After starting the season 0-3-0, the seemingly dead in the water New Jersey Devils have stormed back in their past three games going 2-0-1, while winning two of those games in the newly entertaining 3-on-3 overtime. The Devils past three games have all somehow gotten to the 3-on-3 session with the team loosing in a shootout on Friday to the San Jose Sharks, and then defeating the New York Rangers and Arizona Coyotes, with goals coming from Lee Stempniak and Adam Larsson respectively. This was a team projected to be the worst 3-on-3 overtime team in the league, but the Devils have proven that badly wrong from the outset, and are thriving in this new environment.
3-on-3 Overtime Is a Spectacle to Watch
When I first saw that 3-on-3 overtime was being introduced into the NHL for this coming season, I immediately thought it was a great idea, and so far it’s been nothing short of that. However, what I failed to realize was just how entertaining it is being there in person than I thought it would be.
My Dad and I took in the Devils, Sharks game on Friday night, which was the first game the Devils have played a 3-on-3 overtime, and it didn’t disappoint in the slightest. Each team had back-and-forth chances, with Kyle Palmieri having a chance to score on a breakaway, but ultimately missing the net. Even watching Sharks All Star defenseman Brent Burns dangle through the Devils defense was something special to watch considering you would never see something like that during 5-on-5 play.
The point is that just being able to watch the 3-on-3 was worth the price of admission itself. The Devils lost the game in the end, but from all the hockey games I have ever been too, I don’t think I have ever been that entertained.
Devils Gaining Valuable 3-on-3 Experience
When Arizona tied the game late against the Devils, it wasn’t a pretty sight. However, what happened in the 3-on-3 overtime quickly made me realize how ahead of the curve the Devils are. That game was the first time Arizona was experience 3-on-3 overtime in the regular season, while it looked like the Devils were veterans at it with Adam Larsson stripping the Coyotes defender of the puck at the blue line before bringing it up ice for a 3-on-1, and eventually finishing it on the back-door pass from Travis Zajac, who finished with three points on the night.
The Devils probably won’t be in a situation where they play three straight 3-on-3 overtime games again this season, but the experience they gained from being able to play in it this early in the season will no doubt be a benefit moving forward for not only the players, but the coaching staff as well.
Improvement in Each Game Is Crucial
After the Devils started 0-3-0, I thought that this was just the beginning of a long season, and thankfully while they aren’t in the state the Columbus Blue Jackets are in, I can’t help but be impressed with the way this team has improved from game-to-game this season.
What it comes down to is the core guys being able to put up numbers like we know they can, and the younger guys showing the skill that maybe some of the older guys are lacking. Jacob Josefson made a great play on the shorthanded goal by Zajac to give the Devils their first lead of the season. Kyle Palmieri has looked more and more comfortable with each game he plays, and even in losses, Adam Henrique is playing some of the best hockey we’ve seen him play since he injured his wrist last year.
The whole team in general is adjusting to the system John Hynes wants to implement. Hynes is a guy who won at least 42 games in every season as the head coach of the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, while also advancing to the second young of the Calder Cup playoffs in each season as well. Sure, Hynes didn’t make the best coaching decisions with pulling the goaltender in the first couple of games, but while we’re only six games into this new season, we’re already getting a taste of what this team is trying to become.
The New Jersey Devils certainly don’t have the best offensive presence in the NHL, far from it in fact. However, if this team continues to improve, and more importantly, competes night in and night out, then maybe, just maybe they have a shot of doing something special this year.
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Corey Spina lives in Wayne, New Jersey. He is a senior at Centenary College, and is majoring in Communications/Journalism. Corey is in his second season covering the New Jersey Devils for The Hockey Writers, he completed a sports journalism internship with TAPinto, and he is the Host/Producer of the Sports Buzz on WNTI.org.