November delivered a wide range of emotions for New Jersey Devils fans. It brought shock, elation, some confusion, and many players to be thankful for. Before the month kicked off, November’s schedule could have produced a knot in any hockey fan’s stomach. The Devils were on track to face several of the NHL’s top teams and some more than once such as facing the Chicago Blackhawks twice within a week as well as a home-and-home series against the Montreal Canadiens.
However, the Devils delivered statement wins that confirmed what many people in New Jersey already thought. This 2015-16 Devils team was not a fluke.
Whether it is from playmaking, specialty teams, or capitalizing on an odd man rush, the Devils put pucks into the back of the net. When the team did not produce on the scoreboard, it either reflected a poorly played game, which was the case against the Edmonton Oilers or else a red-hot goaltender, like the game against the St. Louis Blues. However, even though the Devils were shutout in November, there were more positives for New Jersey’s offense than negatives.
The biggest positive and most important takeaway for the Devils in November was New Jersey’s ability to obtain clutch goal scoring. Fans witnessed this both against Chicago and Montreal. The team pushed and was aggressive, exhibiting the relentless attitude that New Jersey is priding itself on this season.
The game in Montreal on November 30 displayed the Devils getting that important goal at the right time. Even though the Devils lost in the shootout to the Canadiens only 24-hours earlier at the Prudential Center, New Jersey never looked rattled even when the team fell behind 2-0 in the third period. Going down by two goals in Montreal is not a situation that many teams throughout the league can climb out of or want to be in, but the Devils scored and carried the momentum from forward Kyle Palmieri’s game tying goal with under a minute left to overtime.
While New Jersey’s offense is still structured, the 3-on-3 overtime shows that the Devils can improvise and be creative. Additionally, it highlights the team’s supportive attitude and playing style, which was exhibited on defenseman John Moore’s game winning goal against the Canadiens. Even when the Devils did not win, the team still kept most of their games close on the scoreboard. The only aspect preventing the Devils from getting an A is still the team’s lack of secondary scoring.
Specialty Teams: A
As October came to a close, it was obvious that the Devils’ specialty teams were on the right track. The power play was already top-10 in the league and in November the penalty kill was catapulted into the top-10 as well. Even though New Jersey was still finding itself in the penalty box more than most people would like to see, the Devils stepped up. The team did not allow the opposition to get many premier chances to bury the puck. Similarly to playing at even strength, Devils’ goalie Cory Schneider has been New Jersey’s best penalty killer and Keith Kinkaid has also made his presence felt on the kill when he is in the net.
The power play was a key reason why the Devils were able to score clutch goals. Not every power play produced a goal and some appeared disorganized, but New Jersey’s puck movement has been impressive and shown the team’s chemistry.
If the Devils want to continue to push forward this season and compete for a postseason spot, the specialty teams is a key factor and must keep operating at the level it did in November.
Overall Play: B+
If a person looks at the Devils’ 6-5-1 record in November, it can be misleading and slightly confusing because of the teams the Devils lost to.
New Jersey cannot make a habit of losing to teams that they are ranked higher than. There is never an easy game in the NHL, but the Devils need to separate themselves from the tight playoff race and build a cushion. The last thing fans want to see is the team miss the postseason because of losses to teams like Calgary and Edmonton. However, that trend is not likely to continue. This team appears to learn from previous mistakes and knows how to steal points in games.
November was an exciting month for Devils’ hockey. Even though the team had some questionable losses, the Devils also produced some of their best performances thus far and several came on the road. Nonetheless, one of New Jersey’s most complete games was played in front of the Prudential Center’s home crowd. The 4-0 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins showed New Jersey’s skill and ability in all facets of the team’s game plan. The defense, offense, and goaltending all operated at a high level and each player fulfilled his role.
Beating Chicago twice and claiming three out of four points against Montreal means the expectations are rapidly rising. New Jersey proved that it can play with anyone and will not back down.
Final Grade: B+
As October ended, Devils fans were enjoying the success the team had but were wary of November’s schedule and did not want to get too far ahead of themselves. However, now it is safe to say with November behind them, that the excitement surrounding Devils; hockey is firmly back.
There are no longer games that fans are hesitant about. The Devils are expected to compete every night and come away with a win. The battle and passion New Jersey showed was not only admirable but impressive. November was not perfect and there are still aspects that the Devils need to improve on. Nevertheless, it solidified that October was not a coincidence. This New Jersey Devils team is different from previous years. No one right now is looking back but instead looking forward to some potentially exciting things to come.
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.