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New Jersey moves into 10th place in East with 4-2 win over Atlanta; Reality check awaits?

Mar 15, 2011, 10:03 PM EDT

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It’s not always how it’s drawn up, but for the Devils on their incredible streak in the second half a win is a win. Tonight, the Devils got down 2-0 early to Atlanta thanks to goals from Tim Stapleton and Chris Thorburn. That would be all Atlanta would see the rest of the night though as the Devils went on to storm back and win 4-2.

Travis Zajac scored late in the first to cut the lead to 2-1 and the momentum gained from that goal carried into the second where Patrik Elias would tie the game up. With the score 2-2 going into the third, rookie Jacob Josefson would give the Devils the lead at 4:14 of the period while Ilya Kovalchuk would add an empty net goal late to seal the deal. Atlanta thought they tied the game with under 40 seconds to go as Evander Kane swatted a puck out of the air and past Martin Brodeur but it was waved off for being hit with a high stick.

The win draws New Jersey even with Atlanta and Toronto in points with 70, but the Devils have the tie-breakers against both teams and sit in 10th in the East. At one point this season, the Devils were by far the worst team in the NHL and now they’re within points of the eighth spot. While the Devils have played gutsy and tough hockey and winning lots of close games, things are about to get a lot harder for them down the stretch.

In the Devils final 13 games, they’ll be on the road for seven of them and dealing with some of the East’s best teams. Here’s how things shake out.

3/17:  @Ottawa
3/18:   Washington
3/20:   @Columbus
3/22:   @Boston
3/25:   @Pittsburgh
3/26:   @Buffalo
3/30:   NY Islanders
4/1:      Philadelphia
4/2:      Montreal
4/5:     @Pittsburgh
4/6:      Toronto
4/9:      @NY Rangers
4/10:     Boston

Certainly with the way the Devils have been playing and executing anything is possible and it’s tough to bet against them, but with nine of the next 13 games coming against teams that are ahead of them in the standings and not much room for error for the Devils the rest of the way, it’s going to be tough. Adding in that they’ve still got five sets of back-to-back games things are going to get stressful over the next few weeks for the Devils.

They’ve persevered over John MacLean’s poor coaching, Jamie Langenbrunner‘s questionable presence, and one of the worst starts to a season in recent memory but they’re still in it and they’re hotter than anyone in the league. Bet against them at your own risk.

  1. mrhojorisin - Mar 16, 2011 at 11:06 AM

    If you’re the Devils, at this point you need and want to play the teams ahead of you, even if they’re “better” (possibly only by perception because they are higher in the standings), because that’s the only way the Devs can guarantee essentially 4-point swings over the teams they are chasing. And with the way they’ve been playing, I don’t think they really fear any of these teams or the challenges that are ahead, because a month ago, no one expected them to even be here. Look at what they’ve done against Tampa Bay and Carolina. So, bring on the Rangers, Buffalo and Montreal… and hopefully they stay equally up against the likes of Ottawa.

    • stakex - Mar 16, 2011 at 12:57 PM

      Well the Devils only play 2 games against teams that they have a chance to catch… the Sabers and the Rangers. So thats just two, 4 point swing games the Devilsh ave to look forward to.

      So really, those are the only two games against better teams that the Devils actually want to play. Spin in however you want, but the Devils do NOT want to play games against Washington, Boston, Philly, and Pittsburgh right now…. especially Washington, who has been hotter than NJ over the last 10 games. No matter how well they are playing, at best its still a flip of the coin when they are playing the top teams in the East.

      The Devils probably need to win 10-11 of their last 13 games to even have a slight chance to making the playoffs (and its quite possible that might not even be enough). Thus they can’t be playing so many of them against the best teams in the East. While they might win some of them, they are not going to win all of them which is what they need to do.

      My prediction is that the Devils get blown out against Washington, and then lose to Boston and Pittsburgh… ending any chance of them making the playoffs in the next week and a half.

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