Well, this is it. It’s time for the final installment of the Eastern Conference Battle series, and none too late. With the regular season just a week (or more for some teams) away, it’s time to really look at what sort of competition there will be this year. The preseason has been…interesting, to say the least (*COUGH* Leafs and Sabres line brawl…), but I think everyone is anxious to get the regular season started.
With that said, let’s dig in to one specific opponent to preview.
The New Jersey Devils were riding high in late spring 2012, as they beat the Rangers in OT to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. That euphoria was short lived, as NJ suddenly found themselves back 3 games to the Kings. With their backs against the wall, the Devils fought back and won two games, but in LA, and with a 5 minute major penalty to Steve Bernier for boarding, the Kings cruised in Game 6.
Since then, the Devils have been trying to get back to form. They struggled last season, and missed the playoffs by a margin much larger than expected. Considering the loss of Ilya Kovalchuk this offseason, and the loss of Zach Parise after the SCF loss, it seems as though newly signed Jaromir Jagr and the veteran Patrik Elias, will be looked to, not as goal scoring leaders, though they are fully capable of being those, but as experienced mentors to some other guys like Adam Henrique and Travis Zajac.
Another offseason signee who will be looked to for point production is Michael Ryder. The 3-time 30 goal scorer and 2-time 60 point scorer needs a team to really have a part with. His potential has remained mostly untapped by his past teams, as the longest he has been in one place is Montreal for 4 years at the start of his career, and for part of the year last year.
On the back end, Bryce Salvador and Anton Volchenkov are the big D-Men, and Martin Brodeur will have somewhat of a lighter load with Cory Schneider as his counter part. Marty may be getting old, but he remains one of the best in the league and certainly one of the best of all time.
So, for CBJ, it seems as though the Devils will be licking their wounds all season, right? If only that were true. In fact, I believe the Devils are the most dangerous team in this division. Everyone has such high expectations for the Rangers, Pens, and Flyers, but the Devils are just as skilled as at least the Flyers, and they have somewhat of a capability to sneak under the radar.
However, they can be beaten with the same idea. Who flies under the radar more than Columbus? Maybe Carolina, if only because they are constantly expected to be at the bottom, which I think all CBJ fans can understand the frustrations associated with that. But anyway, it’s likely the Devils won’t be as worried about Columbus as, say, Pittsburgh, and that will be just what kills them.
In any given game, if the Devils come out expecting an easy two points, I can guarantee they won’t get it against CBJ. Our boys are so much more than they’ve ever been before, depth-wise, skill-wise, and determination-wise. But other teams don’t exactly know this, which is quite an advantage to us.
In the end, if the Jackets can just use the potential lack of preparation to their advantage, they will find great success. If you have a better plan of attack, please let me know! The more confidence we as fans have, the better.