest test. Entering last night’s contest the Flames had won 14 of their last 16 matchups dating back to January 10, 2012, and the last time New Jersey won a game in Calgary was Jan. 13, 2017. It is safe to say the cards were stacked against the Devils, but once again they proved to be a resilient group and earned their first overtime win of the season.

After the game Ruff addressed the media and spoke about his team learning to win games in different ways. He continued to say that like Saturday night, not every victory will come easily for his club. New Jersey gave up a 3-1 lead, overall had a sloppy power play, and were on their heels in the second and third periods. Their power play did finally connect in overtime with the spotlight on Fabian Zetterlund who earned his first two-goal night in the NHL.

Other Notes and Observations From the Past Week

New Jersey’s BMW Line Is Feeling It

Over the summer, while most fans had their eyes set on Johnny Gaudreau or Alex DeBrincat, I sat and preached that the team needed to focus on solidifying their depth. General manager Tom Fitzgerald did exactly that by trading for veteran Erik Haula in July and welcoming back a now healthy Miles Wood.

Related: 5 Takeaways From Devils’ 4-3 OT Win vs. Flames

Ruff reunited the trio of Nathan Bastian, Michael McLeod, and Miles Wood, which meant the “BMW Line” was back. Over the team’s road trip the Devils’ fourth line has been impressive combining for 13 points (five goals, eight assists). After Saturday’s game, Bastian met with the media and talked about the simplicity of their game.

Miles Wood New Jersey Devils
Miles Wood, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

“Things are going pretty well right now,” said Bastian. “(We) stick to the basics, we play such a simple game, keep doing that, and hopefully we get results like we do right now.”

In addition to being the Devils’ hottest line, they have brought a physical edge with 16 hits over their last three games. The line’s success has taken the pressure off of the team’s stars like Jack Hughes who had 17 shots on goal during the team’s trip, but only found the back of the net once. Getting secondary scoring and having balance within their four lines is a huge reason why the team is currently on a six-game win streak.

The League is Taking Notice of New Jersey

The team’s trip to Western Canada was a big test for Ruff’s squad. Historically speaking it’s proven to be a difficult one as it was 26 years ago that the team last swept the Canucks, Flames, and Oilers. The last time the Devils earned points in all three games was back during the 2016-17 season. The club’s play over the first month has put teams on high alert and opposing coaches knew ahead of time that New Jersey would not be an easy opponent.

Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter:

“They beat the hell out of Vancouver and played a real solid game in Edmonton. I mean they beat two fast teams. …They are a hot team right now.”

Vancouver Canucks head coach Bruce Boudreau:

“They play fast and shoot from everywhere. They attack the net and they’re great in transition. …At any second they can get into a two-on-one or three-on-two, and they’re skilled up front so they make it hurt when they do that.”

Bruce Boudreau Vancouver Canucks head coach
Bruce Boudreau, Vancouver Canucks head coach (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

After their impressive victory over the Edmonton Oilers, players including Connor McDavid and Stuart Skinner commented on how good the Devils are currently playing.

Connor McDavid:

“They’re a good team. They’re feeling it right now, as well. They’re coming in with a bunch of wins in a row, feeling good about themselves – and obviously, that showed. They were snapping it around pretty good out there”

Stuart Skinner:

“I mean, they’re a great team. They get shots in quick, they move the puck fast, and they come pretty hard to the net. Their power play is unreal, and they got some big bodies in front of me. Yeah, they’re a good team.”

Streaks and Statistics You Need to Know

The following Devils will be entering their next game on Tuesday night on a multi-game point streak:

  • Bastian: four-game point streak
  • Wood: four-game point streak
  • McLeod: four-game point streak
  • Hischier: four-game point streak
  • Tomas Tatar: four-game point streak
Jesper Bratt New Jersey Devils
Jesper Bratt, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

During the road trip Bratt set a new franchise record by earning a point in 11 straight games to start the season. With his steak on the line, he scored the game-winning goal in Edmonton to etch his name in Devils history. He was unable to find the scoresheet against the Flames to make it 12 straight, but his dominant performance has put the league on notice.

The Devils’ next game will be on Tuesday night at Prudential Center against a very familiar foe. The Flames will be in town looking for revenge on their second half of a back-to-back. The Devils currently have a 4-2-0 record at home, and this is one matchup fans won’t want to miss as they look to keep their winning streak alive.