The Devils have depth, experience, talent and the best goaltender of his generation getting ready to come back and join the fun. Martin Brodeur must be as excited to re-join this group as any he’s had in front of him.
The Devils still have the defensive structure that’s made them the most miserable group to play against for the last two decades, but they’re not just a top-five team defensively. They’re top five on the attack as well.
New Jersey boasts a top line of Zach Parise, Travis Zajak and Jamie Langenbrunner. The trio is led by 24-year-old Parise, who, in his fourth season, leads the team in scoring, never gets outworked and is ready to join the small group of the league’s elite.
Dainius Zubrus centres the second line with Brian Gionta and the resurgent Patrik Elias on the wings. Elias is having his best season since the days of the “A” line with Jason Arnott and Petr Sykora and seems to be a better player without the burden of the Devils captaincy.
Those top two lines have stayed together for half a season as well. That’s a testament to good health and patience. When there’s a bad shift or a bad game (and there haven’t been many) coach Brent Sutter doesn’t panic where a lot of coaches get the blender out at the first sign of trouble.
The third and fourth lines are a nice mix of experience and specialists. John Madden can shut down anyone, David Clarkson will knock your block off and Bobby Holik is finally back in a role where he belongs as a support centre with a great attitude and a nasty disposition.
Good grief! Brian Rolston has only eight goals and is playing on the third line but can win a game with a power-play goal at anytime. Now they have Brendan Shanahan on the fourth line and he looks like he showed up for his second tour of Devil duty in shape to play. Three games in Shanahan was playing 15 minutes and killing penalties. And good grief again! Jay Pandolfo, a fixture on the Devils checking lines with two Stanley Cups and 10 years experience, has been a healthy scratch.
There’s not a team in the league that can boast both the size and experience the Devils have up front. They don’t have to worry about match-ups and can roll four lines. That should keep them fresh for the playoffs.
No-name blue-line gettng the job done
The defence is anonymous but able. They don’t add much to the attack but from Colin White, through Johnny Oduya and Mike Mottau they are steady, make a decent first pass and more importantly don’t try to be anything more than what they are.
All of this success and Brodeur hasn’t played since Nov. 1. Scott Clemmensen is 22-9-1 and has embraced the opportunity to play behind a team that doesn’t make goaltending easy, but simply requires the tender to be good, not great.
There is a reason that Lou Lamoriello is considered the godfather of general managers. He knows how to build a team and this group is as good as he’s put together in a few years.
We all know that a lot can happen on the way to the parade around the parking lot, but it looks from here like the road to the Eastern Conference championship will wind through the swamps of Jersey once again.
Do you have improvements to suggest for this page?