Wednesday night is going to be game one of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final. The series will be played between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche. It will begin in Denver where game one will be played between these two incredible teams. Of course, we have to find a way to relate it to the New Jersey Devils.
When you watch the Stanley Cup Final, you can’t do anything other than wonder what it would take for your team to reach that point. New Jersey Devils fans have seen it end well a handful of times over the last 30 years but there is always a craving for more.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are in their third straight Stanley Cup Final. If they win, they will be the first team to win three in a row since the early 80s. The New Jersey Devils were just a couple of years old when the New York Islanders did it all those years ago.
The Avalanche have a lot of skill that they did a fantastic job developing as do the Lightning. The Devils can only hope that their young core reaches similar heights one day. That is a long way away for now.
The New Jersey Devils should try to replicate a big part of Tampa Bay’s game.
That isn’t the only thing to try and replicate, however. The Lightning has something that the Devils should truly desire to recreate and that is a completely dominant third line. That has been the key to them getting over the hump and staying there.
They were a little bit soft when the Columbus Blue Jackets beat them in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. From there, they learned their lesson and haven’t lost a playoff series since. They went out and built a fantastic third line.
In 2020 and 2021, it was largely the line of Ondrej Palat with Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow. They lost all three of them last offseason because of a trade, an expansion draft, and free agency. That didn’t stop them from getting a really good line back.
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Ross Colton was promoted to be on that line. They also, like 2020, made trades to address those spots. They acquired Brandon Hagel from the Chicago Blackhawks and Nick Paul from the Ottawa Senators. They also signed Corey Perry as a free agent in the offseason.
Any three of those four making up the third line gives them a distinct advantage. It will be made even better if Braydon Point returns from injury to center the second line. With stars like Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov leading the way, the depth is scary.
The Devils are missing a really solid third line. We liked what we saw from top-six forwards like Jack Hughes, Jesper Bratt, and Nico Hischier this year but they need to build that third line. With guys like Michael McLeod and Nathan Bastian on the fourth line, it is a big hole in their lineup.
Miles Wood missed most of the 2021-22 season because of an injury. He also rushed back to play towards the end of the season just to be shut down. If he does return healthy in September though, he could factor into this third-line business.
That area of the lineup is certainly something for Tom Fitzgerald to consider looking at this offseason. Once this series is over, we will move on and get into the offseason as the New Jersey Devils look to take another step forward.