Devils have had much to celebrate on their season-opening road trip which ends Thursday in Washington. GETTY IMAGES With the Devils improving to 3-0 Tuesday in Tampa Bay, here's a look at five reasons for the club's quick start:
1. Cory Schneider – The Devils' No. 1 goalie has quickly shown why the club locked him up with a long-term deal over the summer. Much like the preseason, when he allowed four goals in his debut, then stopped 40 of 41 shots over his final two appearances, Schneider has been getting better with every start. Since giving up four goals on opening night in Philadelphia, he's turned away 54 of the last 56 shots he's faced to post wins over Florida and Tampa Bay.
"Schneider made some big saves early and that gave us a chance to get our legs going,” coach Peter DeBoer said following Tuesday’s victory over the Lightning.
Schneider kept the game scoreless when shots were 7-0 Lightning, and was instrumental in killing off a pair of first-period penalties versus a Bolts offense that had torched Montreal for seven goals the night before.
2. Mike Cammalleri – The newcomer has made an instant impact. Not only is Cammalleri just the second player to score in his first three games as a Devil, but he leads the club in goals (4), points (5), power-play goals (2), and shots (14). He assisted on Travis Zajac’s goal in Tampa Bay, then notched the eventual winner with 8:41 to go in the third.
Cammalleri can tie Doug Gilmour for the longest goal streak to begin a Devils stint if he scores Thursday in Washington.
3. Young blueliners anything but green – What the Devils' young defensemen lack in NHL experience, they're making up for in execution. Twenty-year-old Damon Severson made the 23-man roster after a strong training camp, and has two points (1g-1a) in his first three NHL games. His plus-5 is tops among NHL rookie defensemen; his 19:03 of average ice time ranks fourth.
Severson has been a bright spot, but hardly the only one. Eric Gelinas, 23, has opened his sophomore season with two assists, while his defensive partner Jon Merrill, 22, has one assist to go with 21:22 per game that trails only Andy Greene and Bryce Salvador.
4. Early offensive surge a balancing act – Through three games, the Devils have received goals from all four lines and points from 15 different players. On Tuesday, Zajac became the 10th different Devil to score this season. Even though the Devils matched a team record with 11 goals in their first two games, only Cammalleri has more than one.
5. Putting pucks in and keeping them out – With 11 tallies in their first two games and 13 through their first three, New Jersey ranks third in the NHL with 4.3 goals per game. They’ve inflicted much of that damage in first periods, where they've outscored opponents, 5-0. It's an offensive about-face from last season when the club ranked 27th overall (2.4 goals per game).
Defensively, the Devils are currently 10th (2.0 goals allowed per game) and are one of only three teams yet to give up a first-period goal.