A lot's been made about the difficulty of the early schedule for the Devils, but I don't think enough has been said about it. It's one of the biggest reasons I think the Devils are going to play better in the coming half of the season - and that that, with a little shootout luck, is going to catapult NJ into the playoffs.
Consider: Yesterday, there were 8 teams above NJ in shots % (number of shots on goal for Team X 5 on 5 / number of shots on goal against them). The Devils had played 11 of their 18 games against these teams, 7 of them on the road. The fearsome triumvirate of the Sharks, Ducks, and Kings - NJ has played them 5 times. The Capitals, for instance, a team ranked 28th in the league in even strength shot differential, riding shootout luck and a ridiculously hot Ovechkin, have played them 0 times. Of the 7 games the Devils have left against these excellent teams, 5 of them come at home. After Monday, they have one road game left against a top team (the Blues). Basically the West is way better than the East, so whatever teams haven't played much against the West are likely in for a rude awakening.
Which gets me to the other thing - the home/road split. Right now NJ has played 21 away games and 16 home games - they only have 20 away games left. It's probably not worth a ton - maybe 1 point in the standings - but it's an edge most of NJ's rivals in the division don't have.
Edited by Triumph, 22 December 2013 - 10:24 AM.