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The Devils have won nine games in a row and the question on everyone’s mind is how long can this streak last?
Not only have the Devils won 9 games in a row, not only have they won 12 out of the last 13 games, but the Devils sit alone atop the Metropolitan division with a four point lead on the Islanders and a five point lead on the Hurricanes. If you try to tell you predicted this, you are lying. I thought the Devils would be good, but I never thought they’d be this good. After wrapping up the perfect home stand on Saturday night, the Devils head north for a three game trip to Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa. Can the Devils come home riding a 12 game win streak with a chance to tie a franchise record at home against Edmonton on November 21st?
One of the biggest improvements in the Devils so far this year has been the defense, led by Dougie Hamilton and John Marino. Hamilton is proving to be every bit of the all around defenseman the Devils thought they were getting when they signed him to a massive deal in the summer of 2021. Hamilton leads all Devils skaters in time on ice per game with 21:39, is second on the team in shots on goal with 56, and leads all defensemen in points with 12. The Devils are allowing the fewest shots on goal per game of any team in the NHL and Hamilton has been a big part of that by using his long reach and smart positioning to limit opponents chances. That will be important to continue when they play Montreal on Tuesday and Toronto on Thursday with all of the talented forwards they have. Suzuki, Dach and Caufield on Tuesday followed by Matthews, Marner, Tavares, and Nylander on Thursday will be a good way to test this defense against top tier speed and creativity. They’ve already passed against Calgary and Edmonton but they need to keep it up.
John Marino being acquired in exchange for Ty Smith in a one for one trade might be one of the biggest trades in the last 20 years for the Devils. Marino has been an absolute stud shut down defenseman, arguably one of the best in the NHL this season. The Devils exchanged Ty Smith, currently an AHL player for the Penguins (7th place in the metro) for one of the best shutdown defenseman in the entire NHL. There is a certain group of fan on the internet who love to hate general manager Tom Fitzgerald because he didn’t make a trade for a player they wanted but there is no denying that Fitz has built a stellar defensive core in New Jersey.
Even with goaltending injuries to Blackwood and Vanececk rearing their ugly head, I am still supremely confident in the Devils chances to extend the win streak on Tuesday night in Montreal. Not only has Akira Schmid stepped in and played well in the last two games, especially overtime against Ottawa on Thursday, but the defense in front of the goalies is so much better than last year. That is why, even on the road with uncertain goaltending, I would not be surprised to see the Devils sweep another Canadian road trip. Schmid is not going to be asked to make 10 highlight reel saves or stop 45 shots to give the Devils a chance to win, which makes me far more comfortable than when he and Daws were playing last season.
As the Devils keep winning, Nico Hischier has inexplicably flew under the radar. It seems like no one in the national or international hockey media is talking about how great he has been this year. He now has 17 points in 14 games played, including 7 points in last five games. The team is undefeated in games where the captain has a point and he is absolutely on fire to start the season. The captain leads the NHL this season with three game winning goals already. If Hischier remains healthy this year, the Devils will make the playoffs and Hischier will have a strong case for the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP. Certain fans and pundits have turned their nose up at Hischier for years now because he isn’t Cale Makar but Nico is proving that he is elite and the Devils made a good choice picking him first overall in 2017.
So will the Devils sweep another Canadian road trip and come home with the chance to tie a franchise record? I think so. Not only do the Devils have the defense to stop the high flying attacks of Montreal and Toronto, but they have the speed to overwhelm the defense and goaltending of those two teams. If Vanecek is ready to play (he is traveling with the team) I think the Devils win all three easily. After that, Devils play Edmonton, a team they’ve already beaten, on the Prudential Center ice. It’s hard to win on the NHL but i think this streak can go to at least 13. You can follow me on Twitter at Pat Boooooth