3 Lessons the Devils Can Take from Their Win Against the Pittsburgh Penguins

Nicholas SteblenkoContributor IIIDecember 31, 2011

3 Lessons the Devils Can Take from Their Win Against the Pittsburgh Penguins

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    The New Jersey Devils finished 2011 on a great note with a 3-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    With the win, New Jersey moves to within three points of the Penguins in the most competitive division in the NHL, the Atlantic Division.

    New Jersey stands in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, one spot behind the Penguins and another behind the Philadelphia Flyers who are set for their showdown with the conference-leading New York Rangers in the 2012 Winter Classic.

    The Devils have had a great stretch in the past couple weeks and seem to be doing all the right things to claw their way up the ladder.

    Their win over the Penguins should offer a few valuable lessons that they can use to develop even further on their quest for the Atlantic Division and ultimately the playoffs.

It Is Nice to Play on the Power Play, but Their 5-on-5 Needs Some Work

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    First things first, let's not kid ourselves here.

    The Pittsburgh Penguins took way too many penalties in this game and ultimately gave New Jersey too many opportunities to score goals on the power play.

    Pittsburgh spent the majority of the first period in the penalty box and even gave the Devils a penalty shot because they covered the puck in the crease.

    Normally, New Jersey is not going to be afforded that many opportunities against a team like Pittsburgh. They are going to have to find a way to score goals while playing five-on-five hockey.

    The fact that the Penguins are still playing without Sidney Crosby certainly helped the Devils as well, but that really only allowed them to play defense without holding their breath every five seconds.

    The Penguins outshot the Devils 30-21 and it was clear that they were outplayed in the second and third periods overall.

    If New Jersey wants to compete down the stretch, they are going to have to be able to score on even strength opportunities as well as the power play.

The Devils' Top Scorers Are Good, but Where Is the Depth?

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    Against teams with a lack of depth, New Jersey has fared pretty well this season.

    They beat the Buffalo Sabres the other night, a team that has been ravaged by injuries and inconsistent play from their star goaltender.

    However, when they played Pittsburgh, a team with depth at every level, the only players that generated any offense came from the top lines.

    While the best forwards are always going to be called upon, New Jersey has some talent on their third line that was nowhere to be found.

    Dainius Zubrus was almost nonexistent in 16 minutes of ice time. Travis Zajac also posted a goose egg in almost every category.

    The top line of Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk and Adam Henrique has been established at this point in the season and should continue playing together.

    Patrik Elias, Petr Sykora and David Clarkson are all playing well too. Yet, players that have been beneficial to the Devils in the past like Zajac and Zubrus—as well as youngsters like Mattias Tedenby—have not been pulling their weight.

    During the playoffs, teams that are usually successful can roll through three lines and the best will find production from their fourth line as well.

    If New Jersey is going to make a serious playoff run, they will need these players to step up and start producing more.

When Martin Brodeur Plays Like His Old Self, the Devils Can Beat Anyone

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    Martin Brodeur looked spectacular on Saturday. No question about it.

    Marty has been struggling this season and it has showed. Even with the win against the Penguins, Brodeur is still only a shade above .500 and is posting some of the worst numbers of his career.

    Many are calling for the great goaltender to end his career and retire at season's end.

    One thing is for certain though, when he plays like he did on Saturday, he is still one of the best goalies in the NHL.

    Brodeur stopped 29 of 30 shots against Pittsburgh and probably would have had the shutout if it weren't for a bad bounce off the end boards that gave Chris Kunitz an open look at the net.

    Marty looked like his old self too, making some head-turning saves that kept the Devils alive as the Penguins poured it on in the third period.

    Right now the Devils are rotating Brodeur with Johan Hedberg, which could prove beneficial come playoff time.

    It is no secret that both goaltenders are aging and the days of playing 70 games are long gone for Brodeur.

    If both goalies are given an even rotation, it could save them down the stretch and allow them to produce at a higher level in the playoffs.

    Either way, when Brodie is on it's sure fun to watch.