As the New Jersey Devils past the quarter mark of the NHL season, the bright spots have been few and far between for a team that has started 8-11-4 (20 points) through 23 games. They are one of two teams that have yet to reach double digits in the win column, and currently, are second-to-last in the Eastern Conference and the entire league. Devils fans should be thankful that the Detroit Red Wings are in the East. That is, not good for a team that was expected to improve at least a little bit from last season’s nightmarish season.
One of the few bright spots has been winger Kyle Palmieri who has been leading the way offensively for the Devils thus far. His nine goals are tops among his teammates and his 15 points are good enough for second. He also leads the team in power-play goals with four and his eight power-play points are second-best on the Devs.
“I don’t think there are a ton of bad things in our game,” said Palmieri of his team that hasn’t been able to string more than two wins in a row together. “You look at any NHL season and there are going to be momentum swings, highs, and lows.”
“We’ve found different ways to lose throughout the first quarter of the season. But we’ve been able to build one, two, three games in a row where we are happy with our effort and how we’ve played but the results aren’t there,” he added after a 3-2 loss to the visiting Minnesota Wild.
Devil Do Littles
There are bright spots besides Palmieri but it obviously hasn’t been enough to lift the team from the basement of the Metropolitan Division. Taylor Hall leads the team with 21 points but has only four goals through 23 games. That’s not very MVP-like. Rookie sensation Jack Hughes is fourth on the team in scoring but has only 11 total points (4g-7a). Wayne Simmonds was New Jersey’s key free-agent summer signing and after a slow start has ten points, including three power-play markers. After a career-high 22 goals last season, Blake Coleman is second on the team with seven goals this season.
Nikita Gusev was surrounded by (too much) hype when he was acquired from Vegas and has just eight points (5g-3a) over 20 games. PK Subban has only five points and hasn’t looked like an impact player that he once was in his previous stops with Nashville and Montreal.
“With every game that passes its two points that we’d love to have in the standings, it’s momentum that can build one way and that obviously isn’t building for us,” said Palmieri. “It’s the NHL. It’s a hard league to win in and like I mentioned, we’ve found different ways to lose.”
“We can’t harp on it too much,” he added. “It’s a tough schedule, you play a lot of games, and no one is coming to the rink and going to feel sorry for us.”
The 28-year-old Palmieri will need some more help from his teammates as the season moves on and they attempt to salvage what is already looking like a(nother) lost season. But there is still time to turn things around.
“We just have to get back to work; there are 58 or 59 games left in the season, so we have a lot of work to do to try and climb these standings. Sulking and hanging our heads isn’t going to do much good.”
The work starts on Thanksgiving night as the Devils play their first game on the US holiday in 19 years when they pay a visit to Montreal where they won a wild game just 12 days ago. Two days after the game in Bell Centre they return home for a game against the rival Rangers, whom they also beat earlier this season. If New Jersey can escape November with those two final wins they will start an important December with a 10-11-4 record. Not great, but it’d be something to work with heading into a busy 14-game month.
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.