The New Jersey Devils may have finally turned that infamous corner we’ve been waiting for all season long. Wednesday night’s 3-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres personified what kind of potential this club actually has and as fans we shouldn’t expect anything less. It also marked the first time, in a long time, that it actually became clear that the Devils are becoming a very solid hockey club once again.
The game was full of a plethora of positives.
1. After the win Martin Brodeur improved his record to 10-9-0. Last season Brodeur finished with a sub .500 record for the first time in his career and until recently it looked as though he was headed for a second straight losing campaign. He also reduced his goals against average to 2.98. There was nothing more discouraging than looking at the stats and seeing a GAA above three for one of the games greatest back-stops. It’s imperative that he keeps it that way heading into 2012.
2. Petr Sykora picked up two more goals bumping his total 10 and he’s a plus two. This was a guy that couldn’t even find an NHL job last season. He not only proved he can still play but he’s shown that he can still play at a high level and should be considered for “Comeback Player of the Year.”
3. The Devils now have seven players with 10 or more goals. Sykora (10), Patrik Elias (13), Zach Parise (12), Adam Henrique (10), Ilya Kovalchuk (11), Dainus Zubrus (10) and David Clarkson (12) make up a surprisingly formidable offense. All this from a team that struggled to score with any regularity last year. They are tied with the Philadelphia Flyers for the most 10 goal scorers in the NHL.
3. Adam Henrique continues to turn heads in the NHL with his play. He picked up an assist on Parise’s goal. Through 33 games the rookie center has 28 points (10g 18a) and is a team high plus seven all while centering the Devils top line. Unless his production drops off dramatically he will get serious consideration for the Calder Trophy.
4. New Jersey is sitting in the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference with 41 points. They are tied with the Winnipeg Jets and Toronto Maple Leafs in points but have two more wins in one less game than both. The Devils are in good shape but can’t sit back because a large portion of the wins have come via the shootout. This could be a factor if a tie breaker is needed to determine playoff seeding.
5. Despite allowing a power play goal to the Sabres, the Devils still boast the NHL’s best penalty kill with a superb 92.4% kill percentage. The real problem has been the power play. However, they did manage to keep Buffalo from scoring a shorthanded goal. Another bright spot from the win!
6. Last but certainly not least, the game was a sellout of 17,625. I can’t remember the last time the Devils had a sellout against anybody other than the Flyers or Rangers.
The Devils face the Pittsburgh Penguins (21-12-4) on New Year’s Eve. Remember it wasn’t until December 31, 2010 that the Devils won their tenth game of the season. They have already doubled their win total up to this point. It also means New Jersey has won a total of 48 games so far in 2011. A win over the Pens brings them to within three points of their division rivals. A win also sets the stage for another run at the post season and if they can duplicate the miraculous second half run for a season ago then we as fans are in for a treat.
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