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When all is said and done, the hopes of a playoff team ride on whether or not its players can perform under pressure. Some players have shown themselves to perform exceptionally well in such circumstances.
The Devils have a number of those players.
It's hard to measure how clutch someone is, but there are a few statistics you can look at. The Devils have three of the top 20 active leaders in game-winning goals: Elias with 78, Sykora 57 and Ilya Kovalchuk 55.
Until earlier this season, Elias had been tied as the NHL's all-time leader in overtime goals, with 16. Jaromir Jagr broke the the tie, passing Elias, Sergei Fedorov and Mats Sundin. Kovalchuk is fifth all-time with 13.
Though there are no shootouts in the playoffs (unfortunately for the Devils), those stats can still reflect a player's ability to perform under pressure.
Zach Parise ranks third all-time with 29 shootout goals, one behind Pavel Datsyuk* and Jussi Jokinen. This year is especially noteworthy for Kovalchuk on the shootout. '
Following tonight's miss, he is 11-of-14 on the season. Both his 11 shootout goals and seven game-deciding goals are single-season records.
There's no exact science behind playoff success, but the fact that multiple extremely talented scorers have shown they can perform in high-pressure situations has to count for something.
I'm not saying you should place a large wager on the Devils. I'm not saying they'll win at all. But each year has some teams that seem like they can be written off immediately, and the Devils should not be considered one of those teams.
*Any excuse to watch that video.
All stats obtained via Hockey-Reference, NHL.com and the Devils' team website.