The New Jersey Devils have clinched the playoffs. This will be the 14th time in 15 years that the Devils will appear in the playoffs. I would like to say it is the 15th time in 15 years, but I was told that I cannot pretend last season didn't happen along with the fact that it would be lying. It would just be a little lie, no harm! Anyway, the Devils faced the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday and the Devils came out a bit flat allowing the Lightning to have a 1 goal lead going into the 2nd period. The Devils came out with determination in the 2nd period and scored 4 goals. You read that right...4 goals!! That wasn't all..they went on to score another 2 goals in the 3rd period to win the game 6-4! Let's start with the fact that the Devils held Stamkos to only 1 assist the entire night. Stamkos did go on to score in every other game he has appeared in and is currently the NHL leading goal scorer, but the point is...he DIDN'T score against the Devils. Let's stop and let that marinate for a second.
You know who did get on the score sheet? Ryan Malone. In fact, Ryan Malone scored a hat trick during that game. That's not even the worst part, the first 2 goals that Malone scored were scored the exact way. He snuck in to the side of the goal and had an open net. On the first goal, Malone was found alone on Marty's left and easily scored to make the game 1-0. The second goal...Malone was tricky and went to Marty's right! Really? It was a mirror image of the first goal and he easily gets the second goal. Technically, the 3rd goal was scored right in front of Marty so Malone scored from all parts of the net. One would think he would need to be covered better...but what do I know? Since the Devils were home, only 1 lonely hat was thrown on the ice for Malone's hat trick that was picked up by a teammate. That actually seems sad. Did he keep the hat? Did he hold it crying a little that there weren't more hats thrown? I hope so otherwise, that Tampa Bay Lightning fan just lost a hat for no reason! Another positive that I would like to point out is that the number of face-off wins the Devils had, 39! They only lost 18 the entire game! Travis Zajac was 14-4 (Welcome back!! I can't say that enough), Elias 10-4, Henrique 6-2, and Josefson 7-3. Here are the highlights for a game full of fantastic offense.
Let's move on the clinching game! The Devils played the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. First, let's discuss the elephant in the room. The Hurricanes have a new coaching staff after the staff that the team started the year with was fired. The new coach brought in a new assistant coach...John MacLean. The same John MacLean that has an important part in New Jersey's history. It's also the same John MacLean that started last season (yes...the same season that didn't technically happen) as the coach for the New Jersey Devils. Awkward...
The New Jersey Devils started this game with a glorious goal from David Clarkson late in the 1st period. That goal was Clarkson's 30th goal and it just happened to have been his 28th birthday. Clarkson's goal sparked the team to have 4 more goals in the game to win it 5-0. What's better? 5 different players scored goals! What's even better than that? The fourth line is contributing! Funny enough, both Cam Janssen and Eric Boulton were healthy scratches. Coincidence? Maybe...not! Martin Broduer earned his 119th career shutout and had some spectacular saves, including this one where he denies Jeff Skinner an easy goal. Not only did the Devils clinch the playoffs, but they did so without having to scoreboard watch by getting help from other teams. This was the 2nd game in a row where they scored at least 5 goals. Let's hope that this burst of offense continues throughout the season and into the playoffs. Now that the Devils will return to the playoffs and are likely (although not set in stone) to face the Florida Panthers in the first round of the playoffs, that brings a whole bunch of elephants in the room. Peter DeBoer facing the Panthers in the playoffs? Now that's a whole different type of awkward.
The Devils are back in action on Tuesday when the New York Islanders, who completely owned the Pittsburgh Penguins (that's just funny to bring up) visit the Prudential Center.