Devils line projections 2023-24: Here’s what Lindy Ruff’s lineup could look like on opening night – nj.com
The New Jersey Devils’ journey in the 2023-24 season, while still in its nascent stage, has already been marked by a remarkable confluence of highs and lows, much to the intrigue of both fans and critics alike. With a medley of promising developments on one hand and a slew of disquieting trends on the other, this exploration seeks to discern three from each category, delving into what’s working well and how the team can aspire to higher standards.
Preeminent Performer? Jack Hughes currently reigns supreme in the NHL, amassing an astonishing 17 points in the team’s inaugural six fixtures. The Devils’ franchise pivot has exceeded all expectations, providing an electrifying start to this season. Notably, only Jesper Bratt, now helming his own line, has breached the double-digit points threshold, while the Devils, as a collective unit, navigate the labyrinth of subpar performance. In comparison, during the same juncture last season, Jack had a mere solitary goal and two assists. Presently, his goal tally stands at four, surpassing his entire points tally from last season. Jack Hughes is currently on pace to eclipse the century mark with an astonishing projection of 22 points. While the sustainability of this torrid pace is questionable, it hints at the prospect of witnessing a New Jersey Devil breaking the coveted century mark.
Defensive Brilliance Kevin Bahl emerged as a standout performer in the recent game. The TNT broadcast showered him with accolades, acknowledging his capacity to thwart opposing players on multiple occasions. For the Devils to carve a path to long-term success, players of Bahl’s ilk must maintain their form. Although he may ultimately settle as a #4 defender or a bottom-tier contributor, a reliable presence in this role far outweighs an ineffectual placeholder. Bahl must persist in harnessing his stature and wingspan, minimizing his errors. While his skating might not be the swiftest, his physical attributes help alleviate those concerns.
The Enigma of Toffoli The surprising emergence of Tyler Toffoli as the leading goal-scorer at the six-game mark raises eyebrows. Admittedly, this may appear an arbitrary and unique statistical milestone. Nevertheless, Toffoli has delivered the desired goal-scoring punch that the Devils sought when acquiring him. Hughes, Toffoli, and Timo Meier are beginning to coalesce into a menacing forward line, posing a formidable challenge even to the most accomplished defensemen in the league. Toffoli’s role as a triggerman for Hughes, enabling the latter to orchestrate plays, has certainly contributed to Hughes’ blistering start. Despite their exertions being notably diminished during the third period of the previous game, the trio combined to produce an impressive eight points before stumbling.
An Evening to Forget Apart from the collective yearning of the fan base to erase the memory of the previous game, it laid bare the inherent imperfections of the current iteration of the Devils. For a comprehensive analysis of the game, a perusal of Chris’ review is strongly recommended. His dissection delves into the core issues and their root causes, notably emphasizing the expected goals against and defensive lapses as critical areas of concern. In the current climate, where expectations for the team have reached unprecedented heights, the Devils cannot afford lackluster performances against teams they should ostensibly overpower. Acknowledge the defeat, identify solutions to the recurring problems that have persisted since the season’s commencement, and set sights on a brighter future.
Scoring Splendor and Defensive Debility The Devils currently occupy the sixth position in the NHL rankings, having scored an impressive four goals per game. Paradoxically, they share the dubious distinction of being the sixth-worst team, tied with the San Jose Sharks, in terms of goals conceded, with an alarming average of 3.67 per game. While the former is undoubtedly a feather in their cap, the latter demands immediate rectification if the Devils aspire to become a force to be reckoned with this season. It’s a stark reality that hardly any team in recent memory has clinched the Stanley Cup with such a generous goals-against average. Encouragingly, this dismal statistic is derived from just six games played by the Devils, with a substantial 76-game journey ahead to remedy the situation.
Persistent Predicament While I am typically averse to advocating for personnel changes or job terminations, I am left pondering the rationale behind Dave Rogalski’s continued association with the Devils. Since his tenure commenced in October 2020, there appears to be a conspicuous absence of tangible progress in the development of goaltenders or young netminders. Is it not the fundamental duty of a goaltending coach to nurture and refine the team’s goaltending resources? My expectation is not for Vitek Vanecek or Akira Schmid to metamorphose into top-tier goaltenders overnight, but there should at least be a semblance of consistency in their performances. With Rogalski at the helm, it appears that the same mistakes are repeated ad nauseam. While it is only fair to apportion some blame to the goalkeepers and their tendencies, it behooves us to scrutinize the common denominator in the equation, in pursuit of fortifying this pivotal position.
Your Perspective I now eagerly await your insights into the Devils’ season thus far. What are your prognostications regarding Jack Hughes’ point accumulation? Are you content with the contributions of Toffoli and Bahl in this campaign? Does the outcome of the previous game raise concerns about the future? Do you consider issues related to goaltending, coaching, and goals scored to be of greater significance than defensive lapses, or is it the converse? Your thoughts are invaluable; kindly share them in the comments section below. Thank you for your continued readership.
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