This is the week in which we all give thanks for family, friends, good health and great food. Or, if you’re an NHL franchise, for residing in a Stanley Cup playoffs seed at the quarter mark of the season, because that usually means you’ll still be in one when the postseason begins.
Teams in playoff positions on Thanksgiving have made the playoffs 77% of the time during 82-game seasons in the salary-cap era (since 2005-06), according to ESPN Stats & Information.
In other words, a lot of opinions formed about teams and players by the 20-game mark could end up justified by season’s end. Still, they could just end up being overreactions to the sample size that are proven to be aberrations and miscalculations.
Here are 10 theories about the NHL season thus far that we’re putting to the test: Are they reasonable judgments or total overreactions?
The Devils finished last season with a .384 points percentage, 28th in the NHL. They lost their first two games and fans were chanting for head coach Lindy Ruff to be fired.
Now they’re giving him and the team standing ovations, like the one the Devils received after winning their 13th straight game to tie a franchise record. New Jersey is top three in offense but more importantly is second in goals-against average thanks to increased defensive responsibility in front of vastly improved goaltending.
The verdict: Probably not an overreaction. Let’s start with the obvious caveat: The Devils’ success is reliant on the continued good health of captain Nico Hischier, star center Jack Hughes, ace puck-moving defenseman Dougie Hamilton and goalie Vitek Vanecek, who is rocking a .918 save percentage. If they’re playing, then the Devils are in fact very hard to defeat.
The Devils have learned how to balance their outstanding offense off the rush with defensive responsibility. They’ve shown an uncanny ability to shake off adversity to rally for wins or put the hammer down on opponents. The traditional and fancy stats all point to a very talented team that’s suddenly figured it all out. Most importantly, they don’t want to go back to their sad-sack ways.
As Hischier said: “I don’t want it to end. It’s definitely just fun. Like we say, just keep riding away the wave.”