The Devils have played 11 games this season with a 6-3-2 record with 14 points. This team would be without those 14 points this season if it was not for their strong defense. So far this season the Devils have interesting defensive pairings.
The first pairing is with Damon Severson and rookie Ty Smith. Severson has played on the Devils defense for five seasons. He has developed over those five years into a reliable defenseman. Severson is making smarter decisions with the puck as he limits his turnovers on his end and creates offense for his forwards. During the second game of the season, he made a nifty pass to Yegor Sharangovich for the game-winning overtime goal against the Boston Bruins. Rookie Ty Smith has a really nice start to his career. He already has 8 points which is a total of 2 goals and 6 assists. He scored the first goal of his career as a deflection that went off two Bruin defensemen. Smith seems to be a solid young defenseman for the Devils and is paired well with Severson.
The second pairing is with Will Butcher and P.K. Subban. Butcher is still young, he is 26 years old and his game still needs more time to develop. Nothing super alarming, but I feel there is more potential for him. He plays a safe game, but he could add a little more urgency. For example, stopping more offensive rushes from the opponents. P.K. Subban has had some success as he has won the Norris Trophy award in 2013. He is a defenseman that can play physically and rip the puck in the back of the net. Recently his offense has gone down. Last season he only had 7 goals and 11 assists. When the Devils traded for him in 2019, they expected to get more offense out of him. Either he has not been able to get lanes for him to slap the puck or his shot accuracy has gone down. This year he is making good defensive plays, but he has to start keeping himself out of the penalty box.
The final pairing as of now is Dmitry Kulikov and Sami Vatanen. Nothing about Dmitry Kulikov’s play has completely stood out. He has not played poorly but he has not played great either. I believe when Ryan Murray comes back from an illness he may replace Kulikov. Murray has shown the Devils this year he is a shot-blocking machine. He is willing to sacrifice his body from pucks to avoid them from getting to his goaltender. Vatanen returns after being traded last season to the Hurricanes. He is strong on both sides of the game; offense and defense. He could be helpful on a lackluster power play. Vatanen could make clean and accurate passes that get past penalty killers. The Devils hope these defensive pairings can continue their good play and make it hard for other teams’ offense’s to score against them.