Twenty 'Til Liftoff: A Look At The Final 20 Games Of Devils Season

Doug GausepohlCorrespondent IMarch 5, 2010

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 12:  Zach Parise #9 of the New Jersey Devils celebrates his goal against the Nashville Predators with teammates Dainius Zubrus #8 and Cory Murphy #18 at the Prudential Center on February 12, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Predators 5-2.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

For the first time since mid-October, the Devils find themselves in an odd position.

Not at the top of the Atlantic Division.

With Pittsburgh's 5-4 overtime win against the New York Rangers at the Garden tonight, the Penguins hopped over the Devils into first place with 80 points, one ahead of the Devils.

The Devils have 20 games left to play, with 40 points out for the taking.  The amount they'll be able to gather is up to them.

For a long time, the Devils lackluster play didn't catch up with them in the standings (pre-Olympic break).  Well, it did tonight.

Here are the next (and last) twenty remaining games for the Devils, along with my thoughts on how many points they'll be able to conjure up in the next four and a half weeks.

1. @ Calgary Flames

Record: 30-24-9 (69 PTS), 3rd place in Northwest, 9th place in West

Outlook: Flames aren't a great home team (15-15-3), and they got shut out at home by the Wild on Wednesday.  That said, they should be hungry to collect two points at home tomorrow night after being embarrassed in their building two nights earlier.

Points for Devils: 0.


2. @ Edmonton Oilers

Record: 19-38-6 (44 PTS), 5th place in Northwest, 15th place in West

Outlook: The league's worst home team (11-17-4), worst defensive team, and 4th worst offensive team.  For all these reasons, I expect the Devils to make quick work of these Oilers.

Points: 2.


3. vs. New York Rangers

Record: 29-27-8 (66 PTS), 4th place in Atlantic, 10th place in East

Outlook: These games are always toss-ups because of the emotions that go into a Rangers-Devils game.  Usually when I go and wait in line for $10 tickets for a Rangers-Devils game, they lose (in fact, my record is something like 1-5).  Due to that terrible statistic, I'd have to say the Devils won't win this one.

Points: 0.


4. vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Record: 38-22-4 (80 PTS), 1st place in Atlantic, 2nd place in East

Outlook: The Devils are 4-0 so far against the Penguins so far this season.  That has a lot to do with how well the Devils were playing in the beginning of the season.  But it also has a lot to do with Brodeur playing the Penguins well.  In four games this season against Pittsburgh, Brodeur is 4-0 with a GAA of 0.50 (not a typo) with two shutouts.  In the other two games, he only allowed one goal.  If Brodeur plays well, they'll win this game.  If history is anything to base this off, Brodeur should be enormous (no pun intended for the anti-Brodeur fans) and win this game for the Devils.

Points: 2.


5. @ New York Islanders

Record: 26-30-8 (60 PTS), 5th place in Atlantic, 13th place in East

Outlook: The Islanders, outside of their win against Chicago on Tuesday, have been dreadful lately.  The Devils are 3-1 against them so far this season, and if the Islanders are playing this poorly by next Saturday, I'd expect the Devils to win this game as well.  Especially with the high of beating Pittsburgh the night before.

Points: 2.


6. vs. Boston Bruins

Record: 28-23-11 (67 PTS), 3rd place in Northeast, 7th place in East

Outlook: The Devils are 2-0 against the Bruins so far this year.  Both 2-1 wins, and both in the Bruins' building.  But since this IS a Versus nationally televised game, and terrible things seem to happen to them when they're on Versus (two losses to Philadelphia, loss to the Rangers, ALMOST blowing a four goal lead against San Jose).  I'm gonna say they lose this game, but they get a point for effort.

Points: 1.


7. vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Record: 38-22-4 (80 PTS), 1st place in Atlantic, 2nd place in East

Outlook: The fact that I just can't fathom going 6-0 against the Penguins, along with a bad feeling about these red and green jerseys makes me think that this one will be a rout by Pittsburgh.  I'm calling that right now.  Don't say I didn't warn you.  Four, maybe five nothing.

Points: 0.


8. @ Toronto Maple Leafs

Record: 19-32-12 (50 PTS), 5th place in Northeast, 15th place in East

Outlook: The Oilers are the worst home team in the league.  2nd worst?  The Leafs.  So far, the Devils are 2-1 against them this year.  J.S. Giguere shut them out in his Leafs debut, but me thinks that was just a fluke.  I like the Devils, pissed off about the night before's rout, to bury the Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.

Points: 2.


9. vs. St. Louis Blues

Record: 30-25-9 (69 PTS), 4th place in Central, 10th place in West

Outlook: I've thought the Blues were awful all season.  There's nothing very special about the team.  No outstanding goaltender, and no outstanding goal scoring threat.  I was actually shocked when I saw they are only a point out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.  A team without too much scoring punch should be easy for Brodeur (or even Danis) to handle.  They are one of the league's best road teams, but I think the Devils will take this one, in a low scoring, 2-1 affair.

Points: 2.


10. vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

Record: 25-28-11 (61 PTS), 5th place in Central, 14th place in West

Outlook: Another team muddling around the bottom of the conference for the Devils to take advantage of.  A terrible road team (10-18-4) with nowhere near as much to play for as the Devils who will be in front of their rowdy College Night home crowd.

Points: 2.


11. vs. New York Rangers

Record: 29-27-8 (66 PTS), 4th place in Atlantic, 10th place in East

Outlook: I won't be in the $10 ticket line this time, so the Devils have a very decent chance of winning this game.  In fact, I'd put money on it.  They'll tie up the season series with a 4-2 victory over the Blueshirts.

Points: 2.


12. @ Montreal Canadiens

Record: 30-28-6 (66 PTS), 4th place in Northeast, 9th place in East

Outlook: The Devils will be going for the series win against the Habs this season, as they already lead it 2-1.  With just two weeks left to go in the season, they'll be clawing for a playoff spot.   But Brodeur plays amazing in Montreal ALL the time, so I think they'll grab the two points, and extend their winning streak to five.

Points: 2.


13. @ Philadelphia Flyers

Record: 33-26-3 (69 PTS), 3rd place in Atlantic, 6th place in East

Outlook: The Devils have struggled against the Flyers so far this season, going 1-4 against the Broad Street Bullies, and 0-2 at the Wachovia Center.  Hoping the Devils don't go 1-5 against Philadelphia and winless at Wachovia, and with the Devils on the five game winning streak I've predicted, I think they'll pull this one out.  In overtime, just for good measure, and extend their winning streak to six.

Points: 2.


14. vs. Boston Bruins

Record: 28-23-11 (67 PTS), 3rd place in Northeast, 7th place in East

Outlook: The Devils will be playing well, and looking to get a little revenge on the Bruins who beat them in overtime just two weeks prior.  Plus, Tim Thomas is awful.  Devils win their 7th straight!

Points: 2.


15. vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Record: 42-16-5 (89 PTS), 1st place in Central, 1st place in West

Outlook: The Devils got owned by the Blackhawks on New Year's Eve.  The Devils will learn and play better, but the Blackhawks will somehow manufacture a win against Jersey's Team, but in a shootout.

Points: 1.


16. @ Carolina Hurricanes

Record: 26-30-7 (59 PTS), 5th place in Southeast, 14th place in East

Outlook: It sounds crazy now, but I think these Hurricanes are going to make a playoff run.  I don't think they're going to make it in, but I think they're going to give it a real shot.  The Devils always have trouble in RBC Center.  I think the Devils lose this game by two goals, while the Hurricanes are right on the verge of the playoffs... but don't quite make it.

Points: 0.


17. @ Atlanta Thrashers

Record: 28-24-10 (66 PTS), 2nd place in Southeast, 8th place in East

Outlook: The Thrashers are currently clinging to the top spot in the Eastern Conference.  After this game, they play Washington and Pittsburgh, and they will have played both teams in the two games prior.  Talk about a rough schedule!  Expect the Devils, in front of a possibly extremely rowdy Philips Arena, to put one of the final nails in the coffin on the Atlanta Thrashers season.

Points: 2.


18. @ Florida Panthers

Record: 25-28-10 (60 PTS), 4th place in Southeast, 12th place in East

Outlook: The Devils haven't been to Sunrise since October 10th, when they defeated the Panthers for just their second win on the season.  The Panthers season will virtually be over at this point, and most of the players will have mailed it in.  I expect a non-eventful win for the Devils, their last road game of the regular season.

Points: 2.


19. vs. New York Islanders

Record: 26-30-8 (60 PTS), 5th place in Atlantic, 13th place in East

Outlook: By this point in the season, the Islanders will have mailed it in for the summer.  And the Devils will know it.  But whenever the Devils underestimate the Islanders, the Isles hand it to them.  No different this time.

Points: 0.


20. vs. Buffalo Sabres

Record: 33-20-9 (75 PTS) 2nd place in Northeast, 5th place in East

Outlook: Last game of the season for the Devils.  I'd love to think that they'll even up the season series with the Sabres here, and go into the postseason riding a victory against a top Eastern team.

Points: 2.


There's the 20 games.  So what happened?

In this scenario, the Devils went 13-5-2 over those 20 games, with a nice seven game winning streak right in the middle of the schedule.  That's 28 of 40 possible points, which isn't too shabby.  The Devils currently have 79 points, so those 28 extra points will give them 107 going into the playoffs. 

Will 107 be enough to take the division?  The Penguins currently have 80 points, with 18 games (36 points available) remaining.  To beat the Devils in points under this scenario, they'll have to go either 13-3-2 or 14-4-0 most likely. 

Do you see the Devils going 13-5-2 in the next 20 games?  If not, do you see them doing better or worse?  And how will Pittsburgh do over their final 18 games?  Leave all of your thoughts in the comments section.