New Jersey Devils Move Into First Place

JerseySenior Analyst IJanuary 20, 2009

No Brodeur? No problem.

With a game in hand against the second-place Rangers, the Devils of New Jersey are now atop the Atlantic Division, despite playing most of the season without Martin Brodeur. They've suffered many other injuries along the way, but have overcome them all, and are now in first place.

This team is dangerous. Very dangerous. They've made the playoffs every year since 1997, and have only missed twice since 1988. They've won three Stanley Cups in that span, and have played in one other final. They've fallen short the past few seasons due to fatigue, but that may not be a factor this year. Brodeur will be quite fresh for the playoffs when he returns, and with four quality lines rolling out every night, no skater has had to put in an over-strenuous amount of work.

The Devils have made the playoffs all these years despite having a low-scoring team. This year, the addition of Brian Rolston has improved the team's firepower, as has the incredible season of Zach Parise and the resurgence of Patrik Elias. Brian Gionta, Travis Zajac, and Dainius Zubrus have all chipped in as well, making this team a well-rounded scoring threat.

Adding to that threat is the newly signed Brendan Shanahan, who is returning to the team that drafted him, and scored in his first game back. Last year, he faded down the stretch, thanks to his advanced age. This should not be a major factor this year, as he sat out the entire first half of the season. He won't have to play as many games, and shouldn't wear down as much. Plus, because the Devils aren't relying on him to be a big-time scorer, he will be an excellent minor addition to the team.

This team is powerful without their top goalie; they have multiple lines with scoring ability, solid defense from both their blueliners and their checking lines, and an extremely well-rounded team. They are very good now, and stand only to get better when Brodeur returns. And now that he won't be so fatigued come playoff time, the Devils could make a serious run at the Cup once again.