March 22, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) defends the net against New Jersey Devils center Patrik Elias (26) during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Pens won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Devils, Penguins Off to Raring Starts in Atlantic Division

The New Jersey Devils couldn’t have gotten off to a better start — literally.

In two games so far, the Devils are 2-0-0 — with both wins coming against division rivals — to get a quick start on most of the teams in the Atlantic Division.

Right there with New Jersey, however, are the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pens are also off to as 2-0-0 start, with wins over the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers to get a jump on the rest of the division, too.

With the Devils and Penguins coming out of the gates on fire, the Flyers, Rangers and New York Islanders have had to pay the price, going a combined 1-5 to open the season.

Typically, the Devils, Penguins, Flyers and Rangers create one of the best four-team tandems in any division in the NHL, but if the opening five days of the season are any sort of indication, it could be a lop-sided division in 2013.

The Penguins looked impressive against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night and will have an opportunity to move to 3-0 when they take on the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight.

Pittsburgh, which last one the Stanley Cup in 2009, appears to be gearing for another post-season run in the lockout-shortened NHL after falling to the Flyers in the opening round last year.

The Devils and Penguins will see each other four times this season, with the first meeting occurring in Pittsburgh on Feb. 2.

Certainly, it’s too early to count out teams like the Flyers and Rangers, but both teams need to make adjustments over the next week-and-a-half. Otherwise, they’ll be in a hole too daunting to climb out of.

As for the mind-set in New Jersey and Pittsburgh, well, it’s simple: kick ‘em while their down. The Devils and Penguins will have no sympathy for the Rangers and Flyers in 2013, so they will try to keep winning, and, if the others keep losing, this division will start leaning toward one end fast.

If it does come down to the Devils and Penguins, it would be some finish to watch. Both teams have play-makers in every facet of the game. Sidney Crosby appears to be fully healed from his concussion from two years ago, and Evgeni Malkin is still one of the most feared forwards in the league.

Ilya Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac are off to hot starts in New Jersey, and David Clarkson has recorded two goals in as many games to find the early goal-scoring touch.

Devils’ goalie Martin Brodeur seems to be back to his old form, allowing just one goal in his first two starts to post a .50 goals-against-average and one shutout already.

 

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