The season opened with plenty of questions for the New Jersey Devils, but they’ve answered them all. Earning points in all of their games except for one, the Devils sit atop the Eastern Conference with a record of 8-1-3 through 12 games. After beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in both games of a home-and-home series this weekend, New Jersey has now won five games in a row, all by two goals or more, while already defeating every team in the Atlantic Division. With a hot start, they’ve addressed all preseason concerns:
Who will replace Zach Parise, ex-captain and top-line winger?
Well, everyone. David Clarkson leads the team with nine goals and 15 points, Patrik Elias is right behind him with 14 points, and Ilya Kovalchuk is playing increased minutes and looks more relaxed offensively. The team is motivated in front of Martin Brodeur, and perhaps most importantly, the grinding lines of their playoff run have returned, picking up exactly where they left off.
Do the New Jersey Devils have the leadership to replace a one-year debacle at captain?
Bryce Salvador has picked up where Parise left off. The team remains composed, even through chippy games with notoriously “dirty” rivals like the Pittsburgh Penguins, whom the Devils swept this weekend to take over first place in the Eastern Conference. Pete DeBoer may be the best thing to happen to the Devils in some time, as his aggressive forechecking is forcing mistakes, and motivating his players. Who wouldn’t have fun under this “go get ‘em” attack?
Can aging goaltenders carry the New Jersey Devils again?
Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg are off to impressive starts. Brodeur has been consistent, carrying the New Jersey Devils with only one loss in regulation this season. Hedberg has been even better in relief, allowing just two goals in three appearances with 72 saves. The New Jersey Devils have one of the best goaltending tandems in hockey, and their timeless goalies are off to an incredible start.
What about the plethora of mediocre defensemen in the Devils rotation?
The New Jersey Devils have eight NHL-caliber defensemen, but few standouts. Andy Greene is off to a solid start, collecting quality minutes and playing mistake-free hockey. Adam Larsson is finally getting the ice time he deserves, and the other veterans in the group have stepped up. While they make occasional mistakes, a season-long points streak and clutch, shutdown play has the Devils defense carrying New Jersey to the best start in franchise history.
Will there be a Stanley Cup hangover after losing in Game Six of the finals?
No. The New Jersey Devils have picked up right where they left off, losing only one game in regulation.
Will the forecheck that carried New Jersey in the playoffs function without Parise?
Zach Parise was a two-way effort guy with a scoring touch. His grinding on the top line opened opportunities for Kovalchuk and others. Still, the Devils forecheck hasn’t missed a beat without him. New Jersey’s attack, led by their depth and aggression, particularly on the third and fourth lines, continues to confuse opponents.
Will Adam Henrique come back healthy?
After an injury suffered in the AHL during the lockout, Adam Henrique missed the start of the 2013 season. He returned to post five points in six games, adding depth and scoring to an already hot Devils team. Looks like Henrique is fully healthy and poised for another great season.
In the toughest division in hockey, can last year’s 4th-place Devils contend?