While watching the New Jersey Devils telecast on MSG+ during the game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Devils, Doc and Chico brought up the Carolina Hurricanes from last season; and that led me to do some research on how the Hurricanes' 2009-2010 season compares to the start of the 2010-2011 season for the Devils. All I'm going to say is that the stats are eerily similar.
Heading into the 2009-2010 season, the Hurricanes were expected to potentially challenge the Washington Capitals to be the Southeast Division regular season champions. I mean, they were coming off a magical run in the 2009 playoffs that got them passed the Devils (heart breaking for Devils fans and I know we all painfully remember it), and eventually lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals; so they definitely had a good team.
And they started the next season terribly.
Through the first 20 games of their 2009-2010 season (stats taken from hurricanes.nhl.com), the 'Canes had a record of 3 wins, 12 losses, and 5 overtime or shootout losses; leading to a total of 11 points through 20 games.
Compare that to the Devils' preseason expectations (deep playoff run, and maybe even a Cup) and first 20 games of the 2010-2011 season (stats taken from NHL.com); the Devils had amassed 5 wins, 13 losses, and 2 overtime or shootout losses through their first 20 games, for a total of 12 points.
12 points to 11 points, I would say those are very similar numbers.
Adding to the similarities, the Hurricanes were very injury plagued early in the season, including their all-star goaltender Cam Ward. Again the Devils have another resemblance in that their world class talent in goal, Martin Brodeur, has been having a nagging injury to start the season.
Now another 5 games have passed, and the Devils appeared to have been turning things around until the Montreal game on Thursday December 2. So through 25 games now, the Devils are 8-15-2, with 18 points.
Through 25 games last season, Carolina had a record of 5-15-5 for 15 points.
So perhaps the Devils have started off a bit better than the 'Canes did last season, but still very similar, and terrible records, for teams that were supposed to be in the playoffs at season's end.
The scoring stats are very similar too, through 25 games, the 'Canes had allowed a staggering 89 goals, and scoring only 56, for a goal differential of -33 ("goals" added to the winning team of a shootout result are not added in here, so ex: a 3-2 shootout loss would credit both teams with 2 goals for and 2 goals allowed). Their goals allowed per game was 3.56, and goals for per game was 2.24.
The Devils have, again, slightly better stats, but not by much, 46 goals for, and 74 allowed, for a goal differential of -28. Their goals scored per game average was 1.84, and their goals allowed per game average was 2.96.
Again, very similar numbers: bad defenses, bad (in in the Devils case, anemic) offenses. And all of that leads to a terrible record obviously.
Now, as we all know, the Hurricanes went on to have an excellent final 57 games of the season, posting a 30-22-5 record. That gave them 65 points over those final 57 games, a point percentage of 57.02%. However, the 'Canes still fell a bit short, ending up with a 35-37-10 record, 2 games under .500 and 8 points out of a playoff spot after game 82.
So what does this mean for the Devils?
A very strong 57 games must follow these first 25, if they are to make the playoffs.
To make the playoffs, and not get in the way the Flyers did last season, a team would need probably about 90 points, but at least 88 for sure (88 points was the total number of points earned by Philadelphia and Montreal last season, who occupied seeds 7 and 8 respectively).
If the Devils are to get 90 points, then they need to get 72 points over the next 57 games. That means a win percentage of 63.16%. Roughly, over 57 games, that equals out to about a 36-21 record.
The hole the Devils have dug themselves is certainly massive, and it will take a massive effort to get themselves out too.
I am not trying to inject pessimism into Devils fans, but they are really in a bad position, and frankly, I have not seen anything really from this team that proves to me that they can post 72 points in 57 games. They have been way too inconsistent in their play- perfect example was the Canadiens game, they come off a great week where they have a record of 3-1, and appear to have righted the ship, and come out flat and get beat to the puck by a team that had played, and gone to overtime, the night before (and the Habs had to travel from Montreal to NJ last night too), and end up losing 5-1.
I hope that the team proves me wrong, but I am very worried.
Perhaps a strong second end to the season will get the team in and riding a lot of momentum, something that has not been with them the past few postseasons, and maybe they could ride that to create an upset or two and still accomplish that deep playoff run we expect.
But, until then, the Devils Army is forced to just hope that they turn it around soon, like next game, if they are to make the playoffs.