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Nichols: Devils Should Lean on Jake Allen for Remainder of Season

Although their playoff chances are slim, the New Jersey Devils should lean on Jake Allen for the rest of 2023-24.



New Jersey Devils
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

It’s abundantly clear who the best goaltender is among the New Jersey Devils netminders.

Newly acquired Jake Allen has only had two starts for the Devils thus far, and both have been on the road. However, it’s not hard to see that the veteran netminder is the best option for New Jersey in the crease.

The Devils’ playoff hopes are hanging on by a thread. Whether you believe it or not doesn’t matter, but the Devils believe themselves able to sneak in.

As of Tuesday morning, MoneyPuck projects the Devils at a 7.2% chance to make the postseason.

The fact of the matter is, however, the Eastern Conference wildcard race is wide open. Seemingly, no one in the race wants to stake their flag in the ground and claim ownership of the second wildcard spot that has changed so many times.

The Washington Capitals are the latest team to jump into the playoffs. Following their 5-2 victory over the Calgary Flames on Monday night, they’ve now won four games in a row.

However, that’s not unlike anything we’ve seen recently in the wildcard race. Before the New York Islanders’ current four-game slide, they won six straight games and were in the same position as the Capitals currently.

The point? If you can string together consecutive wins, your chances of creeping back into playoff position increase dramatically.

If the Devils are going to achieve the unlikely, Allen gives them their best chance to do just that.

On Monday, the Devils reassigned goaltender Nico Daws (and defenseman Tyler Wotherspoon) to the American Hockey League. That leaves only Allen and Kaapo Kahkonen on the NHL roster.

Kahkonen’s Devils sample size is the same as Allen’s. He’s suffered two losses as opposed to Allen who is 1-1-0.

The difference is Allen has back-to-back starts with a respective .944 & .946 SV% against two juggernaut Western Conference opponents in the Dallas Stars and Vegas Golden Knights.

In each performance, although the start in Dallas got off to a shaky start, Allen was quite impressive. The 34-year-old goaltender registered a 2.00 GSAx against the Stars and a 1.14 GSAx versus the Golden Knights. They were potentially two of the best starts in net for the Devils all season.

With the 14 games remaining on the schedule, Allen should receive the majority share of the starts. Burnout shouldn’t be much of a factor after splitting the net three ways with the Montreal Canadiens. The Devils’ playoff hopes are slim, but that doesn’t mean interim head coach Travis Green should throw in the towel.

Playing meaningful games regardless of circumstances is important for the young, immature Devils. Allen is the goaltender to lead the turnaround, if there’s one to be had down the stretch.

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