In a previous fanpost on Nov 2nd (when the Devils had 7 pts in 13 games), I opined that time to turn the season around and make the playoffs was running out. My prediction at the time was that if the Devils were not able to put together a 3-game winning streak by the 25th game of the season, they would be almost certain to miss the playoffs.
Well, here we are, having played 24 games this season, with only 18 pts in the standings, and no 3-game winning streak to our credit. I stand by my prediction but I'm willing to give this team 3 more games before I start writing fanposts advocating that we rent out Arnott and Langenbrunner and aim for a top-10 draft pick.
We are in the midst of four consecutive games against some of the toughest competition in the league. We've managed to get a shootout win in the first game against the Flyers. The next three games are: at home vs. NE-division-leading Montreal, followed by a pair of road games in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, both tied for the Atlantic division lead. These three games will put to the test whether this team is ready to break out of its slump or is truly stuck in the mud.
If they notch 4 or more pts in these three games, they have reason for optimism. They will gain confidence from beating the early Vezina favorite (Price), and containing the best player in the league and the 2nd best offense in the league.
If they notch 2 or fewer, however, they will have no more than 20 pts through the first 27 games - almost exactly one-third of the way through the season. To make the playoffs, they will need at least 70 pts in the remaining 55 games of the season - essentially the same pace that Pittsburgh, with 34 pts in their first 26 games and a record of 16-8-2, has played at so far, except that the Devils will have to maintain that pace for twice as long.