Its a strange sensation, one that as a fan for the team since the mid 90’s I am not used to. The Devils sat in the basement of the NHL’s standings for the better part of the season and looked to be suffering one of their worst seasons since their infancy in the 1980’s.
Now past the halfway point and barreling down on the end of the season, the Devils are playing some of their strongest hockey since – what I believe – the 2002-03 season.
I think if you frequent this site you will know my displeasure with the teams play and ability not just in the post-season for the past few years but pretty much a general dysfunction of ability in which they would play hard and then fall so fast – it made watching very frustrating.
Now it seems as if the Devils have finally figured it out. Slowly but steadily they are chipping away climbing up the standings bit by bit. They have the best record since January 8th than any other team in the NHL. They have been putting up a fight in every game they play. I think the most impressive aspect of their recent surge is their persistence in their forechecking in the offensive zone. I can’t recall seeing the this much offensive pressure in a long time, not to mention the fact that they are missing one of their key forwards, Zachary Parise. But newbies like Nick Palmieri and Mattias Tedenby have helped more seasoned players like Ilya Kovalchuk, Dainus Zubrus and Travis Zajac. Veterans Jason Arnott and Brian Rolston don’t always make their way in to the scoresheet, but still have been plugging away. Arnott seems to be making more of a show on the ice with his hard shots but neither have shown too much in their recent stretch.
Regardless, the Devils are hot and are being noticed. It is still too far off to consider them playoff contenders. Left to their own devices they may make it in to the post season, but they will certainly need some assistance with the teams in front of them to drop a few more games to get within striking range in the points battle.
The Devils have had a long history of playoff appearances and competitiveness in the pst 15 years. If any team can do it, I believe the Devils can.