During the off-season, I’ll take a look at several stories from the past season. In this post, I’ll take a look at the Devils’ performance over their Atlantic Division foes.
We all know the Philadelphia Flyers dominated the Devils this season. They took five of six in the regular season, which didn’t bode well for New Jersey. I believe the Flyers success during the regular season helped them dispatch the team in the postseason as well. Overall, the Devils could only win two of 11 matchups against their Turnpike rivals this season. The Flyers outscored the Devils, 20-13, in the six contests. Clearly, the Flyers were the thorn in the Devils side this season.
The Devils’ inability to beat Atlantic Division opponents stopped with the Flyers. If the Devils ‘abysmal record against Philadelphia is excluded, New Jersey finished 13-6 against the division. They didn’t have a losing record any other opponent, with their lowest record at .500. That’s a pretty good performance, and it’s one of the main reasons the Devils won their ninth Atlantic Division championship.
Overall, the Devils finished 14-6 against their Atlantic Division foes. They scored 73 goals and allowed 53, and a +20 in goal differential will usually lead to a solid record. The team enjoyed it’s most success against the Pittsburgh Penguins. They outscored the Pens, 22-5, and that included two shutouts. The success against the Pens was unexpected, but the Devils’ played quite well against the defending Stanley Cup champions. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see if this trend would contine in the playoffs. But their success against the Pens showed that the Devils can play well against the best in the league.
The Islanders finished near the bottom of the league again this year, and the Devils helped to put them in the basement. New Jersey won the regular season series, 4-2, outscoring the Isles 21-13. In the past, the Islanders had been a thorn in the Devils’ side (think the Baltimore Orioles against the New York Yankees). But the Devils finally took care of business this year, twice putting up 5+ goals on their Atlantic Division foes. This was one of the teams the Devils needed to defeat. We’ve seen them time and time again leave valuable points on the table. But earning eight out of 12 possible points against a division rival always helps put you near the top of the division.
The Devils played well against the Pens and Isles, but they could only manage a .500 record against their hated rivals, the New York Rangers. The teams split the season series, 3-3, with the Devils outscoring the Rangers, 17-15. That close margin says it all about the series this season. Most victories in the series were close, with the winning team winning by one or two goals. The series also went to two shootouts, with each team winning one. The highlight came on March 10, when the Devils scored six goals en-route to a 6-3 victory over their Hudson River rivals. They also chased Henrik Lundqvist in the game, which brought a smile to every Devils’ fan. But the Rangers continued to play the Devils’ tough, and both teams seemed evenly matched throughout the regular season.
A 14-11 record may not seem stellar. But the team needed to win conference games to clinch that second seed in the playoffs. It’s always important to play against the best, and the Devils played extremely well against the Pens, who just happen to be a division rival. The team’s terrible record against the Flyers will stick out like a sore thumb. But the Devils’ success against their divisional rivals shouldn’t be overlooked.
Many Devils’ players rose to the occasion during divisional play. Parise totaled 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists) in 23 division games. Travis Zajac followed, putting up 19 assists in 24 games. Patrik Elias tallied 10 goals in 18 games against the teams in the Atlantic Division, and Martin Brodeur went 13-7-2 with a 2.14 goals-against-average and .920 save percentage. Brodeur also set the shutout record against the Pens, defeating them 4-0 on December 21.
While the playoff loss may negate this record to some, it still deserves praise. The Devils took care of the work in the division, and it helped them win their ninth Atlantic Division title. It’ll be interesting to see whether the Devils can repeat this success next season.
Zach Parise Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images
Henrik Lundqvist Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun/AP Photo