So, this is it.
The New Jersey Devils are the last team in the New York metropolitan area that have a shot at the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
With the way they have been playing, there is no reason to believe they won’t clinch a berth — and relatively soon at that.
The team has six games left in the regular season and as of Thursday, hold the second wild card spot with 88 points, two behind the Philadelphia Flyers.
New Jersey has been playing with a lot of guile recently and has rebounded nicely from a midseason lull, registering 14 points in the month of March alone.
This month, the team has had an especially tough schedule but have pulled out some dramatic and impressive victories.
On Tuesday night, the Devils defeated the Carolina Hurricanes in a close 4-3 contest.
While Carolina is a middle-of-the-pack team, they gave New Jersey a run for their money, but the latter prevailed.
The team exchanged leads throughout the game, but with just over a minute left to go in the third period, Stefan Noesen scored a clutch goal off a rebound and the crowd erupted.
Announcer Steve Cangelosi (and this is how you know EVERYONE is excited for this team) screamed “THEY SCORE! IT’S NOESEN! IT’S NOESEN!” which naturally sent chills down my spine.
This win came on the heels of back-to-back wins this past weekend against two of the best teams in the NHL: the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The young Swedish stud Nico Hischier notched his 18th goal of the season in the game against Tampa Bay, followed by a Kyle Palmieri tally in the second period which would prove to be the game winner.
Hischier has now recorded 49 points in the season as a 19-year-old, which bodes well for the future. It’s exciting to think that this is just the tip of the iceberg for the former No. 1 overall pick and that when he develops into a veteran, he is going to be one of the best in the league.
As for Palmieri, it’s great to see that he has come back into his own and has again shown his presence on the ice.
In Tuesday night’s matchup, Hart Trophy candidate Taylor Hall dished out a huge assist to the 27-year-old winger for his 22nd goal of the year.
Palmieri has been such an important part of this team over the last few seasons and if the Devils want to contend in the playoffs, he is going to be a huge factor.
As for Hall, I can’t say enough good things about him. His impact on this team has been undeniable.
The 26-year-old has logged 52 helpers on the year to go along with 33 goals. His 85 points in 71 games has been one of the biggest factors in the Devils still being in the hunt for a playoff spot.
Every single day, that trade with Edmonton prior to the 2016-17 season looks better and better. Adam Larsson is a fine defenseman, but trading him straight up for Hall was highway robbery. Hey, I’m not complaining!
Another big reason the Devils have been able to maintain a playoff spot has been contributions from none other than goalie Keith Kinkaid.
The first string goalie of the last several seasons, Cory Schneider, has had his season hampered by injuries, but when he’s on the ice, he looks stiff and tepid in goal, a far cry from the goalie we have seen in the past.
Kinkaid has stepped up in a big way, and at this point, there’s no reason to not roll with him day in and day out. Is he the long-term answer for New Jersey? I don’t think so, but at the very least, he has been a huge part of this team’s success and deserves his spot as the No. 1 goalie on the squad for the rest of the year at least.
The Devils have six regular season games left. I think they could easily go 5-1 or 4-2, which would almost definitely assure them a playoff spot.
As it looks right now, the Devils are slated to play the Lightning in the first round of the playoffs. It would really be great to see them move up a spot or two in the standings to give themselves a slightly easier opponent. But hey, the Devils are the only team in the NHL to sweep the Lightning in the season series, so anything is possible.
Don’t be surprised, be ready, Devils fans! If this team makes the playoffs they are going to be tough customers.