The Devils have now won 11 games in a row and 14 of their last 15. Is it too early to start talking about the possibility of 79-3? I don’t think so.
In my season preview, I predicted the Devils to finish 4th in the Metro and sneak into the playoffs with the second wildcard. Hand up, I am an idiot, that’s on me. After 17 games, the Devils have won 14 and lost only 3. That is staggering start to the year, especially for a franchise that has mostly been a failure for the past decade.
Jesper Bratt proved once again that he is far and away the best player to come out of the 2016 draft. There isn’t even a close second at this point. Jesper Bratt is far and away the best player from his draft class. When Bratt only signed a one year contract as an RFA this offseason, many people said this was a prove it deal for both sides. Bratt had to prove to the Devils that last year wasn’t a mirage and that he is worth paying huge money over the long term. On the flip side, the Devils had to prove to Bratt that they could win and he wouldn’t be wasting his prime playing on a losing team by signing long term with the Devils. Both sides are proving to the other that they are a worthwhile investment. The Devils are proving to Bratt that they have a sustainable contending core in place. Not only is the team currently one of the best in the NHL, but Hughes, Hischer, Hamilton, Marino, and Vanecek are all signed for multiple years past this season. On the other end, Bratt is leading the team in points with 22 points in 17 games. If Bratt is smart he will sign with the Devils for seven or eight years and if the Devils are smart they will offer Bratt the super star money he is worth. Anywhere between 7.5 and 9 million dollars a year would be fair in my opinion.
Goaltending has been the source of much misery for Devils fans for years now. Well, this past July, Tom Fitzgerald found us the starting goalie we’ve been begging for since Cory Schneider started having injury problems like five years ago. Vitek Vanecek is the absolute truth in net. The defense in front of him is doing a great job limiting the high danger chances he has to face, but Vanecek is standing tall when he has to. He looked shaky in his first two games but with his 25 saves on 27 shots tonight, Vanecek has now saved 91.6% of the shots hes faced this season and his goals against average is down to 2.15. 11 games is a solid sample size and if he can stay healthy the Devils can win this division easily. I’ve been a Blackeood supporter for years now and I’m not giving up on Mackenzie but it’s obvious at this point that Vanecek is the starter. When Blackwood comes back he will have to be comfortable being the backup because Vitek Vanecek is the absolute truth and the Devils need to play him as much as possible.
Prior to tonight’s game, Lindy Ruff discussed Nico Hischier being a possible Selke trophy candidate. This game only furthered that argument. Hischier has offensively exploded this season and has 9 goals and 9 assists in 16 games to go along with his superb defensive game to become the Devils number one center. We all love Jack Hughes (how could you not?) but Hischier is clearly the better all around player. Not as offensively dynamic as Jack, but still wildly productive while being superior away from the puck as well. Hischier plays in all situations, even strength, penalty kill, power play, and is a weapon any time he steps on the ice. Whether he is killing time by possessing the puck, or creating offense with dazzling moves, selecting him first overall looks smarter by the day. Nico is proving to be a fantastic leader and I am so glad that we have him under contract in the Garden State until the end of the 2027 season.
“We are a really good team.” Truer words have never been spoken. This team is literally unbeatable right now. They simply refuse to lose. No matter what, they fight to the end and find a way to win. Any team that sees the Devils coming up on their schedule right now sees an L in place of a Devil logo because they all know this team simply doesn’t lose. They are better than you, and they know it. We all know it. Follow me on Twitter (if it’s still a thing) at PatBoooooth. Let’s go Devils!