Since last week’s stock up/stock down the New Jersey Devils hit the road for a four-game tour of the Central Division. In the process, they had wins over the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks to go along with losses to the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche. However, the most noteworthy part of the road trip comes from a Jack Hughes injury. It’s a soul-crushing loss for both the team and the fanbase. But as cliche as it sounds, it’s next-man-up while they await the return of Hughes and their captain Nico Hischier.
New Jersey Devils Stock Up/Stock Down
The Devils continued their torrid start to the season on the powerplay, as it still sits at 41.7%. That’s still good for first in the NHL and 7.5% better than the next-best team. Over the past four games, they’ve gone 6/15, including three against Minnesota and two against Colorado. The biggest question with Hughes going down was if the powerplay could continue at its historic pace. In the two games after his injury, they scored three times on the man advantage. The process isn’t as pretty without Hughes, but they’ve managed to be effective, and are funnelling pucks from the point with more frequency. The sample size without Hughes is small, but if they can avoid a major slump on the PP, it’ll go a long way in keeping them afloat.
Timo gets one on the power play. pic.twitter.com/M2pWzoOqoO
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) November 8, 2023
So far this season the Devils have won games despite some poor team performances. A large portion of these wins came off the back of Jack Hughes being the early runaway favourite for the MVP. When Hughes crashed into the boards against the Blues, a piece of every Devils fan died a little inside. It was as dominant of an opening to a season as Devils fans and the NHL has ever seen. His 20 points and 15 assists through the first 10 games led the entire NHL. The conversation around the team was about the dominance of Hughes, and if the team can put it all together they have a chance to have a special season. Now, we all wait with bated breath how long his week-to-week timeline really is.
Jack Hughes has gone down the Devils tunnel after this play earlier in the first pic.twitter.com/EIj973Jkgy
— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) November 4, 2023
In the absence of Hughes and Hischier the Devils were crying out for someone to step up. Little did we know that it would be Curtiz Lazar from his third-line wing spot who would get going. Lazar got the Devil on the board against St. Louis at a time when the team was still reeling from Hughes’s injury. Then a few nights later he scored the game-winning goal against Chicago on a pretty tip from a John Marino shot-pass. Those two games in particular were standout from Lazar primarily because of his successful forechecking. His speed allows him to chase pucks in deep, and his nose for the net resulted in both of his goals. The Devils will need role players to contribute a little more than usual given their injuries, and hopefully Lazar can build off of a solid few games.
— Hockey Daily 365 l NHL Highlights & News (@HockeyDaily365) November 6, 2023
Palat wasn’t brought into the Devils to be a goal scorer or high-point producer, but given his contract, asking for more production isn’t unreasonable. Through 12 games he has four points, all assists. The eye test tells you that there is much more to be desired. The analytics would back up the eye test. Palat is 10th on the team in Expected Goals and is a -2.2 Goals Above Expected. For a player making $6 million per season, they need more from him. A silver lining is two of his four assists came on the road trip, but his overall play hasn’t been any better than bottom-six right now. The team is going to lean heavily on veteran players like Palat to step up, and hopefully, he can start finding the back of the net soon because the team needs it.
Main Photo: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
— HockeyStatCards (@hockeystatcards) November 6, 2023