WILL THE DEVILS BE A SURPRISE TEAM IN 2013-2014?
Losing Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson has many pundits seeing the New Jersey Devils missing the playoffs for the second straight season. However, don’t be surprised if the Devils make some noise for one of the final playoff spots this season.
Talking to people around the league, the Devils are coming up as a team that will be better than many think.
Two primary reasons: The goaltending combo of Corey Schneider and Martin Brodeur will make them competitive every night and they have an excellent coach in Peter DeBoer.
Upfront for the Devils the big question is whether there’s going to be enough scoring. The sense on the Devils is that the secondary scoring is stronger this year with the additions of Ryane Clowe, Damien Brunner, and Michael Ryder. I’m not expecting much from Jaromir Jagr but New Jersey has a pretty good top-9 if the newcomers fit into their system.
Defensively, this group lacks a true No. 1 pairing but the structure in place by DeBoer always has the Devils playing sound defensively and to go with their goaltending, they should be one of the top-10 defensive teams in the NHL. This figures to be a competitive team that plays low scoring games and it will only be a matter of time before they turn to Cory Schneider as the full-time No. 1.
For the first month of last season, it was the Devils and Bruins that had the look of being the best team in the Eastern Conference. The Devils swept the Penguins in a home and home series on Feb 9th and 10th with back to back 3-1 victories to improve to 8-1-3 and I remember Penguin players just marveling at how great of a structure the Devils were playing at the time. Things obviously ended up going south for New Jersey once Brodeur missed a month of the season from Feb 22 – March 20.
I Breakdown the Metropolitan Division like This:
1st Tier: Pittsburgh Penguins | 2nd Tier: Washington Capitals, New York Rangers | 3rd Tier: Philadelphia Flyers, New York Islanders, Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes |
The Penguins enter the season as the clear favorites in the Metro Division but they are far from a perfect team. The blueline is stronger but they have question marks in net and in the bottom-6 that could derail their Cup aspirations. With the Olympics, and a potential un-inspired group until April, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Capitals and Rangers to be strong challengers for the top spot in the division. In fact, the Penguins dealing with a little adversity in the regular season might not be a bad thing for them. Last year they got too arrogant and felt their way would always succeed.
Overall, the Rangers and Capitals look to be the top challengers to the Penguins, while the rest of the division can be looked at as wildcards.
The Flyers, Islanders, Blue Jackets, Devils and Hurricanes all have some intrigue about them but also a lot of question marks. It’s going to be a wide open division for the final one to two playoff spots.
TONIGHT’S PROJECTED LINEUPS
Ryane Clowe – Patrik Elias – Damien Brunner
Adam Henrqiue – Travis Zajac – Jaromir Jagr
Dainius Zubrus – Andrei Loktionov – Michael Ryder
Ryan Carter – Stephen Gionta – Steve Bernier
Bryce Salvador – Marek Zidlicky
Andy Greene – Adam Larsson
Anton Volchenkov – Peter Harrold
TIDBITS: Cory Schneider makes his first career start vs the Penguins……Ryane Clowe has 3 goals and 1 assist in his last three games vs Penguins…..Andy Green has 7 points in his last eight games vs Penguins……Jaromir Jagr’s career numbers vs Penguins (43 GP – 21 G – 20 A – 41 PTs)……Patrick Elias has 69 pts and a +27 rating in 80 career games vs Pittsburgh
PENGUINS PROJECTED LINEUP
Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Pascal Dupuis
Jussi Jokinen – Evgeni Malkin – James Neal
Beau Bennett – Brandon Sutter – Chuck Kobasew
Tanner Glass – Dustin Jeffrey – Craig Adams
Brooks Oprik – Paul Martin
Rob Scuderi – Matt Niskanen
Olli Maatta – Robert Bortuzzo
Marc Andre Fleury
TIDBITS: If James Neal is not able to give it a go, look for Beau Bennett play on the second line with Jussi Jokinen and Evgeni Malkin……Olli Maatta will make his Penguins debut and be paired with the Penguins least experienced defenseman Robert Bortuzzo…..Sidney Crosby has 45 points and a +15 rating in 39 career games vs New Jersey……