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Devils among early-season surprises, thanks to great goaltending

Ottawa Senators v New Jersey Devils

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 03: Goalie Cory Schneider #35 of the New Jersey Devils celebrates with teammates Adam Henrique #14 and Keith Kinkaid #1 after defeating the Ottawa Senators at the Prudential Center on February 3, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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The New Jersey Devils have won four straight and are now 8-3-3 after their first 14 games of the season.

Wait, seriously?

/checks math

Holy cow, they actually are!

We kid, we kid. But let’s face it, even the most loyal of Devils fans would admit this has been a surprising start. The overwhelming consensus heading into the season was that GM Ray Shero still had plenty of work to do, and the fan base didn’t really have a problem with a patient approach.

So, how have the Devils done it?

“When you look at the wins,” head coach John Hynes told reporters after Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Sabres, “it’s a combination of very good effort by the players, making smart decisions, making right decisions, making good plays, playing with passion, playing with purpose and having some mental toughness.”

Offensively, new additions Taylor Hall and P.A. Parenteau lead the team with five goals each. The Devils are also getting a good push from the back end, particularly from young Damon Severson (2G, 9A).

But the real key has been goaltending. Not only has Cory Schneider (6-3-2, .927) been predictably outstanding, so too has backup Keith Kinkaid (2-0-1, .944).

As we’ve said many times before on PHT, for a bubble team like New Jersey, the backup goalie can be the difference between making and missing the playoffs. Kinkaid has earned points in all three of his starts, and that’s helped the Devils into a wild-card spot.

Granted, there’s a long way to go before the playoffs. The Devils got off to a good start last year, only to finish well back of a postseason berth. And while new owner Josh Harris would like to make the playoffs this season, the big picture is still the most important picture.

“The Devils have three Stanley Cups, and we want to make it four,” Harris told NJ Advance Media recently. ""There are 29 other teams that want to (win). ... We’re smart, we’re working hard, we’re well-financed, and we’re putting our all into making that happen.”

New Jersey kicks off a tough road trip Tuesday in Dallas. After that, it’s off to California to take on the Ducks, Kings, and Sharks.