When the 2022-2023 NHL season began, there weren’t many people that had high expectations for the New Jersey Devils, but that didn’t stop them from having the franchise’s best season in over a decade.
That season, unfortunately, came to an end on Thursday night. New Jersey played a solid game, and it took overtime to decide the winner. It was easily the most competitive game of the series, as the previous contests were decided by at least four goals.
The Devils and their fans surely hoped for a better showing in round two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Carolina Hurricanes, but after a handful of blowout losses, they ultimately fell in five games.
How should the Devils’ season be graded?
The regular season was magical for Jersey. It got off to as hot a start as any team in the NHL, and after breaking out of a mid-season slump, the Devils came on strong once more.
A second-place finish in the Metropolitan Division was the result of a couple of key offensive storylines. The first was the breakout season had by star forward Jack Hughes. At age 21, he tallied 99 points, a new franchise record for New Jersey.
The second was the trade deadline acquisition of forward Timo Meier. He contributed nine goals and 14 points in 21 regular season games after the trade. He is a free agent that the Devils will now have to try to re-sign.
New Jersey not only stormed onto the scene to qualify for the playoffs, but they also won their first playoff series since 2012 when they defeated one of their biggest rivals, the New York Rangers.
The first-round win is interesting because the 2023 campaign for the Devils looked a lot like the 2022 campaign for the Rangers. Both teams emerged as strong teams earlier than expected. For Jersey, that pushed them into round two.
That is where the dream ended. The Devils undoubtedly showed the NHL that they must be taken seriously moving forward, but the lopsided loss against the Hurricanes also suggests that there is plenty for this team to figure out.
With that said, this was a great first step for this franchise. Building a true contender takes time, and the Devils now have something to build off of.
Overall, the Devils went 52-22-8 (112 points), defeated the Rangers in round one (four games to three), and lost to the Hurricanes in round two, four games to one.
In the grand scheme of things, this season could not have gone much better, as New Jersey took a major step toward becoming a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.