The ever-growing goose egg is gone.
No longer is the zero in the win column plaguing this team after their slow stat.
There's no doubt that last night's win over the Rangers was bigger than just two points for this club, but what's next?
It was a perfect culmination of the pitfalls that had plagued this team through their first seven games. They scored goals early and often, they limited defensive breakdowns and had a stellar performance in net from Cory Schneider. This is probably as close to "Devils hockey" as you're going to see, a game where every line contributed, the power play and penalty kill were good and the goaltending led the way.
As good as a win against their arch-rivals feels, it's only one win. Fact is, this team is still only 1-4-3 and with another tough week ahead, they need to build on this win, or else they'll be right back where they started. Without the shadow of the their first win in the way, it certainly could allow this team to play their game
Perhaps the best take-away from their 4-0 win was the team's ability to score early and keep the lead. The Rangers never really threatened, even in the third period when the Devils began to sit back a bit to protect the lead.
"That was the key for us, building that momentum after the first period and not letting them to get back into the game. They have some skill up front and I think we did a better job in the second and third of getting a lot of back pressure and making sure we were aggressive in some areas," said Travis Zajac after the win on Saturday. "I think this is a game that kind of jump-starts you, it's a Ranger game, it's emotional and hopefully we can carry that into this next week."
Though the team found success without Patrik Elias or Damien Brunner in the lineup, they'll need to get those two back soon. Though it looks like Brunner is likely to play on Tuesday, Elias is not flying with the team to Columbus, as he is still sick and unable to play. Brunner and Elias bring another dimension to this club and there's no doubt that this team needs both back for their games against Vancouver on Thursday and in Boston on Saturday.
As much as it was easy to point out all of the team's deficiencies after their 0-4-3 start, a couple of wins will do the exact opposite. You can almost use the Ranger victory as a blueprint for what this team wants to do, because they played just about as good a game as can be expected from them.
One thing is for sure, the defense was strong and didn't allow any odd man rushes. No easy goals, no game-changing moments in their own end. That's the kind of performance that this team needs defensively. If opponents are going to score, they have to work for those goals. If New Jersey falls back into it's old ways and continues to allow odd-man rushes, they'll continue to struggle.
Another strong indicator was the performance from those who were pressed into the lineup due to injuries or roster changes. Mark Fayne was in for Adam Larsson and he played a strong game. Andrei Loktionov was originally scheduled to sit, but he came in and brought energy and a goal. Though Mattias Tedenby didn't get on the score sheet, he showed some of the intangibles that he had been lacking in the past. He blocked a shot, backchecked well and really seemed determined to show the coaches that he can play a more well-rounded game.
Depth is immeasurably important, because injuries will happen. If this team is able to seamlessly integrate players in and out of the lineup and still be able to run four lines, they will be a much stronger team because of it. With Ryane Clowe still out for an undetermined amount of time, it will give players like Tedenby, Rostislav Olesz and Loktionov a chance to show that they can contribute.
"We talked at the beginning of the season about our depth and how we're going to have to use it and seven games in were already two or three players into it already and that's something constant all year that we're going to have to keep reaching in and getting those types of games out of those guys," said Pete DeBoer.
As much as things feel different in the wake of their first complete, 60-minute performance of the season, the Rangers game is already in the rear-view mirror.
The Devils begin another tough week, looking to firmly entrench themselves within the Metropolitan Division standings. We'll certainly find out how this team can respond to their first positive outcome and if it can propel them up the standings.