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10 TAKEAWAYS: Numbers Don't Lie

Amanda Stein gives her 10 Takeaways from the week, presented by Ticketmaster

by Amanda Stein amandacstein / NewJerseyDevils.com

It's pretty enlightening when you do a deep dive into the Devils stats since the All-Star Break. It's almost like looking at a tale of two different teams, so I wanted to share it all with you. Those stats kick off this week's edition of 10 Takeaways, which also features a viral video, my uncertainty on a pair of sunglasses, more milestones for Travis and a long losing streak coming to an end… hope you enjoy this week's edition of 10 Takeaways presented by Ticketmaster! 

1.   Let us go back to the NHL All-Star Break, because when you start to dissect the numbers… well, there's a lot to dissect.

Like this one:

Since the All-Star Break, New Jersey is tied for fourth in the League in points earned with 27, although Vegas, the team they're tied with has reached that mark in two fewer games. The Devils are sixth in points earned percentage at .675.

2.   Want some more stats? Let's look at special teams: 

How about that power play?

Yup, another top five finish! Clicking at 27.3 percent, only the Rangers, Oilers and Flames have had a better conversion rate on the man-advantage. 

And the penalty kill is even more impressive: 

Devils are in the two-spot on the penalty kill since the All-Star Break. With an 89.1 percent effectiveness, the Devils trail only the Edmonton Oilers (91.2%).

3.   There was a new man on campus on Monday at the Devils practice rink, sporting his number 59, Janne Kuokkanen took part in his first practice since being called up to New Jersey for the first time. Kuokkanen has played in 11 NHL games with Carolina over the last two-and-a-half years, but this was his first NHL call-up as part of the Devils organization.

Kuokkanen has made an instant impact since joining Binghamton, with six points in four games before his call-up. Walking into a new environment can be overwhelming, but Janne seems to be adapting. 

"It's been mentally, a new situation for me," the 21-year-old said. "I'm finally getting used to things. The team is rolling and the hockey is really fun. The team is good."

In his first practice, Janne skated with Kevin Rooney and Mike McLeod - but where he ends up when he eventually gets in his first game with the Devils is yet to be seen. But what I really liked watching Janne for his first practice, was how inquisitive he seemed to be. Lots of talking, to coaches and other players. He joked with me after practice that he was always "last in line" for drills, just to make sure that he knew what exactly to do. 

The kid is smart. 

"I thought he had a good practice," Nasreddine said. "Juice was flowing for him and I noticed a pretty good reach, soft hands. It was good to have him out there."

Tweet from @amandacstein: #NJDevils Janne Kuokkanen has joined the big club. Hear how his first practice with New Jersey went this morning from Janne himself: pic.twitter.com/hNI01Mh5vc

4.   Another week, another Mackenzie Blackwood story! This time it's his name in the Devils franchise records books. Look up most wins by a rookie goaltender, and you'll see that Blackwood is right there in the number two spot, a few wins short of Martin Brodeur's top record.

Blackwood's victory against the Rangers at MSG was his 22nd of the year, tying him with Sean Burke for second overall in rookie wins. Burke had 22 wins in the 1988-89 season, six years before Blackwood was even born.

One more and Mac takes sole possession. It's also not impossible, with 14 games left this season that he comes close, ties or even surpasses Brodeur's record of 27 from the 1993-94 season, two years before Mackenzie was born. 

Wouldn't that just be the icing on the cake to an already incredible decision. 
 
5.   Speaking of Mackenzie… I asked him about those sunglasses (can we even call them that?!) he wore to the game the other day… he informed me they are Viper Rip glasses. He loves them and I do believe they're not the only pair that he currently owns. 

Instagram from @njdevils: BME: Big Mac Energy #WeAreTheOnes | #NJDevils

I guess if anyone can pull it off, it's Mac? But, I'm still on the fence about how I feel about the look. It's just a lot going on. What do you guys think?

6.   A two-goal night against the Rangers propelled Travis Zajac up the record books. His first goal, his seventh of the season, was the 194th of his career which tied him with former teammate Zach Parise for fourth on the Devils all-time goals list. And just over a period later, Zajac bumped his friend Zach down the list to take sole possession of fourth all-time with his 195th goal. 

Bobby Holik's 202 goals would be the next target for Travis. 

By the way, Travis is 10 games from reaching 1000, which will make him only the fourth player in franchise history to hit the 1000 NHL games mark.

7.   From 195 to 1… Dakota Mermis has taken every advantage of his NHL callup. Not only has he found a nice spot playing on the left side of the second defensive pairing with Damon Severson, but at 28-years-old, he finally has his first NHL goal. Last week we were talking about his first NHL point against Detroit, now we're talking first NHL goal.

"You didn't know because it said Illinois, didn't it?" he said to me after his first NHL goal.

Mermis' official NHL bio says he's from Alton, Illinois - turns out, if you find Alton Illinois on the map, it's right there on the Mississippi River, next to St. Louis, Missouri. Alton is on the state-line and so Mermis grew up a big St. Louis Blues fan, while he and his wife Sara have just recently purchased a home in the St. Louis area. So, knowing all this background information just might give you an appreciation of how big a moment his first NHL goal was: against the team he grew up watching. 

Tweet from @NJDevils: MerMAN. ���������������#WeAreTheOnes | #NJDevils pic.twitter.com/hyMHGDEF1l

He called it surreal and the smile on his face was just one of genuine joy. He said that it made it even more special because this game would have been broadcast in the St. Louis area no matter whether he was on the team or not, so he knew there were so many at home who got to see the moment live on their TVs. 

8.   There was so much to digest after that win over the St. Louis Blues, let alone the goal for Mermis. You'd have to go as far back as 2014 to find the last win over the Blues franchise, and not just 2014, but the first month of 2014.

The last victory over St. Louis, either away or at home came on January 21, 2014. It was a Devils 7-1 victory at St. Louis with Cory Schneider in net making 26 saves on 27 shots. 

Tweet from @NJDevils: This moment was EVERYTHING. #WeAreTheOnes | #NJDevils pic.twitter.com/1TqPSiu6nj

9.   So, it was Schneider who bookended the losing streak against the Blues, he has posted their most recent and last win against St. Louis. To end the streak, Cory even added a point of his own, assisting on Dakota Mermis' first NHL goal for Schneider's first point since 2015.

Tweet from @amandacstein: First assist for #NJDevils Cory Schneider since 2015. https://t.co/GBCboVIwdk

The win was also Schneider's first in front of his home crowd in just under a year. His last Prudential Center victory coming March 25th versus the Sabres.     

Tweet from @amandacstein: Front row seat. pic.twitter.com/8bvukU2ySe

10.   Remember the excitement of Nikita Gusev being traded to New Jersey this summer? Well, New Jersey's gain was Vegas' loss… but they handled it in the best possible way. When we were in Vegas last week, it marked 'Gusev's return' to T-Mobile Arena. Truth is, Gusev never played a single game for Vegas and only practiced with them a handful of times… but I must bring you attention to the absolute best 'tribute video' I've possibly ever seen! I just had to include it in this piece, because it made me - and Goose - laugh quite a bit. 

It made its way around the Devils locker room and guys got a real kick out of it! 

Tweet from @amandacstein: May I present to you, the greatest ���Welcome Back��� video ever created. This one goes out to #NJDevils Nikita Gusev, playing in Vegas for the first time. pic.twitter.com/kbsRzu8d4u

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