March 23, 2023

Just like that, the first half of the New Jersey Devils’ 2022-23 season is in the books. It has been a wild few months for the franchise that included a historic 13-game winning streak, multiple milestones, and surprising performances from the team’s newest acquisitions. Through the first 40 games of the season, the Devils are in the playoff race and enter tonight’s game vs. the Carolina Hurricanes with 53 points.

“We have put ourselves in a good position here at the halfway point,” said Brendan Smith. “It gets harder from here on out. The games get harder and the teams get harder.”

Let’s break down the first half of the 2022-23 campaign by the numbers starting with an area that has surprisingly been a strength for the club.

.853: Points Percentage on the Road

Last season the Devils’ road record was an abysmal 11-26-4. Things have turned around this season and the club’s play on the road has been a bright spot over the past few months.

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New Jersey owns a road record of 14-2-1, which ranks second in the NHL for wins. The Devils rank first in the league for points percentage on the road at .853. When asked what has been the key to the team’s road success, Nico Hischier told the media, “we play smart road games. We play with confidence and we try not to make too many mistakes and that’s how we are able to win games on the road.”

2.34: Vanecek’s Goals Against Average

It’s a coin flip to decide who has been a bigger surprise this season between John Marino and Vitek Vanecek. Both performed extremely well in the first half of the season and were key members of the team’s early success. When Blackwood was injured on Nov. 3, Vanecek became one of the team’s unsung heroes and his stellar performance led to him being named the second Star of the Month for November.

Vitek Vanecek New Jersey Devils
Vitek Vanecek, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Currently, he owns a record of 15-5-2 with a save percentage of .914. He has become one of the most reliable goaltenders the team has had in years and is proving to be worthy of the three-year contract he signed on July 19, 2022.

25: Wins Earned

During the summer, I asked Devils fans what they would consider a successful 2022-23 season for head coach Lindy Ruff’s team. While the playoffs are always the end goal, many fans were looking for the club to play meaningful games in December and January. Mission accomplished, folks!

It is Jan. 10 and New Jersey is ranked second in the Metropolitan Divison. Their 25 wins are tied with the Hurricanes for the most within the division. The Devils went on a 13-game winning streak from Oct. 25-Nov. 21, which gave them a good cushion that helped during their recent struggles.

New Jersey Devils Celebrate
New Jersey Devils Celebrate a Goal (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

“You have to get [points] early because if you don’t, it gets too tight at the end,” said Smith. “You’re almost hoping a team loses and you don’t want that, you want to control your own fate. We’ve done a good job of putting ourselves in that position. And right now, everybody knows that the competition is amplified and it’s getting harder, and you got to find a way to get points on a nightly basis.”

It’s worth noting the Devils didn’t earn their 25th victory last season until April 9. This season, the team’s 25 wins after 40 games played from the start of a season rank as the third most in franchise history.

34: Points Hamilton Has Collected

Overall, last season did not go well for defenseman Dougie Hamilton. After a hot start that included scoring his first goal as a Devil 17 seconds into his debut, he struggled with injuries. Between his broken jaw and broken toe, fans did not see the real Hamilton in the first season of his $63 million contract.

Related: Devils Need a Healthy Hamilton for the 2022-23 Season

A long summer away did wonders for the 6-foot-6 blueliner as he already exceeded last season’s point totals. Entering tonight’s contest vs. his former team, he has 34 points (nine goals, 25 assists) in 40 games. He’s had 10 multi-point games this season and leads all Devils defensemen with 139 shots.

127: Combined Points for Hughes, Hischier, and Bratt

The Devils’ young core of Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, and Jesper Bratt has led the way through the first half of the 2022-23 campaign. A noticeable difference is that the three aforementioned players have been able to remain healthy up until this point.

Bratt began the season on an impressive 11-game point streak, which set a new franchise record for the longest season-opening point streak passing Tim Higgins’ 10-game streak. He has been a key part of the team’s power play and his 17 points on the man advantage are tied for most on the team along with Hamilton.

Hischier and Hughes have become one of the greatest young duos in the league. The team’s young captain is arguably playing the best hockey of his career and has collected 38 points in 39 games. He has earned the nickname captain clutch as he has a team-leading five game-winning goals. Additionally, the team is 21-4-3 when Hischier records a point in a game. For a second consecutive season, Hughes was selected to represent the Devils at the NHL All-Star Game. He is currently a top-10 player in the league and his 49 points are tied with Mitch Marner, Matthew Tkachuk, and Kyle Connor.

The Devils will begin a five-game road trip tonight against the Hurricanes at PNC Arena in Raleigh. Hischier’s team will look to earn a win in Carolina for the first time since Nov. 2, 2019. Be sure to follow me on Twitter for all the latest news and updates surrounding the club as their race for the postseason continues.

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