Excellent regular seasons have been rather common in the past decade and a half for the New Jersey Devils.
Over the past few seasons, first-round playoff exits have been just as frequent. Jersey's Team hasn't made the second round since the 2007 playoffs after being eliminated from the first round in the past three postseasons.
And all three have been excruciating: 2008 against the archrival New York Rangers; 2009 against the Carolina Hurricanes, where the Devils gave up two goals in 50 seconds to lose by a score of 4-3 in Game 7; and 2010 against the Philadelphia Flyers, a team that was less talented but looked like...well...it just wanted it more.
New Jersey retooled and brought in some key pieces this offseason, but the biggest piece is probably the one they brought back in Ilya Kovalchuk, who signed a 15-year, $100 million deal after about six weeks of that pesky NHL collective bargaining agreement getting in the way.
The Devils will enter the 2010-11 season hoping to avoid their fourth straight first-round exit, but fortunately this may be shaping up to be their best team in four years.
This slideshow will explain five reasons why the Devils will be one of the best teams in not just the Eastern Conference, but all of the National Hockey League.