Perhaps, in a weird way, the most promising aspect of a start that has the Devils atop what's widely considered the NHL's deepest division despite being no more than a winning weekend removed from a 4-game losing skid is that it hasn't required them to play anything close to a flawless brand of hockey. A team whose success is predicated on those with the youth and inexperience of first and second year players is very rarely going to play mistake-free, so the fact that they've managed to win in spite of their warts is a pretty good barometer for their potential.
Make no mistake, back-to-back victories over the Panthers and Blackhawks weren't the result of dominant efforts as much they were the result of non-stop efforts. I like hockey far too much to start watching it with mathematics in mind, but the advanced numbers from this weekend do a pretty good of job of backing up an eye test that the Devils appeared to barely pass with performances that would probably grade out in the high-60's...
So no, regardless of their current standing, the Devils aren't some fundamentally sound team that's going to out-chance their opponent more nights than not. What they are - however - is team that continues to find a way to do what most young teams can't by winning some games they probably shouldn't. A lot of credit goes to their goaltending for being far better and more timely than its numbers suggest, but the resilience from the rest of the roster has been just as imperative to their success.
I know the Blackhawks are a shell of what they were when they were winning cups, but a rebuilding team isn't supposed to be able to respond to the ludicrously bad bounces that led to a four goal first period from a group that knows what it takes to close out games with a four goal period of their own. More often than not, a team with the roster makeup of the Devils does let a goal scored with 2.7 seconds left in the second period affect their psyche headed into the third period of a one-goal game. The fact that they didn't is a testament to a level of mental toughness and that only stands to be aided by the imminent (and much needed) return of their best defensive forward. Especially since Travis Zajac brings just about all the things they lack in positioning, face-off ability, and veteran savvy.
Yeah, there are going to be times when a player like Steve Santini looks overmatched when he's forced in over his head as a shutdown defenseman. You just hope there's just as many times that he shows that he's starting to embrace that role with a bone crushing hit that has the opposition thinking twice about entering the zone in the first place...
There are going to be times when veteran-laden clubs are going to have the Devils gratuitously icing the puck like they are trying to stop their opponent by giving them diabetes. You just hope that some of those icings - like those that were waved off with the goalie pulled due to the hustle of Jesper Bratt and Kyle Palmieri - get offset by work ethic.
They've been far from perfect, but they've made the plays necessary to win. Look no further for an example of that than Brian Boyle saving one of the team's only face-off wins against the Panthers for the draw that drew the game to a close.
Oddly enough, Miles Wood is a pretty good personification of what to expect from this team right now. He's never going to blow you away with his hockey IQ, but what he lacks in decision making he makes up for in speed, energy, and - if last night's hat trick is any indication - a willingness to stop pooping on the proverbial carpet and learn some new tricks like any good young dog...
John Hynes hasn't been hesitant in giving his players a metaphorical whack on the nose, and I think that's been instrumental in making sure they don't roll over or play dead when things aren't going their way.
But hey, don't take my word for it...