We are now only weeks away from the end of the 2010-11 regular season and out of nowhere, the New Jersey Devils might actually have a shot at a post-season. From worst in the conference only weeks ago to now being only six points out is an unheard of turnaround.
Was the coach really the issue or did the players just ignite a fire under themselves refusing to have a losing season? In their last 28 games, the Devils managed an unbelievable 23-3-2 record, launching them to within six points of the Buffalo Sabres and that eighth playoff spot. Not much safer are the New York Rangers only two points ahead of Buffalo and also watching the surging Devils in their rear view mirrors.
This type of a win streak and point surge has happened before in the NHL by some of the top teams but a team that posted only 22 points in their first 41 games and then turns around to post 48 points of a possible 56 is not something we see in this league.
“It’s something we didn’t think about,” said goalie Martin Brodeur. “We just went out and started playing well and it just snowballed into doing what we’re doing right now. Players individually came a long way, also. We salvaged a really bad season into now being a decent season into hopefully a great season.”
Ilya Kovalchuk still has room to improve offensively with only 51 points with 13 games remaining. It’s possible he will fall short of 60 on the season making him the highest paid, healthy, under 60 point player in the league and maybe in NHL history. The important thing isn’t his point total but whether he can come through in these last 13 games and help his team into the postseason.
Offensively the Devils have found balance between Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Travis Zajac, Brian Rolston and Dainius Zubrus. The loss of star left winger Zach Parise early in the season didn’t help the situation but New Jersey is excited that Zach is now skating again and may return just in time for a playoff run.
The race for seventh and eighth place in the Eastern Conference is extremely tight as it is each year and the Devils, along with the Sabres, Hurricanes, Rangers, Thrashers and Maple Leafs, have their work cut out for them.