It was a little more than a month ago that the Devils sent J.D. Dudek and a third-round pick in next year's draft to the Oilers to acquire Patrick Maroon, and the move has paid clear dividends. In 12 games for New Jersey, the 29-year-old winger has scored two goals with six assists, helping the Devils in their fight for a playoff spot.
Maroon's impact, though, is not found only in his own statistics, but also in the way that he has helped the Devils to diversify their attack.
"It adds another dimension to us, for sure, maybe something we were missing," said center Travis Zajac. "We're a high-skill, fast team, but you add a player like Patty who can grind away and protect the puck, and bring pucks to the net, go to the net, it adds another threat for us, and it's been a good addition."
That's not to say that Maroon just goes to the net and throws his body around. His ability to set screens and battle in tight areas is a definite plus, but the Devils appreciate that Maroon still does fit into the dynamic that has carried them through the season.
"His skill level is pretty underrated," said Taylor Hall, who played with Maroon in Edmonton and was one familiar face for Maroon when he arrived, along with ex-Ducks teammates Ben Lovejoy, Stefan Noesen, and Sami Vatanen. "Just finishing in tight, being able to find holes in goalies. He's a really fun guy to play with. I haven't really gotten to play a lot 5-on-5 with him here, but when a guy like (Connor) McDavid has a Hart Trophy season like last year, with Patty riding shotgun, you know he's a good player."
While Hall tends to skate with Jesper Bratt or Kyle Palmieri on his opposite wing at even strength, they have seen time together on the power play. In March, with Maroon in the mix, the Devils have gone 12-for-44 with the man advantage, tied with the Maple Leafs for the second-most power play goals in the league behind the Bruins.
"He's a real threat from the goal line, so when you can establish a shot, and your goal line player has good hands, he can score off the wrap and make plays from the back side or bring it to the slot," Devils coach John Hynes said. "He's got a really strong presence with the puck, even in puck recovery. He gets into pressure situations and uses his body well. Plays don't die with him, and that's what makes him very good at the net-front. He can screen, he can make good plays to tip, get in a lot of traffic areas or puck recovery situations. The play doesn't die - he can extend the play."
By doing what he does best, Maroon has been able to help the Devils at a key time of year when those extra goals that come from extending plays become all the more important. Doing important things at an important time is the main benefit that Maroon got from a trade that made him uproot his life and travel halfway across North America to his new home.
"This time of year, it's not the cutest plays that are going in," Maroon said. "It's not the backdoor tap-ins. It's working hard, grinding on the puck, going to the front of the net and scoring greasy goals. Noesen's goal (to beat the Hurricanes on Tuesday) kind of explains what playoff hockey is all about. Battle in the corner, get it up to the point, shot, rebound, goal. That's the goals that are gonna go in. It's not gonna be the backdoor tap-ins or the odd-man rushes. You're gonna get the odd-man rushes, but at this time of year, it's the ugly ones - the tip-ins, the greasy goals. You've just got to work hard and do it smart. I need to bring that."
By doing that, Maroon is helping the Devils get to the playoffs, and can help them all the more once they get there.