NEWARK, N.J. - The Devils are riding a three-game point streak (2-0-1) in their current four-game mini-series against the Philadelphia Flyers, which concludes Saturday night.
The recent run comes on the heels of a nine-game losing streak. And the biggest factor in the Devils' current winning stretch is due to their starts.
In the nine losses, the Devils allowed the game's opening goal on eight occasions and trailed after the first period in ALL nine games. The coaching staff tried to hammer home the point of having better starts to games.
But everything changed for the team following a 5-1 loss in Pittsburgh on April 22. Following the game, the team's leaders - captain Nico Hischier and alternate captains Damon Severson and Miles Wood - addressed the locker room in a players meeting.
Video: PRACTICE RAW | Lindy Ruff
Though New Jersey would still lose the following game in Pittsburgh, 4-2, it was their best performance of the losing stretch. Hischier had a chance to tie the game with five seconds left in regulation, but missed an open shot. The Penguins' Sidney Crosby scored an empty-netter with .4 seconds left in what was basically a one-goal game.
"Since the couple games we had in Pittsburgh we feel like the whole game got away from us after the first period," forward Jesper Bratt said. "We weren't ready to play. It's hard to win games when you fall behind early. It was something we addressed as a team. We really talked about it. It was something we had to change. I feel like the last couple of games we've been really dialed in the first couple of shifts."
Since then, the Devils have scored the game's first goal and had a first-period lead in each of the next three games, going 2-0-1. And it was largely in part due to the team's leadership group speaking up.
"I believe it's the biggest weapon you can have when their peers hold each other to a high level of play," Ruff said, "and they don't accept some of the stuff that has happened in the past, and being ready to play. When you challenge each other in a productive way, I think it's something that helps your team grow.
"When it's coming from a teammate, I think it carries a lot of power."
That message was delivered and received by the locker room.
"It's huge. We as a group and as players have to hold each other accountable," Bratt said. "It's always helpful when someone on the team or one of your linemates comes up and holds you accountable. That's something we want to keep doing as a group.
"We want to be able to talk to each other and help each other out, but also sometimes being a little tough on each other can sometimes help, too. That's something that we talked about. It helped us going into the last couple of games."
The leadership group's willingness to address their teammates is yet another sign of the growth of a young team finding its way.
"I think players sometimes find it hard to criticize one another, even hard to push one another," Ruff said. "First you have to be able to walk the walk. You've got to be able to do it yourself before you challenge somebody else.
"That's where we want to get to. I think through this whole process and the fact that we lost a lot of games and a couple tough stretches where we lost a lot of games in a row. You've got to be able to use that as a tool to grow. You've got to be able to learn from your mistakes. You have to learn from a lot of the adversity that we had to face. At the same time you have to be able to grow and get better."
Video: PRACTICE RAW | Jesper Bratt 04.30.21