The New Jersey Devils, due to a fruitful road trip with solid performances the Devils have given themselves a chance to make a run at the playoffs. Now everyone will want to see, including them just what they can do with that opportunity.
“We put ourselves in a decent spot with some really good play on that trip,” said newly acquired Devils left winger Taylor Hall, who called the just-finished four-game stint a “make or break” moment in their season. “It all goes to nothing if we don’t keep it going and keep playing well.”
Tomorrow night, the Devils will face off the Montreal Canadiens on a Friday night at the Prudential Center which is their home ice, and then go on to play the Philadelphia Flyers on the road on Saturday night. They feel pretty good since they’ve won three straight games which is also their longest winning streak since a five-game streak they had in November from the 6-15. So, now going 3-0-1 on the road trip, with a come-from-behind win by a 4-3 score in Minnesota, was what lifted their spirits after the Wild were coming into that game on a 17-1-1 roll.
Luckily, the Devils will play 12 of their next 16 games on home ice, which will include six matches against Metropolitan Division teams.
“There really is a lot of room if we keep rolling and keep playing well at home,” Hall said. “If we win the games we have to, we’re going to be playing some meaningful games and that’s exciting for us. That’s why I said before the trip it’s kind of make or break.”
“We have great vibes in our room right now,” rookie left wing Miles Wood added. “It’s important for us to not get complacent and keep our foot on the gas pedal in the home stretch to try and make the playoffs.”
The Devils haven’t been to the postseason since 2012, and that year was a tough one since they lost in the Stanley Cup Final to the Los Angeles Kings in six games. Earlier this week on Monday, the Devils were three points out of the second and final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. There were four teams, including the Flyers whom they’ll play on Saturday, who were all ahead of them. Well, not anymore.
“We’re still in the mix and it’s important for us to see that we’re not that far away,” Hall said. “If we can win some games and play well, February and March are very favorable as far as the schedule.”
So, if they want to make it to the post season, they’ll have to take advantage of it by playing strong on home ice. And luckily for them, the Canadiens have not been playing well, with their star goalie, Carey Price, totally off his game.
The Devils kicked off the season 7-0-2 on home ice, but since they have lost their last three games at ‘The Rock’ going 0-2-1, and are 2-6-1 since Dec. 9. They’ll need to reverse that trend.
“It’s been a little inverse,” goalie Cory Schneider said. “We started out hot at home and now we’re struggling at home. We started terribly on the road and now we seem to be putting it together on the road. We need to do it simultaneously. It’ll be nice to get back home and feed off that trip and it’d be nice to set a tone and feel good about ourselves because we’re going to be here a lot.”
That the Devils are proud of the figh they’ve shown, and have given themselves a chance to be in it again after going a dismal 4-12-4 from Nov. 17-Dec. 27.
“We had some games there where it just wasn’t the same team we had earlier in the season and that was troubling,” Hall said. “The most important thing, I think, in sports is confidence and, as a team, we’re starting to get that back.”
Wood, reiterated that the team never felt their season was lost or that the playoffs were completely out of reach. “I didn’t think it was a stretch [to make the playoffs] because the moment you think it’s a stretch is the moment you don’t make it,” Wood told media.
There are a bunch of injuries though. Defenseman John Moore has a concussion, and missed nine straight games. He practiced on Thursday. Schneider has started breaking in the smaller and skinnier goalie pants that will become mandatory on Feb. 4. “The thigh pieces are definitely more contoured,” Schneider told media. “It’s definitely tight around the waist and I’m a guy who tucks his chest [protector] in. There’s no extra room in it.” But Schneider was confident that he wouldn’t have any problems with the new equipment.
He ‘ll get a chance tomorrow night to try them out against Montreal’s back up Al Montoya who will guard the road net against the Devils on Friday. It might be an interesting match up since he stole a road win from the Winnipeg Jets last week, which was his third straight victory away from Montreal. He’s given up an average of three goals per game over that time span though so puck luck might have been involved, but he played well on the road.
His team also have been scoring and bailed him out for 15 total goals worth of support in that same time period. He’s definitely a clear No. 2 goalie behind Carey Price, but that doesn’t mean he is only backup material. By playing more he might get in a groove and the Devils will have to solve him and not take him for granted just because he is not Price. Though, the Devils must take advantage of this situation.