The New Jersey Devils have proven all the critics wrong. Again. I’m curious to know, what I’ll witness first. NHL insiders picking the Devils to finish atop of the East/Atlantic or Rick DiPietro on IR again? I’ll go with the latter.
The Devils have amassed some great accolades since their move from Colorado to NJ since the 1982-1983 season. More noteworthy, was the stud team the Devils developed that notched plenty of successful seasons between 1994 & 2003. They won 3 Stanley Cups in those 9 seasons and made 4 Stanley Cup Final appearances (1 was back to back versus Dallas & Colorado). There was discussion that if the Devils were able to oust the Avalanche in 2001, dynasty would have been in the script.
The New Jersey Devils have created a culture for playoff hockey. Winning is expected from the front office, down through the coaching staff, and to the players on the ice. You can clearly see that with the departure of one HOF defenseman, Larry Robinson, and introduction of another great HOF defenseman, Scott Stevens who’ve created a positive ripple effect through the team. The Devils don’t have the names on the roster that helped them lift their first 3 cups, but what they do have, is a proven system that all players are buying into. They are getting more physical in contests, tight and assertive defense, and scoring all through each of the lines. It’s not just helping them win, it’s helping them win over formidable opponents that the road to the cup most likely could go through.
The Devils have a five game winning streak going right now and who do you thank first? Do you thank Martin Brodeur for another amazing season between the pipes thus far? Do you thank David Clarkson for picking up some of the production the Devils lost in Zach Parise? Do you thank the Bernier, Carter, Gionta line for an incredible work ethic? I can give you 12 more examples but that fact is, the front of the jersey is getting the job done, not the name on the back. You’re getting 100% from every player on the ice and the Devils have been able to overcome a 4 game hiccup and come back with a vengeance outscoring opponents 16 to 5 in the last 5 games.
Martin Brodeur just amazes me as I’ve followed the team. He just proves to everyone he still deserves to be here. Every Devils fan is wearing their lucky underwear after the scare that he could have signed with two other interested teams. It looks as if he’s going to retire in the jersey he started in and was named one of the NHL’s 3 stars of the week.
“Brodeur went 3-0-0 with a 1.33 goals-against average and .942 save percentage as the Devils moved into first place in the Eastern Conference (8-1-3, 19 points) with four straight wins. He recorded 24 saves in a 3-1 victory over the New York Rangers Feb. 5 and another 17 stops in a 4-2 triumph against the Tampa Bay Lightning Feb. 7. Appearing in his 1,200th career game, Brodeur closed the week with 24 saves as the Devils picked up the first of a pair of 3-1 wins over the Pittsburgh Penguins Feb. 9. The 40- year-old has played in nine games this season, posting a 6-1-2 record with a 2.29 goals-against average and .911 save percentage. In 19 career NHL seasons, all with New Jersey, Brodeur leads all goaltenders with 662 wins and 120 shutouts.”
This was the Devils first home and home against a team this season and it delivered. It definitely felt like playoff hockey versus the Penguins and no better way to make a statement and soar to the top of the power rankings (3rd from 15th) than beating a favorite to win the cup, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Credit to Johan Hedberg as well for relieving Marty in net on Sunday for the 3-1 win and very well could have been a shutout if it wasn’t for sloppy positioning by the defense on James Neal’s goal 15 seconds in to the 3rd period.
What I love about this team is that they show up every day to play. The love to compete and win and are getting production from all 4 lines. The majority of the team is intact from last season and they are proving to everyone again that the Devils are contenders not pretenders. The same style of hockey that helped them win their first, second, and third Stanley Cup has popped up again since the 2011-12 season. Maybe last year’s loss to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Finals is fueling the Devils again just as the loss to the New York Rangers did in the 1993-1994 season. The defense is doing their job in front of the Devils goaltenders allowing a low of 1.92 goals against average and the offense is putting up 2.75 goals per game. A little low considering you also have Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuck on your roster.
I hope Peter DeBoer and the coaching staff is communicating to the boys that there is still plenty of work that needs to be done. This team is not perfect despite two phenomenal showings versus the Penguins. They need to be focused, go back to work over Carolina on Tuesday, and continue to feed off of the momentum from this weekend. Can the Devils make a deep playoff run again? No one can foresee the future but I’m confident we’ll see the Devils lock up a playoff seed come late April.
The Devils next two games are home games at The Prudential Center. Tuesday February 12 vs Carolina Hurricanes and Friday February 15th vs their Atlantic Division rivals, Philadelphia Flyers. Puck drops 7pm both nights.