Travis Zajac Game Five

2009-2010 Season Recap: Devils Finish First In Atlantic, Continue Impressive Playoff Streak

In a first of many posts, we here on Running With The Devils will recap the 2009-2010 Devils’ season. We’ll cover everything; the good, the bad and the ugly. Took kick off the series, I’ll look at the season achievements of the Devils.

Coming into the 2009-2010 season, the Devils had several questions throughout their lineup. Would an infusion of young talent pan out? Would Jacques Lemaire bring the team success? How would Martin Brodeur respond after missing significant time with a torn bicep injury last season? And, finally, could the Devils make a deep playoff run? The team would answer all of these questions, with some encouraging and disappointing answers.

The Devils opened the season losing two games, and the team looked disorganized and not prepared. But after those losses, the Devils took off. They corrected several problems, and finished the 2009 calendar year sitting 28-10-1. That record included a 9-2-1 record in November and an 11-4 month in December. The team played solid on all fronts, finishing 2009 with 2.77 goals per game (11th in the league) while averaging 29.8 shots on goal (tied for 15th). The powerplay stepped up, converting on 20.8% of their chances (tied for ninth). The defense took care of their end, only allowing 27.7 shots per game (tied for third), allowing 2.18 goals per game (second in the league) and killing 82.6% of penalties taken.

Martin Brodeur ThreeSome individual players also found success early in the season. Brodeur, coming off a serious injury in 2008, played a solid first three months of the season. He made history on December 21 when he shut out the Penguins, 4-0, at the Igloo. That shutout, number 104 of Brodeur’s career, broke a tie with Terry Sawchuk for the most career shutouts. It became another great milestone in Brodeur’s path to an eventual Hall of Fame induction. Zach Parise finished with 17 goals, 25 assists and 42 points, and those numbers came after the left-winger went through a dry spell in December. But it wasn’t all roses for the Devils.

The Devils never played with a healthy roster during the first three months. Patrik Elias missed time recovering from a groin injury early in the season. Paul Martin and Jay Pandolfo joined the injury list after a game against Pittsburgh October 24. Johnny Oduya joined that list later in the month after a game in Boston, leaving with a lower-body injury. All three of the players would go on to miss the entire month of November. Dainius Zubrus, Rob Niedermayer and David Clarkson joined that list in November, and Bryce Salvador missed time in December. Some of the players returned before the end of the year, but the Devils still had to plug holes with young players while dealing with these injures.

But the Devils couldn’t sustain their early season success in 2010. Read after the jump for the rest of the recap, including the Devils’ second half of the season.

The Devils began to fall off the horse in December, but they still managed to pull off their great record. January brought a harsh reality, as the team went 7-7-1 during the month. They only managed 15 points, and at times they were thoroughly outplayed. The Devils also lost three games in row for the first time since November. Many of their performances were lackluster, and the team began to stop playing complete, 60-minute games. The Devils also lost another player to injury, with Elias concussed in a game against Colorado. This was the first time we’d really seen cracks in the Devils armor, cracks that would continue to grow throughout the rest of the season.

One of the biggest reasons for the Devils second half slump was their inability to win the second period. The team consistently lost the second period throughout 2010, which significantly added to the Devils’ problems. They seemed to struggle throughout the rest of the season, finishing around .500 in 2010. But the team looked to be improving heading into the playoffs. They entered the postseason on a 4-1-1 streak, but it wouldn’t help them in the playoffs.

While the Devils couldn’t win the Cup this year, they still had a successful year. The team qualified for the playoffs for the 13th straight year, a streak second only to the Detroit Red Wings (14 straight seasons qualifying for the postseason). They also clinched their ninth Atlantic Division title. They swept the season series against the Penguins, and they finished with a 2-2-1 record against the Rangers. The team finished second in the conference, which isn’t too shabby considering their lackluster second half.

The organization also improved this season. The Devils sold out nine of their last 12 home games, and their three home games were also sellouts. Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek, in an interview with the Bergen Record’s Tom Gulitti, said the team almost broke even this year. Financially, the Devils continued their upward trend, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them improve on these numbers next season.

In the end, a great Devils’ season went sour with their abrupt playoff loss to the Flyers. This was a team that lost key veterans, such as John Madden, and was predicted by many to take a step back. They had plenty of excuses to quit, with the injuries and lackluster play in the second half. But they kept playing, and in the end still achieved success. We are spoiled fans, with our team constantly winning and making the playoffs. But this winning comes with heightened expectations. We tend to overlook the division championships and playoff streaks, instead dwelling on the negatives. While I want to see the Devils playing deeper in the postseason, I think we all have to realize the strong season they put together this year. While the Devils couldn’t push deeper into the playoffs, they continued their strong regular season play.

To sum it up, the Devils’ season was successful, yet unfinished.

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