As we close out the month of December, the New Jersey Devils continue to defy the odds. They’re riding a five-game win streak and are tied with the Washington Capitals for first in the Metropolitan Division. They’ve also obtained at least a point in their last seven contests.
A big reason for their recent push has been an added surge of depth scoring from their bottom-six forwards. With all the notoriety forwards such as Brian Boyle and Brian Gibbons have received, there’s one who maybe isn’t garnering the same attention as those two. That forward would be Stefan Noesen, whose game has really come on in the last month.
Noesen’s Hot December
His season got off to a rough start, to say the least. In his first nineteen games, he had just one goal and one assist. The scoring wasn’t there and he was a healthy scratch on more than one occasion. However, the Devils found themselves with a few injuries to key players such as Kyle Palmieri and Marcus Johansson. With both of those players missing significant time, the door opened for a larger offensive role for Noesen.
Needless to say, he’s taken advantage of it.
Over his last 10 games since December 5th, Noesen has four goals and nine points. He’s also fired 21 shots on goal, which is a sharp uptick from the start of the season, where he had just 21 shots on goal in 19 games. Aside from scoring, Noesen has added more creativity to his game over the course of the last month. Take a look at this goal Pavel Zacha scored on December 23rd against the Blackhawks:
WOW, WHAT A PASS STEFAN NOESEN! Zacha slams it into the net, 3-0 Devils! pic.twitter.com/3mtBorcW9q
— Hockey Daily 365 (@HockeyDaily365) December 24, 2017
Noesen receives a pass from Will Butcher from along the boards. Once the puck is on his stick, he blows past a Blackhawks defender and feeds Zacha a pretty pass from below the goal line for an easy score. Noesen’s primary assist on that goal was not the only one over his scoring stretch.
Since December 5th, he has four primary assists at five-on-five, the most on the team. That total gives him more than teammates Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier over that time, which is not something you’d expect from Noesen. His creativity is part of what had been missing in his first 19 games and is a reason why he’s been able to find the scoresheet more often over the last month.
Noesen’s Play at Five-on-Five
The big question going forward will be if Noesen can maintain this consistency. Considering he has 21 points in 75 career games, it’s hard to imagine he’ll keep up his current point-per-game pace. However, his play at five-on-five this season has been respectable with a 48.7% possession. While that may not seem great, the Devils’ possession stat has been 1.3% better with Noesen on the ice. He’s also been the Devils’ best shot suppressing forward this season, averaging 54.1 shot attempts against per 60 minutes.
Noesen has also been scoring at a decent clip at five-on-five. To date, he’s averaged 1.43 points per 60 minutes, which is ninth on the team (min. 100 minutes played) this season. He’s been racking up scoring chances, as well.
Through 28 games, he ranks sixth and seventh on the team in individual scoring and high-danger chances. He’s been even better since December 5th, ranking third and fourth on the team in individual high-danger and scoring chances (via Natural Stat Trick). If he keeps generating chances at a high-rate, it’ll help maintain his steady scoring rates while at five-on-five.
Going forward, Noesen will need to continue finding ways to contribute offensively at even strength. His 6:04 of ice time on the power play ranks lowest among Devils forwards this season. Maybe his latest stretch of offensive production will get him more minutes on the man advantage. However, with the Devils returning to health up front, those minutes will be hard to come by. If he can keep up his solid play at five-on-five, then his lack of power play time won’t be an issue.
A big reason the Devils are in the position they are now is their depth scoring. Stefan Noesen has played a major part in that, especially over the course of the last month. If New Jersey is to maintain a top spot in the Metropolitan Division, they will need contributions from their role players, like Noesen, to continue.
There’s still a long way to go in the season and the Devils are far from clinching a playoff spot. The Metropolitan is proving to be the fiercest division in the league as we near the halfway point of the season. Having a player such as Noesen contributing at a steady rate will only help the Devils stay ahead of their competitors. If that happens, then the Devils should have no problem securing their first playoff berth since 2012.
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All advanced stats are from Corsica Hockey unless specified otherwise.
Alex Chauvancy is a New Jersey Devils writer for The Hockey Writers who has a penchant for advanced stats, prospects, signings and trades. He previously wrote for Devils Army Blog, a New Jersey Devils fan blog, from 2015-2017