How the Devils are defying expectations this season

Through 31 games, the Devils are on pace for 95 points, and currently hold one of the two Eastern Conference wild cards. Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images

Widely expected to finish in draft lottery contention, the New Jersey Devils are instead posting their best record since reaching the Stanley Cup finals in 2011-12, and would grab the final wild-card spot in the East if the playoffs began today.

New Jersey's early success has come as quite a shock to the majority of mainstream pundits. Of the 87 sets of published standings predictions, 47 had the Devils last in the Metropolitan, and 37 more second to last. Only Toronto, Colorado and Arizona had more pessimistic outlooks than New Jersey. Before the season began, the experts' concerns included the team's inexperienced blue line and coaching staff, a lack of forward depth and scoring threats, and consistent struggles in the shootout. Quite frankly, the lone consensus area of strength was perceived to be New Jersey's goaltending.