What should we expect from the New Jersey Devils for the remainder of the 2016-17 regular season? A whole lot. The last few weeks have been especially challenging and frustrating to watch but it hasn’t been all bad and the last six or so games have more than just pride on the line.
1) The Emergence of the Hall-Zajac-Palmieri line: the three didn’t start the season on the same line but Taylor Hall, Travis Zajac, and Kyle Palmieri have become a dynamic trio of sorts when they’re on the ice. They’re rarely outchanced or outattempted, and have combined for 58 goals and 86 assists (144 points) on the season, despite not being on the same line for all 82 games. Both Hall and Palmieri are having 50-point seasons and Zajac is having a really great year. He doesn’t get on the scoreboard too often but has had a solid year all-around and is doing all of the little things right. Hall has said he’s been playing injured so it might be beneficial to sit him out the rest of the way. However, this line better stick together next season.
2) The Rookies: what else do I need to say? We’re watching this team’s future. We’re watching them grow and fight and play and score and collect NHL firsts night in and night out, and they are fun to watch. They are young, they are fast, and they’re not afraid to drop the gloves (see: Miles Wood with six fighting majors this season).
3) Winning games (and more than just one at a time): the Devils have put together losing streaks but have been virtually unable to put together a decent winning streak here and there. They haven’t won back-to-back games since the beginning of February. Winning two games in a row would be a nice change of pace but because the Devils have lost 16 of their last 18 games, I’d settle for a single win. Forget draft position for a moment (because New Jersey is all but guaranteed a Top 5 pick): a win (or two) would be huge in terms of momentum and team confidence.
4) Schneider/Kinkaid splitting starts: Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid will likely split goaltending duties through the rest of the season. There have been rumors that the Devils might look to trade Schneider (which, in all honesty, is a completely ludicrous notion) but those are baseless. However, upper management does have to take a long, hard look at their goaltending situation. Schneider will continue to carry the team. Is Kinkaid a good backup? Will he be exposed in the offseason in the Vegas expansion draft in favor of protecting a younger goalie in Scott Wedgewood?
5) Patrik Elias’s official retirement announcement: we know it’s coming, it’s just a matter of time. Elias has skated on his own this season and still has his stall in the locker room but has not publicly discussed what his future entails. He attended Sunday’s game at The Rock but has made no indication of making a return. He deserves to go out on his own terms, and if he does indeed retire, his jersey will be flying from the rafters soon enough.
Did I miss anything? Let me know down below. Take a deep breath, the season’s almost over.