Before the playoffs began last season, many predicted that the New York Rangers would come out on top, at least in the east. However, the New Jersey Devils ruined that prediction for many NHL fans and defeated the Rangers in six games during the Eastern Conference Finals. If the Devils want to have any chance at making another Stanley Cup run, there are some things that need to be done.
Firstly, 40-year-old goaltender Martin Brodeur must continue to play with the force that he has had since he was added to the Devils roster in the 1991-1992 season. Brodeur has won three Stanley Cups with the team, and during the 2012 playoffs, he made sure that his age didn't impact him on the ice. He finished the playoffs with a 14-9 record and 2.12 GAA.
Brodeur doesn't play like an old man, but his excitement on the ice makes him seem like a rookie who is just happy to be playing every opportunity he gets. Brodeur signed a two-year $9 million contract with the Devils this offseason, so the team is guaranteed to have an All-Star in net until at least 2014. Goaltending is crucial for the Devils, so if they want to make another postseason run, Brodeur must stay on his A-game.
With the loss of Zach Parise, Adam Henrique is needed to step up to the plate as one of the Devils' leads. Henrique played 74 games during the 2011-2012 season and finished with 16 goals and 35 assists. He's a strong offensive player, and at only 22, he has plenty more to bring to the table in the future.
As always, Patrik Elias and Ilya Kovalchuk must provide the Devils with the strong offensive force for which they're known, and defenders Mark Fayne, Andy Greene and Bryce Salvador must be prepared to protect the net and make hard hits when they're necessary.
Let's not forget about the fourth line. Jersey's fourth line in the playoffs was one word: incredible. Stephen Gionta, Steve Bernier and Ryan Carter combined for 10 goals and 21 assists during the playoffs. Devils Coach Peter DeBoer kept their line consistent after he recognized the success they were bringing to the team.
Most importantly, the Devils players cannot dwell on the loss of Parise. Yes, he was a great player. Yes, he was a captain. But he's gone, and the Devils still have a team that needs to prove themselves successful without him.
With good goaltending, a powerful offense, hard-hitting defense and a ridiculously talented fourth line, the Devils should find their way into the postseason again during the 2012-2013 NHL season.