The New Jersey Devils might be better than any of us expected.
Quite literally, five of our season preview panelists predicted the Devils would finish last in the Metropolitan Division and none of them thought they'd finish higher than seventh. They've won seven of their last 10, highlighted by a big win at home against Chicago on Friday.
It was fairly shocking how quickly they dismantled the defending champions. Lee Stempniak's goal three minutes in appeared to be nothing worth worrying about. Chicago has come back from worse deficits this season. Then Kyle Palmieri scored, prompting Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews to try and spark his team with a fight.
Instead, the Devils kept pushing and came right back with a goal that chased Corey Crawford from the net. New Jersey, of all teams, had put up a four-spot on the Chicago Blackhawks. And they made it look easy. That's the kind of goal support Cory Schneider has yearned for in the Devils net for years. That this team -- expected to lead the race to the league's depths for a shot at the first overall pick -- is providing him with that, is remarkable.
They kept their general composure in light of a foul or a goal against. They did it against a Chicago team that, while weaker than last year's team, are still defending champions and feature more talent on paper. They showed they can more than just competitive at that level; on some nights, they can take over. Pretty much all Devils fans should be pleased with tonight's win.
Devils 4, Blackhawks 2
3 things we learned
1. Oscar Lindberg doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon
I've purposely neglected to write about the New York Rangers rookie because I doubted he could continue to keep pace with the rest of the league's rookies. I was wrong. With another goal on Friday in Colorado, Lindberg leads all NHL freshmen with eight tallies. He's also tied with Alex Ovechkin, Kyle Turris and Alexander Steen for the league lead in even-strength goals, at seven. I continue to reserve some doubts (he simply can't keep his .50 goals per game average up forever) but he's certainly on the radar for the Calder Trophy at this point.
2. Ryan Getzlaf's saucer passes are 10 times sexier without an appendix
The Ducks captain is back from his emergency surgery and delivering sauce better than ever.
3. The Maple Leafs are playing with a little more confidence these days
Squint really hard and you'll see it. The Leafs look more energized ever since they defeated the Western Conference-leading Dallas Stars last week. It showed against the Red Wings. James Reimer was superb in net, shutting down multiple grade-A opportunities late in the game. He gave the Leafs the chance to tie it up, and they did just that. It ended as another loss in overtime, but that was another well-earned point for Toronto. That's all Mike Babcock can ask for right now.
Then again, Reimer did let this awful goal happen. But it was Henrik Zetterberg's 300th career goal, so we'll let it slide.
Rookie of the Night
Just look at this goal. Of course it's Lindberg.
Stat of the Night
Henrik Zetterberg is 5th player in @DetroitRedWings history w/ 300 goals, 500 assists & 800 pts (joins Howe, Delvecchio, Yzerman & Fedorov).— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) November 7, 2015
Post to Post
- Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis was admitted to the hospital as a precaution for a blood clot, but thankfully the team later confirmed his tests came back negative.
- Corey Perry's stick turned into a helicopter.