The red hot New Jersey Devils faced off against the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday night and they came out of the gates hungry. The Devils, who are 6-1-1 since the All-Star Break, have been the beneficiaries of having one of the NHL’s hottest lines; that being the line of Zach Parise, Patrik Elias and Sniper Ilya Kovalchuk.
In Tuesdays’ game this line continued their dominate play, and in particular Kovalchuk continued to excel. Since the break Ilya has had an incredible 16 Points (6 Goals, 10 Assists) in just 8 games, including his first hat trick (12th of his career) as a Devil in the 4-1 win over the Sabres. Kovalchuk’s dynamic play and new found willingness to pass has resulted in his line mates putting up huge numbers as well. Earlier in the year it was Rookie Adam Henrique who was reaping the benefits of playing alongside Kovalchuk as he solidified himself as a frontrunner for Rookie of the Year. Henrique unfortunately suffered an injury against the Rangers, which forced Head Coach Peter Deboer to make a gutsy call to put veteran Patrik Elias on the team’s top line alongside Parise and Kovalchuk; the results have made him look like a genius. The line has been a force since they started skating together with Elias ( 8 points in 8 games) and Parise ( 9 points in 8 games) both excelling because of the skill of Ilya Kovalchuk. The Devils as a team going forward will rely heavily on this line for production and if this start to the second half is any indication of what’s to come, the team is in good shape. Kovalchuk, long known for his lackluster efforts on defense, has also shown a commitment to being a two-way forward, which shows in his +4 since the All-Star Break. Although this number may not wow you, take into consideration that “Kovy” was a -26 last season and you begin to see why this is such a vast improvement.
The Devils may still not bolster the most potent defense (unlike past Devils’ teams), but unlike past teams they can score with anyone. The Devils top two lines are both capable of getting you goals night in and night out, and the confidence that this Hat Trick must give Kovalchuk and his line mates (Parise actually passed up an empty net goal late so that Ilya could finish his trick) cannot be measured. The Devils have also been beating very good teams of late, including wins against the Penguins, Flyers and the league leading Rangers (twice!), showing they can beat any team on any given night. The Devils are in great shape sitting at 6th place in the Eastern Conference, just a point behind the Philadelphia Flyers for 4th place. More importantly though, the team seems to be gelling and gaining confidence with every game as Head Coach Peter Deboer continues to do a great job of adjusting to adversity in his first year with the team. Battling a number of key injuries (Travis Zajac, Adam Larsson, Jacob Josefson & Henrik Tallinder have all missed significant time)
Peter Deboer has continued to juggle lines and bring up players from the minors in an effort to find the perfect team. His ability to adjust to the circumstances and to get the best out of his players is impressive to say the least. His leadership coupled with the dominant play of the Kovalchuk-Elias-Parise line has teams all around the NHL taking notice of the team from New Jersey, because come playoff time I don’t think there’s a team out there that wants to play the Devils.
Impressed With The Devils Play This Year? Are They Ready To Contend For A Cup? Let Me Hear Your Thoughts!