Well, the New Jersey Devils finally did it!
The team finished 44-29-9, good for 97 points and the second wild card spot, clinching their first playoff berth since the 2011-12 season with a win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, April 5.
I never had a doubt in my mind this team would be competitive this year with the amount of talent they have. From Taylor Hall to Nico Hischier to Kyle Palmieri, I knew New Jersey would be a lot better than even the experts thought, but even I didn’t expect them to have as good of a year as they did.
Taylor Hall has broken out and become one of the best players in the league this year, notching 39 goals and 93 points and solidifying himself as a favorite for the Hart Trophy. Without him, on and off the ice, I have no clue where this team would be.
What I personally loved about this team was how resilient they were. When one player was slumping, another picked up the slack.
They kept their heads down and focused on each game and shocked everyone in the Metropolitan Division.
With that being said, they will have a tall task ahead of them starting Thursday, April 12 where they kick off the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Here are some keys to success for New Jersey, and how they can give the No. 1 seed in hockey a run for their money and even a series victory.
Who would have thought Keith Kinkaid would emerge as the Devil’s first string goalie going into the team’s first playoff series in six years?
Well, sports are unpredictable and the Long Island native has proved he is more than up for the task.
After Cory Schneider got hurt earlier this season, Kinkaid stepped up and logged 26 wins in 38 starts to go along with a .913 save percentage and a 2.77 GAA.
How well the Devils do in the playoffs, in my opinion, will lie in Kinkaid’s hands. Having a strong goalie is not only a no-brainer but a key formula for success.
While there’s awhile to think about this, I wonder what New Jersey decides to do going forward in net.
Schneider is signed through the next several seasons, but has looked awful when he’s in goal. Do you hand him the job next season, or give it to Kinkaid? Do you make a trade?
There will have to be a decision made this offseason, but for now, I’m excited to see Kinky get the opportunity to give New Jersey a fighting chance in the postseason.
One of the big reasons this team succeeded this year was due to the cohesive bond they all formed together from top to bottom.
Everyone has a role and they do it to the best of their abilities. Travis Zajac has once again established himself as a huge veteran piece, Blake Coleman and Miles Wood give a team a speedy boost, Brian Boyle brings a gritty, strong aspect to the game and everyone in between has contributed to the formula for success they have carried on throughout the whole season.
It’s important they don’t lose this bond in the playoffs. They still need to play with that passion and fire, and even if they fall behind against a powerhouse like Tampa Bay in the first round, they need to stay calm, cool and collected. Hopefully, they take it one day at a time and go far.
The Sky’s The Limit
Why not us?
Sure, the Devils were just the second wild card team, but their potential goes beyond the numbers in my opinion. This is a team I think is going to shock the hockey world this postseason and may go deep into the playoffs.
Will they reach the Finals? Who knows, but I don’t think they are going down without a fight.
I’m a nervous wreck right now, writing this on the heels of tomorrow’s game, but I’m ready. Let’s go Devils!