Devils regular-season grades
Christopher Pasatieri/Getty ImagesThe Devils enter the playoffs as one of the NHL's hottest teams.
Devils' regular-season report card
The Devils entered the season with a new coach, an aging goaltender and serious questions about Zach Parise’s future with the team. The 27-year-old captain’s status remains uncertain – he is set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1 -- but the Devils have silenced their critics following last year’s stunning turn of events.
The Devils finished in the middle of the pack with 2.63 goals per game (15th in the NHL), but flaunt one of the most balanced rosters in the league offensively. Superstars Ilya Kovalchuk and Parise scored 37 and 31 goals, respectively and gritty winger David Clarkson shattered his previous career-high (17 goals) with a phenomenal 30-goal season. The team’s second line of Petr Sykora, Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus was among the most productive in the league and the team witnessed a breakout season for rookie center Adam Henrique. The team will have to score more consistently in the playoffs, however, to have success in a best-of-seven series.
So these Devils aren’t exactly the stingiest compared to the storied teams of the franchise’s past, but considering their personnel they’ve fared pretty well. Led by veterans Andy Greene and Bryce Salvador, the Devils limited opponents to a respectable 2.50 goals against. And they did so without one of their top two puck-movers in Swedish blue-liner Henrik Tallinder, who missed half of the season with injury. Rookie Adam Larsson has fought through peaks and valleys in his first professional season while trade deadline acquisition Marek Zidlicky has provided them an offensive threat from the blue line since joining the team in February.
Although the power-play was, at times, atrocious for the Devils, their record-setting penalty-killing unit bails them out of low marks in this category. With a 89.58 percent success rate, New Jersey set both franchise and league records on the PK and scored a league-leading 15 short-handed goals. Their power-play? An entirely different matter.
Martin Brodeur’s numbers are not what they used to be, but the future Hall of Famer is still capable of stealing games for his Devils squad.
Coach Pete DeBoer’s arrival marked the start of a new era for the Devils. He implemented an aggressive, up-tempo system in his first year as coach for New Jersey. And although the Devils have always staked their reputation to the team's defensive-minded approach, this year’s squad has been opportunistic in the offensive zone. DeBoer’s honest, no-nonsense style has appealed to the team’s young guns and veterans alike. A smart hire by general manager Lou Lamoriello.
ABOUT THIS BLOG
After spending two seasons as the Islanders beat writer for Newsday, Katie Strang joined ESPN New York to cover the Rangers, Isles and Devils. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.