After a slow and discouraging start to the year, the Devils have won four of their last five games and are firing on (almost) all cylinders.
After the first two games of the year, it really felt like nothing had changed for the Devils. However, the last five games have shown that hypothesis to be wrong. The Devils have won four out of their last five games in convincing fashion. They beat Anaheim 4-2, the Islanders 4-1, the Sharks 2-1, lost to Washington and beat Detroit 6-2. Goaltending has been less than perfect, but the Devils have a dominant offense that takes over the game and brings home the W’s.
JBITBPITNHL. Jesper Bratt Is The Best Player In The NHL. Bratt now has 12 points in 7 games so far this season and all of them are beautiful. There is nothing that is a fluke about what this guy did last season or has done so far this season. He is just an elite point producer in the NHL and there is nothing anyone can do to stop him. It’s a damn shame hes only on a one year deal because he is going to rightfully command a massive pay increase this summer. It would make perfect sense to give this 24 year old man an 8 year contract for over $8 million per season this summer. His skating is almost impossible to believe. His passing is (almost) always perfect. He had three points tonight with two goals and an assist. He leads the Devils in points by 5 and we are only seven games into the NHL season. Bratt set up the Jack Hughes goal tonight with a flawless backhand pass, having almost no space. He ripped two flawless shots to the back of the net. All the talk coming into the year was about Jack Hughes being a 100 point player but Jesper Bratt may be the Devils to easily surpass 100 points this season. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to call him the most underrated player in the NHL right now.
Devils captain Nico Hischier gets a lot of hate because he isn’t Cale Makar. People seem to think that because Hischier is not the generational talent that Makar is, he is a bust. This is highly flawed logic. In 2017, the Devils picked the most NHL ready player at 1st overall. They drafted a center that had excelled in the CHL, the best amateur hockey league in the world, over a defenseman from the AJHL, that wouldn’t be NHL ready for another few years. The first overall pick is not the time to take risks on players from lower leagues that won’t be ready for years. The Devils took the safer route and picked a solid two way center that could help immediately, and in the future. Hischier helped the Devils make the playoffs in his first season and has been one of the Devils best players each year since then. People call him injury prone but what injuries has he had? He broke his leg in an off season training accident, and he had facial fractures when a slap shot from his own teammate deflected into his face. Both freak accidents that could easily happen to anyone. Hischier continues to help the team now and has 7 points in 6 games played so far this year. I believe that Captain Nico can lead this team to the playoffs this year and cup contention in the near future.
As excited as I am about what this team can do offensively with Bratt, Hischier, Hughes and company, I still am not confident in the defense or goaltending of this year’s Devils. This goal from Dylan Larkin shows the Devils struggles in both areas. Not only did the Devils not stay with Larkin as he charged towards the net but Vitek Vaneck let up a goal that he really should have stopped. Obviously this goal, or the blown coverage that led to the Red Wings second goal, did not end up mattering much tonight. However, when the Devils play higher competition, such as the Avalanche on Friday night, these mistake could cost the Devils points in the standings. Mackenzie Blackwood was outstanding during the Devils three game win streak, but did not play well against the Capitals on Monday, being pulled after the second period. The Devils also turned the puck over in their defensive zone several times in the game against Washington and paid the price by getting blown out on home ice.
With all of that being said, I am confident that this team can remain competitive for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference this year. The goaltending obviously has to be better and the Devils need to be more responsible in their own end. However this team has elite offense that consistently carries the play and out shoots their opponents by wide margins. If the Devils can just tighten up their defensive zone play and keep up their offensive pressure, they will win alot of games this year. You can follow me on Twitter at PatBoooooth. Let’s go Devils!