By trading in Taylor Hall and expecting their young, talented players to advance another step in their development, the New Jersey Devils were eyeing up the wild card places at the start of the season. But, as it stands, the Devils are eight points and five places outside of the post-season places.
Injuries have been a hindrance, and a dip in consistency from Cory Schneider hasn’t helped, but, on the bright side, injuries have allowed for the Devils to show off more of their young talents. Most recently, John Moore has been sitting on the injury reserve due to a concussion picked up before the New Year. In Moore’s stead, the Devils called up 21-year-old Steven Santini, who has brought a new element to New Jersey’s game.
Santini bringing some added punch
Steven Santini, formerly drafted in the second round of the 2013 draft, has played in every 2017 game for the New Jersey Devils, and in that time, he has managed to dole out 16 hits in five games – the fourth most in the NHL since the turn of the year.
The American blue-liner has averaged 3.2 hits per game since his call up. For the Devils, Kyle Palmieri is the team’s leading hitter, averaging just 1.9 hits per game over 40 contests. With Palmieri also being integral to the scoring side of New Jersey’s game, it’d be good to see others grinding down the opposition to free him up on offense, though many of his hits come on the forecheck.
When it comes to defensemen, Kyle Quincey has the most hits, clocking in 60 body checks in 40 games (1.5 per game) so Santini’s very physical game gives an extra element to the defense of New Jersey, a greater element of physicality and the ability to grind down the opposing forwards.
But the 6’2’’, 207 lbs Santini isn’t simply laying out checks, he’s also fired four shots on goal, blocked four shots, spent time on the ice short-handed, is yet to be penalized for a foul, has scored two points, and has a team-leading +5 rating. Only Quincey (+4), Palmieri (+1) and Yohann Auvitu (+1) also boast a positive rating for the Devils.
New Jersey on the rise?
The New Jersey Devils won their first game with Santini in their team, hosting the bruising Boston Bruins 3-0, and then won on the very next day, in Carolina. Unfortunately, since then, the Devils have fallen to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers, and Florida Panthers, only scraping a point from the Western Conference’s Oilers.
Dropping points in the conference will prove to be costly, but seeing their formerly well-standing home record erode over the past three games will drag them down the table further. Luckily for the Devils, they now embark on a four-game road trip.
Now, whilst the Devils have a significantly worse record on the road (6-12-5 away, 10-6-3 home), this is the perfect chance for them to scrape some much-needed points without the fear of handing some over to those battling with them in the conference. This could be the trip where head coach John Hynes tries to improve line chemistry, mixes it up, finds some good matches, and has a team ready and drilled for when they return and face six Eastern Conference teams in eight games.
We’ll have to see what they do on the road trip; all we know right now is that Steven Santini is bringing some extra physicality to the New Jersey Devils, which will help them to grind down their opponents and hopefully lead to some more wins.
Do you think that Santini’s play will help the Devils as they try to climb the standings? Let us know in the comments section below.