How Dangerous Are The Devils? 2023 Playoff Preview

The Devils are in the playoffs for the first time since 2018, and this time they are much more than just a one man team.

When the Devils entered the playoffs in 2018 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, it was almost entirely due to the fact that Taylor Hall carried the team there pretty much by himself. They were over matched by the Lightning and eliminated in five games. This year, the Devils are a very deep team with one of the best forward groups in the NHL, a solid defensive corps, and reliable goaltending. The Devils are a much better built team this time around and far more equipped to make a deep playoff run.

While the Devils aren’t the one man show they were back in 2018, there is still one man who is clearly driving the bus. Jack Hughes. He set a new Devils record for points in a single season with 99 and was the best player on the ice for either team in almost every game he played in this season. Not only that, but he dispelled many concerns about his size, strength, and durability. Jack played in 78 of 82 games this year and showed he is able to excel even when the game gets physical. His assist on Dougie Hamilton’s OT winner is a perfect example. Some people out there will try and discredit Jack Hughes as too small to play in the more physical playoffs. That would be an absurdly uneducated thing to say as not only do you have to catch Jack to hit him, which is very difficult, but he has shown an ability to play through physical contact and keep putting up points. Let’s also not forget that against the Rangers, the Devils first round opponent, Jack Hughes has 4 goals and 2 assists in 4 games this year, so the Rangers haven’t found a way to slow him down yet.

Even if the Rangers are able to find some way to slow down Jack Hughes, that is only the beginning of their concerns. The Devils have four players who recorded 70+ points this year in Hughes, Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, and Dougie Hamilton. The Devils also have seven players who scored at least 20 goals, including Tomas Tatar, Dawson Mercer, and Timo Meier (although the majority of Meier’s goals this year came as a Shark, he’s been heating up recently) My point is that the Devils are a deep team with offensive threats all throughout the lineup. Stopping Jack Hughes would be a big win from the Rangers, but there is still a steep hill to climb to keep the Devils off the scoreboard even if they do find some way to shut down Hughes.

Now of course the Rangers have some great offensive players too. They had two 90 point scorers in Aretmi Panarin and Mikka Zibanejad, and seven guys score at least 20 goals including Chris Kreider, Vincent Trocheck, Filip Chytil, Patrick Kane and Vladamir Taresenko. (Most of Kane’s and Taresenko came before they were Rangers) However, the Devils finished the season with 291 goals to the Rangers 277 so offensive depth does lean in the favor of the Devils.

One area of this series where the Devils are at a clear disadvantage is in goal. Igor Shesterkin is a better goalie than Vitek Vanecek, that is undeniable. Shesterkin won the Vezina last year and then had a .929 save percentage in 20 playoff games. Vitek Vanecek is a very good starting goalie capable of stealing a game but Shesterkin is a top five goalie in the NHL capable of stealing a series almost entirely by himself. Vanecek will have to be sharp in every game and the devils will have to do what they can to take away Shesterkin’s abilityt o see the puck in order to beat him in four out of seven games. It isn’t impossible to beat Shesterkin in a series, Tampa Bay did it last year, and he hasn;t been as amazing this year, but Shesterkin is still easily capable of stealing four out of seven games if he has to.

PREDICTION! Due to the Devils having a faster, more explosive offense, I believe the Rangers won’t be able to keep up with the Devils over the course of a seven game series. Trouba and Trocheck and Miller will try to intimidate the Devils by being really physical, but will likely fail because none of them can keep up with the speed of the Devils top six forwards. Plus, it isn’t like the Devils are a super soft team, the Devils also have guys like Miles Wood, Timo Meier, Nathan Bastian, Jonas Siegenthaler, and Kevin Bahl, all of whom are more than capable of giving out plenty of hits and love physical hokey. The Rangers offense is good but the Devils showed in March that they are more than capable of shutting them down with a 2-1 win at the Rock. The only thing that worries me is Shesterkin becoming unbeatable again like he was for much of last year’s playoffs. With that said, Devils in six. This is going to a fun series and you can follow it with me on Twitter at PatBoooooth

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