Just a few weeks ago the New Jersey Devils ended the first half of the NHL season with 3 straight losses to the Bruins, Flyers, and Sabres. The Devils along with their fans shared not only the frustration of the losing streak the team was building, but also the fact that no Devils would be making the trip to Ottawa for the All-star festivities.
While the fans may have been slightly bothered by the lack of Devils presence at the All-star game, the Devils took advantage of this by preparing for the second half of the season. Since the 2012 All-star break the Devils have not lost a game, and after a 1-0 shutout win over the Rangers last night on the Garden ice, the Devils have increased their win streak to 5 games.
Currently sitting 5th in the Eastern Conference, the Devils start to the 2nd half of the season is just what the team needed coming out of the All-star break, allowing them to build confidence, and climb the standings.
It is not just the wins that depict the improvements the Devils have made. The players are scoring more now then they have all season. With 21 goals in their last 5 games the Devils are quickly becoming an offensive threat. Any team that can put up more than 3 goals in any game has a good chance at winning, especially if they have the caliber goaltenders that the Devils have available to them.
With both goaltenders playing well, the team’s leaders and cashing in on timely goals, while putting up their biggest numbers of the season. Ilya Kovalchuk has posted 10 points in the past 5 games and currently leads the team with 22 goals on the season. Slightly behind Kovalchuk is David Clarkson, who since the break has posted 8 points, while Zach Parise has contributed 7 points in the last 5 games. Both Clarkson and Parise have 5 goals since the break and have been essential to the Devils increased scoring.
There is no doubt that the Devils are playing their best hockey of the season. However, there is still room for improvement. The Devils at times seems to struggle to play a 60 minute game, the Flyers game on Saturday was a prime example of this. Leading 6-0 after the second period the Devils came out flat for the third and had to fight to win the game 6-4. Allowing the Flyers to score 4 unanswered goals in the third period, in a game that should have been over from the midway point of the second period.
The Devils inability to play a 60 minute game is something that plagued them in the first half of the season. Whether it was in the form of a terrible start that forced the Devils to battle from behind all game, or a poor finish where the Devils were in a tight match and just ran out of steam in the third period. There has been more than few occasions where the Devils inability to produce a 60 minute effort has hurt them.
With the exception of the game against the Flyers the Devils seem to have improved their issue of coming up short in tight games. The facts are that we have reached the point in the season where every win counts more and more as time goes on. This is the time to start your run, this is the time to make up ground, and the Devils have taken full advantage of it so far.
The Devils return home to the Rock tomorrow to host the St. Louis Blues, there will be some familiar faces on the opposing bench. Former Devils Captain Jamie Langenbrunner will be on the ice for the Blues. However, Jason Arnott will likely miss the game due to a shoulder injury that has caused him to be removed from the line up. It is also Beatles night at the Rock!? Only time will tell what that will bring.