It’s the happiest time of the year! Donna Murphy was announced as The Witch in the Public Theatre’s summer production of Into The Woods in New York City! And the Stanley Cup Playoffs!
Mostly the Playoffs. In honor of Ms. Murphy’s joining Mr. Sondheim’s most mainstream musical, I will be doing an Into The Woods-themed post!
THIS IS THE WORLD I MEANT, COULDN’T YOU LISTEN?
Looking back at the regular season, who would have guessed how things would turn out for the Devils, finishing up as the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference. Wait….. I did! So I’ve got that going for me.
I predicted then that Kovalchuk and Parise would need to combine for 75 goals. They scored 68, and Kovy played a more complete game than fans thought possible; he played in all situations (even PK!), tallied 23 more points in 4 fewer games, and went from a -26 to a -9 (+2 after the All Star Break).
Parise bounced back from last season’s injury with a solid 69 point campaign (and, to his credit, a surprising lack of drama about his impending free agency).
NO ONE IS ALONE
The Devils’ two superstar wingers certainly were helped by enormous contributions up and down the squad. Rookie Adam Henrique forced himself into the lineup with Travis Zajac out and put himself in the Calder Trophy conversation with a 51 point season. David Clarkson surpassed anyone’s expectations with a 30 goal season (and a nice commercial for a local hockey store that shows Clarkie can fill out a pair of jeans).
Some contributions came from familiar places – Patrik Elias was 2nd (and 10th in the league) with 78 points. As good as Kovy and Parise were, Elias was the team’s most consistent player. I love Elias so much that I just ordered a Volchenkov jersey, knowing that Patrik won’t be jealous. No shirt would be enough to symbolize my devotion, P.
The defensive corps didn’t put up many points this season, but they got better as the season progressed. Bryce Salvador returned from the concussion that kept him out all last season and played smart, solid defense for the full 82 games. Mark Fayne followed up his strong rookie season by playing like a veteran – the point totals were meager (17 points), but he was one of the Devils’ most reliable players. Volchenkov scored two more goals than he did in his first season as a Devil (which is to say, he scored two goals). For the money he’s being paid, Volchy needs to be a difference maker in the defensive zone, maybe we’ll see his physical play ramp up in the playoffs. When healthy (only 59 games), Andy Greene was his normal solid self.
IT TAKES TWO
GM Lou Lamoriello made two critical midseason additions. Seeing that the Devils third and fourth lines struggling, Lou traded for veteran winger Alex Ponikarovsky from the Hurricanes. Poni helped turn the third line into a strength, coming up with 7G 11A +9 in his 33 games as a Devil. Just before the trade deadline, Lou was able to unload the previously-acquired black hole of power play time, Kurtis Foster, on the Wild in exchange for their in-the-doghouse D Marek Zidlicky. Zidlicky had a rough start, but soon established himself as a PP quarterback and all-situations player, with 8 points in 22 games.
NO KNOT UNTIES ITSELF (IT REQUIRES A SHOOTOUT)
No team took better advantage of the NHL’s overtime/shootout rules than the Devils, who won 16 games after regulation, including 12 shootout wins. Sadly for the Devils (as no real fan would ever complain about overtime hockey in the playoffs), those numbers won’t create any tangible advantage from here on out. I could go on and on looking back on this season but…
THE TIME HAS COME FOR A FESTIVAL!
Playoff hockey returns to New Jersey after a one-year absence. Here are some things I’ll be watching…
MANTICORE? IMAGINARY! GRYPHON? EXTINCT!
Panthers… Very very possible. The Devils first round opponents are the Southeast Division winners and third seed in the Eastern Conference. The Devils are widely considered to be the favorites in this series, finishing with a better record, and were 7-2-1 in their last 10 games heading into the playoffs, while the Panthers stumbled into the playoffs at 2-3-5.
ALL THREE WERE BEAUTIFUL OF FACE, BUT VILE AND BLACK OF HEART
The Devils defense will be most concerned about the Panthers’ top line of Tomas Fleischmann, Stephen Weiss, and Kris Versteeg. The Panthers place the bulk of their scoring burden on these three, who all had over 50 points (no other forward had more than 32). The Devils have had problems keeping those three in check during the regular season, and if they are unable to keep them from scoring 2-3 goals/game, it will make this series much tougher on the Devils. Blueliners Brian Campbell (53 points) and Jason Garrison (16 goals) will also need to be accounted for when the Panthers have the puck.
THINK OF THOSE CRISP, AGING BONES
There’s no way around this. Martin Brodeur is old. (As NHL Goalies go, he’s old. If he were a gay hockey blogger, he’d be in his prime…) Given his age, Coach DeBoer did a great job managing Marty’s workload, and he’s playing his best hockey as we head into the playoffs (if you ignore the howler he let in vs. Ottawa). The Panthers will counter with… someone.
As of this writing, neither Jose Theodore or former Devil Scott Clemmensen has been named the starter for the playoffs. Neither has a resume that suggest they’ll outplay Brodeur, but it’s the playoffs. Anything can happen.
AGONY, MISERY, WOE
The Devils’ top defenseman from last year, Henrik Tallinder, will likely miss the playoffs with a blood clot in his leg that kept him out of the last 37 games of the season. C Jacob Josefson will miss roughly five more weeks with a broken wrist - a shame as the second-year player was playing his best hockey when he got injured. Anton Volchenkov (can’t wait to wear my new jersey!) and Clarkson, who both missed the last game of the regular season, will be ready to go when the puck drops Friday night.
THERE ARE BIG, TALL, TERRIBLE GIANTS IN THE SKY
Devils’ enforcers Eric Boulton and Cam Janssen (combined 0G 1A) on the season will, barring injury or a drastic change in tactics, watch the playoffs from the press box as healthy scratches. It appears rookie D Adam Larsson will also be benched in favor of the slightly-more experienced Peter Harrold.
WE NEED FOUR, WE HAVE NONE*
It’s time to lace up the skates and get four wins! I don’t give the Panthers much of a chance in this series – Devils have more offense and a better defense. Their power play is much improved since the Zidlicky acquisition and the penalty kill unit set a post-expansion mark for stinginess (89.6%). So long as they can keep the Panthers’ top line from being super-productive, this series should be over quickly, Devils in five.
*yes, I know the line is “We had none”. Back off. One last thing…
STAY WITH ME… STAY AT HOME…
Seriously, Zach – re-sign with the Devils.