If the NHL wanted to sell hockey to new fans, they wouldn’t show New Jersey Devils games. But, all of a sudden, the Devils’ tight checking, dump and chase style is gone.
They’re still winning, but now it’s fun to watch. Downright exciting!
The Devils have strung together eight straight wins to take the lead in the Atlantic Division with a 32-15-3 record. But the big story is the way the Devils are doing it. They are rushing up ice, attacking the zone and scoring goals with the league’s best.
Zack Parise and Patrik Elias made the All-Star team, combining for 51 goals. Parise, with a team high 29, also has a +22 (goals scored vs allowed when on the ice). Travis Zajac leads with +24 and has 15 goals, one of seven Devils with at least 10 goals.
The Devils have not lost a step despite the injury to standout goalie Martin Brodeau. Scott Clemmensen has stepped right in, winning six straight and to stand at 22-9-1 for the season. Quietly, the Devils have joined Boston, Detroit, San Jose and Washington as the elite teams in the NHL. Note to bettors: Jersey is 6-1 in overtime games.
And now on to this week’s pucks:
Washington at New Jersey: How can Versus show St. Louis-Columbus and not this one? Well, at least Jersey fans can hear the great ‘Doc’ Emrick call the game. I’m not going against the red hot Devils. NEW JERSEY.
Tampa Bay at NY Islanders: So what if my Islanders are 15-29-5! They’re unbeaten (3-0) since the All-Star break. Hey, this is Tampa Bay! NY ISLANDERS.
Phoenix at Detroit: The first of two straight revenge games for the Red Wings, who lost 6-3 at Phoenix. Plus the Wings ended last week on a five-game losing streak. Not the right time for the Coyotes to visit the Joe. DETROIT.
Toronto at Buffalo: The Leafs have one exciting rookie defenseman in Luke Schenn. Toronto’s games have totaled 9, 11, 7 and 7 goals in the last 4. Buffalo is just back from a long trip out West. OVER.
LA Kings at Washington: In four LA games last week the total goals were 7, 7, 11 and 7. Add that to the Alex Ovechkin factor and we have us a shootout. OVER.
Nashville at Minnesota: Second game in two nights for the Predators, who must beat stud goalie Niklas Backstrom. MINNESOTA.
Philadelphia at Boston: The rematch of Wednesday’s clash in Philadelphia. How strong are the Bruins? Their third-string goalie, Tuukka Rask, debuted with a 1-0 shutout win over the Rangers. That’s strong. BOSTON.
Detroit at Pittsburgh: First meeting at Pittsburgh since the Stanley Cup final. The Pens won 7-6 in Detroit back on Nov. 11. I’m not ready to back the Wings in their slump. Goalies are struggling on both sides. OVER.