The New Jersey Devils are primed for playoff position. They are behind the Carolina Hurricanes by three points and ahead of the New York Rangers by three points with four games to go. It’s likely the Devils are locked into their position. A Devils-Rangers first-round matchup is going to be incredibly exciting.
It’s been five years since the Devils made the postseason, and it’s been 11 years since the Devils won a series. The last series the Devils won was ironically against the Rangers back in 2012. It was epic, and it’s been something we still think about as Devils fans. This team is looking to make new memories in the postseason, but they have to start with wins.
This Devils team is driven by all 23 players, but there will be a select few who make or break the series. It always works that way. The 2012 Devils needed Ilya Kovalchuk to be at the top of his game to make the Final. Adam Henrique obviously played a huge role, as did the entire fourth line. So, who could be the players who drive the Devils in 2023?
1. Jack Hughes
As always, let’s start with the obvious. Jack Hughes has been struggling since he was injured in February. Well, struggling compared to what he was before. Hughes isn’t the ridiculous scoring machine he was for most of the season. He still has a chance at 100 points, but he needs nine points in the last four games. It’s almost impossible, but that’s beyond the point.
Hughes just needs to get his momentum back before the playoffs. If he can get back into a scoring groove, it would be hard for the Rangers to stop a Devils team with Hughes at the top of his game.
Hughes isn’t on the “top” line right now. The Nico Hischier-Dawson Mercer-Insert other winger here line has been dominating offensively. Still, Hughes playing less than his best might be enough to exact an early exit in his first postseason.