The title of this article is overly optimistic, really. The New Jersey Devils' playoff chances are just about broken, and the air of defeat has been circulating around this team for a while now—the past 10 games to be exact. Since Ilya Kovalchuk went down with a shoulder injury in a March 23 game against the Florida Panthers, New Jersey has gone 0-6-4.
The most recent loss came last night in a second straight 2-0 shutout, this time by the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Devils have scored more than one goal just once in the past seven contests.
What's unique about this ugly streak is the manner in which the Devils are losing. Obviously, they cannot score goals. However, during these 10 games, New Jersey has been outshot just once. On Monday night, the Devils outshot the Maple Leafs 31 to 12. On Friday night, New Jersey outshot the Senators 33-11, yet they lost 2-0.
This indicates a bit of bad luck is at play. And that's often how hockey works. Inside the Devils' locker room, the cliche "We just aren't getting the bounces" has probably been thrown around very loosely in the past three weeks.
But luck cannot be blamed for a 10-game winless streak. This team simply is not finishing, and that is because they simply do not have a lot of players with finishing ability. There are shots that find the corners and there are shots that hit the goalie in the sternum. Much of the latter has been flying off of New Jersey sticks recently.
Barring a miracle, this team is done. Assuming they miss the playoffs for the second time in three years, plus the fact that they are bound to lose at least a few free agents, plus the uncertain return of Martin Brodeur, the New Jersey Devils may be on the precipice of rebuilding mode.
But I'll keep a miracle in mind, and present the five factors that will determine whether, after the April 27 season finale, the team will be scheduling a practice or a tee time.