New Jersey Devils’ New Mentality on Display During Road Trip
The New Jersey Devils returned to Newark with six more points as they swept their three-game road trip this past week pushing their record to 15-3-0. For the first time in franchise history, the Devils swept the Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, and Toronto Maple Leafs on the same road trip.
Over the three games the Devils scored 13 goals including two power play goals and one shorthanded courtesy of Yegor Sharangovich. All four lines contributed during their road trip too, with 11 different forwards collecting at least a point. Head coach Lindy Ruff’s team has now won 12 straight games, which matches the second-longest winning streak in franchise history.
After Saturday’s game Jesper Boqvist was asked if each win was adding more pressure to the team or if it was taking it off.
“I don’t know to be honest,” he said with a smile. “We need to take one game at a time, one day at a time and I think that’s what’s made us successful so far.”
Don’t Get Too High, Don’t Get Too Low Mantra
Team captain Nico Hischier has been very even-keeled when addressing the media throughout their current winning streak. Multiple times he has said the team can’t get too high after a win or too low after a loss. Back on Nov. 8, Mike Morreale of NHL.com shared his observation that Hischier’s attitude has rubbed off on his teammates, as the locker room continues to be very businesslike even though the team had won seven straight games at that point.
A New Mentality in the Locker Room
Besides Jack Hughes who told the media, “I mean we’re on a 9 game heater, I’d say we’re doing okay” when asked what the Devils needed to do to gain a little bit more consistency throughout a full 60 minutes, other players like Erik Haula and Brendan Smith have talked about still needing to improve despite their impressive record.
There seems to be a sense that they are happy with their current streak, but still not 100 percent satisfied with their 60-minute effort, which is a great mentality to have. Both aforementioned veterans talked about the team needing to improve their first period, and on Saturday afternoon the club played a perfect first 20 minutes in Ottawa. New Jersey had 15 shots on goal, two goals, a perfect penalty kill, and a flawless performance from goaltender Akira Schmid who made nine saves on nine shots.
They controlled the pace for the majority of the afternoon against the Senators and had a three-goal lead by the time Ottawa’s Derick Brassard finally got the puck past Schmid late in the second period. The game had a very different feel to it than their victory over the Maple Leafs on Nov. 17. Against Toronto, the Devils gave up the first goal of the game and surrendered a goal with 2:09 left in the third period allowing their opponent to force overtime.
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It was a game the Devils would have most likely lost last season. Playing with the lead was something they struggled with and before he left New Jersey for the summer, Jesper Bratt joined Matt Loughlin and Sam Kasan on an episode of Speak of the Devils Podcast. During his interview, he addressed the team’s issues in the final frame.
“Playing with a lead was something that we struggled with as a team,” said Bratt. “There were way too many games that we were playing extremely good hockey the first and second period and then kind of collapsed a little bit as a young scared team in the third period.”
The additions of Haula and Smith have been instrumental in helping the team in this regard and recently Ruff praised Smith for his presence on the bench explaining that in between shifts he is talking to the other defensemen and forwards. It is clear there is a new mentality in the Devils’ locker room and a lot of credit needs to be given to Hischier and the veterans that general manager Tom Fitzgerald brought in this past summer.
Devils Success Against Canadian Opponents
The Devils made hockey history this weekend by becoming the first U.S.-based team in NHL history with a road winning streak of six plus games, all against Canadian clubs. They are 8-0-0 this season versus opponents north of the border, and to put things into perspective, they earned only two regulation wins last season against Canadian teams.
Finding a win on the road was extremely difficult for the Devils last season as they finished the 2021-22 campaign with a record of 1-26-4 away from Prudential Center. Ruff’s team already has eight road wins and it’s only Nov. 20. Last season the team did not earn their eighth road win of the season until Feb. 24.
The core of last season’s team has remained intact, but there is something noticeably different about how it has carried itself through its first 18 games. Whether it’s the additions Fitzgerald made, a healthy Hischier, or the confidence of having reliable goaltending, this team feels different to those around the organization, the media members who cover them, and the fans who root for them. The Devils look to extend their winning streak to 13 games on Nov. 21 as they host the Edmonton Oilers at Prudential Center at 7:00 P.M.
Kristy has been contributing to The Hockey Writers since March of 2021. She is thrilled to be putting her journalism degree to use and is a credentialed correspondent covering the New Jersey Devils. Kristy is also a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. You can follow her journey on Twitter @InStilettos_NHL and Instagram SkatingInStilettos.