New Jersey Devils are Playoff Contenders

Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

The New Jersey Devils have begun to show their true skill, going 7-2-1 in their last 10, the Devils will be tough playoff contenders.

The Devils currently sit 6th place within the Eastern Conference with a point total of 65. In five of their last six games the team has won, beating the likes of Atlantic Division rivals the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers and Eastern Conference leading New York Rangers twice. Last night the Devils lost in overtime to Western Conference St. Louis Blues who are currently in 4th place.

The Devils of old, with the names of Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Ken Daneyko and a younger netminder Martin Brodeur were known for their defensive play style. Head Coach Jacques Lemaire, with his defense first mentality and neutral zone trap style, lead the team to their first Stanley Cup Championship in 1994-1995. Lemaire moved on and the team eventually won another Stanley Cup in 1999-2000 and most recently in 2002-2003 under the late Pat Burns.

Today however, of those four divisional foe wins, the Devils outscored their competition 16 to 9. In a “new” league that is built upon speed, the Devils are showing good signs.

The team is led by a superstar cast, both young and old. Captain Zach Parise is coming off of a knee injury that took him out for the majority of last season. This year he has picked up where he left off, totaling 47 point in 53 games played. Thirty-five year old veteran Patrik Elias is on pace for 81 points this season. Last time he hit that mark was in the 2003-2004 NHL season. If that is not enough firepower up front for you, don’t forget superstar Ilya Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk came to the Devils two seasons ago at a monstrous contract. Most fans felt it was insane, turning into a NBA team who signs one star and has no supporting cast. Well, the Devils proved fans wrong and Kovalchuk has been solid. To date, he has 50 points in 48 games played and a team high 191 shots on goal. Also, he now has a Gordie Howe Hat Trick to add to his resume.

The saying, “defense wins championships” comes to mind for any team to be considered a playoff contender. In the middle of the pack when it comes to goals against, the team still has some defensive firepower in Adam Larrson and Kurtis Foster, but more importantly, the team has Martin Brodeur as goalie. Brodeur is getting older, 39 to be exact, but is a veteran and don’t you forget that. Typically starting 70+ games in a season, this year he has seen a lighter load. Currently started 35 games, backup netminder Johan Hedberg has seen 19 starts. Sure it may not seem like much for a backup, but sitting the iron-man Brodeur any amount will pay dividends come playoffs where he normally is spent.

You don’t have to take my word for it, wait and see, but the New Jersey Devils are going to be one heck of a playoff contender this season. A team that can put the puck in the net, a veteran netminder and a solid defensive core all around, the Devils are going far.

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