What the #%& is up with the New Jersey Devils?
While the NHL playoffs are always frustratingly/awesomely capricious in nature, a full dozen of the13 experts on Dobber's Expert's Panel selected New Jersey to defeat the Philadelphia Flyers (props to Ryan Ma, the sole dissenter). And while excuses are for sissies, one can perhaps forgive those who thought the Devils would prevail.
After all, the underwhelming Flyers barely snuck into the postseason, requiring a shoot-out victory in their last game of the year to earn a berth. Meanwhile the Atlantic Division-winning Devils finished second in the Eastern Conference; only the class-of-the-league Washington Capitals accumulated more points. Who would have thought that a team with players like Zach Parise, Patrick Elias, Jamie Langenbrunner, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Martin Brodeur, would earn the dubious honour of being the first team bounced from the playoffs?
Looking back, maybe we all should have known better.
In a previous article, I speculated that the Devils' troubles after the Kovalchuk trade weren't entirely the Russian newcomer's fault. To support this, I showed that for the past several seasons, New Jersey's play had significantly fallen off during the tail-end of the season, and in each case the Devils had gone on to do poorly in the playoffs. At the time that article was published, there were 14 games remaining in the Devils' schedule. They went 7-3-4 in those remaining matches. So not so bad, but some might argue that New Jersey fans should just stop watching their team once Groundhog Day rolls around – the best has already happened. At the very least, they might avoid this repeating playoff hell that they seem to be mired in.
Changes to Come in Newark
In the April 12th issue of The Hockey News, Ryan Dixon wrote a great opinion piece on why he just can't stomach selecting the San Jose Sharks in the postseason anymore. Dixon argued that "anybody capable of taking a hint can no longer look a friend in the eye and predict the Cup will land in Northern California until the Sharks prove they don't actually live in a no-championship zone." Now, I'm not saying that Brodeur et al are deserving of Thornton-esque levels of distain, but there is no question that New Jersey is starting to look a lot like San Jose (with apologies to residents of beautiful northern California).
Perhaps the only reas