Since the year 2000, 78 percent of teams in a playoff position at American Thanksgiving have qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs. That news bodes well for the New Jersey Devils, who were holding down a playoff spot as a Wild Card team on Turkey Day. It’s somewhat remarkable given long stretches without Taylor Hall and Michael Cammalleri in the lineup.
New Jersey finished November going 6-5-2-1 (15 points), posting an overall ledger of 10-7-5 (25 points). As of this writing, the Devils are fifth in the Metropolitan Division and second in the Wild Card. New Jersey is in the midst of a four-game road trip heading into December.
So how did the Devils reach this point? Let’s take a look at the good, bad and everything else surrounding this season.
Despite missing time to attend to his daughter’s illness, Cammalleri’s play has not dropped off when in the lineup. The Devils’ left wing was named the NHL’s second star for the week ending Nov. 27.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) November 28, 2016
During that stretch, Cammalleri led the league with four goals and eight points in three contests. Cammalleri notched multiple-point games against Toronto, Detroit, and Pittsburgh. Cammalleri also netted a natural hat trick at Carolina on Nov. 6.
Despite missing six games, Cammalleri leads the club with seven tallies and is second with 14 points.
Zajac is having himself a solid season. New Jersey’s top center is leading the squad with ten helpers and 15 points and is third with a 52.27 percentage on draws.
The Devils’ rookie forward looks like a solid bet to stay in Newark for good. Lappin’s four tallies lead all New Jersey rookies. Lappin has as many goals as Adam Henrique in six fewer games. Watching Lappin play at Albany, I can tell you he has a nose for the net and is a clutch player, and those attributes have carried over to the NHL.
Home Sweet Home
New Jersey finished 3-0-1-0 in the Garden State in November. On the season the Devils are 7-0-2 on home ice. The Devils are the only team left in the league without a regulation loss at home this season. New Jersey has outscored opponents 30-22 at “The Rock.” Their home undefeated streak matches that of the 1987-88 squad, which started 8-0-1.
Although their victory against Toronto may have been their most resilient, a Nov. 6 tilt at Carolina was their most dominant. The Devils’ 4-1 victory at the Hurricanes marked their first road win of the campaign and was the start of a five-game winning streak. Cammalleri posted a natural hat trick and Keith Kinkaid preserved the victory with 33 stops.
Once again the road is a bugaboo for these Devils. Perhaps they should go old school and rock their red away from home. November saw the Devils post a road ledger of 3-5-1-1.
Power Play Outage
New Jersey suffered a stretch where they went 0-29 with the extra attacker, a stretch spanning nine games. The Devils’ power play ranks No. 24, at 13.7%.
I may have to reframe this, but their toughest loss came during a 4-3 shootout defeat at the Pittsburgh Penguins. Depending on one’s perspective, the Devils may have been fortunate to exit this game with a point. Kinkaid and the Devils’ defense fended off 46 shots and held the Pens to 0-5 on the power play. Cammalleri staked the club to an early 1-0 lead. After relinquishing the lead early in the second, Vernon Fiddler and Cammalleri struck back and gave New Jersey a 3-2 advantage. Yet with 14 ticks on the clock in the third, Sidney Crosby tickled the twine, sending the contest to overtime and eventually a shootout.
The December docket has the Devils playing 15 games to finish out the 2016 portion of their schedule. Nine of the 15 contests are on the road, beginning at Chicago and including a four-game swing midway through the month. For the first time this season the Devils will see the Nashville Predators, Vancouver Canucks, Montreal Canadiens, St. Louis Blues, Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals. If you were playing a matching game with the Devils’ schedule, you’d see they play the Predators, Blues, Rangers, Penguins and Capitals twice apiece in December.
Michael Gwizdala covers the New York Islanders for The Hockey Writers. Michael is also an Associate Producer at WNYT NewsChannel 13. Additionally, Michael was once a Media Relations intern for the AHL Albany River Rats. Michael is a graduate of The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.