After getting embarrassed heading into the all star break, the Devils have sprinted out of the break with their best. The Devils have picked up 7 out of 8 points. Barring a third period collapse against Calgary, they would have been perfect in terms of wins. As we restlessly wait for the on-ice action to return, fans still have reasons to remain emotionally invested. Only three points out of the last wild card, the playoffs are still a realistic possibility. On average, 95 points gets teams a guaranteed spot in the playoffs. To reach this feat, John Hynes and crew need to reel off an ~18-7-3 run. Is it possible? Anything is possible, but there are some signs from recent play that may leave fans optimistic. Here are a few thoughts about the Devils play of late and plans moving forward:
- The Devils possession stats, of late, have been interesting to say the least. Although they are not better “overall” since the all star break, there are some interesting splits that bode well for them. Fans have been clamoring lately about the fact that the Devils have taken the foot off the gas when leading (games against Calgary and Detroit). All advanced stats do indeed confirm that the Devils have done just that. Against Detroit, the Devils let a 4-1 lead dissipate to 4-3 in the third period. The following game, the Devils let their one goal lead, and a point, slip away (Calgary defeated the Devils in overtime). These results are directly correlated to the Devils corsi% at even strength when leading since the all star break. The Devils aforementioned corsi% when leading since the break is a lowly 43.64%. Coasting to the finish has given opposing teams a chance to climb back to even, and has cost the Devils a crucial point in the standings. While this trend seems to be negative, one positive split is their corsi% when tied. Since the break, the Devils have a corsi% of 50.86% when tied. When you have a slight edge in controlling play, and a goaltender of Schneider’s caliber, you are going to build leads a majority of the time. Obviously teams are going to give a push back when they trail. Still, it is imperative the Devils keep driving play in the manner that got them the lead in the first place. Hynes needs to make sure his team understands the importance of the moment and does not leave Schneider out to dry.
- To any fan who had even murmured the word “bust” when talking about Pavel Zacha, start eating your words. Zacha has really ratcheted up his game and it is beautiful how it is all starting to come together for him. After only logging 7 in his first 37, Zacha has 7 points in his last 9 games. He is not exactly skating with world-beaters out there either, as he has been skating on a line with Josefson and Noesen. Zacha also has been extremely integral in igniting the power play. The Devils power play has gone 6/13 since the break and Zacha is a big reason why. He currently leads the Devils in power play G/60 with a rate of 2.76. Coach Hynes should start rewarding Zacha with more and more time on the power play because as of right now, he seems to be his best option. Look for Zacha’s game to really come together down the stretch this season.
John Hynes on Pavel Zacha: "Now you’re starting to see his skill because of his work ethic."— Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) February 7, 2017
- Joe Blandisi needs to be a fourth line fixture. He provides the sandpaper that teams are looking for on the fourth line while also being faster, younger, and more skilled than most fourth liners. He has thrown big hits and been on the doorstep of scoring a couple times since being called up. The Devils were wise to trade Vernon Fiddler, recoup picks, and provide Blandisi a roster spot.
- It is going to be interesting to see what the Devils are going to do with PA Parenteau. We all thought that the Devils were sure to trade him at the deadline for what would likely be around a third round pick, but Tom Gulitti has brought to everyone’s attention that their would be complications in dealing PA. View the tweet with the rule below. Parenteau has been productive this year, so it is risky to shop him around deadline day.
A player claimed off waivers has to be offered (as a waiver pickup) to any other teams that put in a claim for him before he can be traded. https://t.co/jQgzHZarbs— Tom Gulitti (@TomGulittiNHL) February 6, 2017