New Jersey Devils "Catching Fire" and Coming Together: Too Little, Too Late?

levinaklCorrespondent IIIJanuary 22, 2011

The Devils six-game unbeaten streak has given the team a little time to laugh and enjoy itself a bit for now.
The Devils six-game unbeaten streak has given the team a little time to laugh and enjoy itself a bit for now.Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

It was the old catch phrase used by the Devils in the mid 1980's......"Devils, Catch Fire."  After the long, long stretch of bad play for the Devils in the first half of the season resulting in a record of 10-29-2, the Devils have responded with a stretch of hockey that has reminded their fans of the team they thought they had. 

In the last six games, the Devils are 5-0-1, including an impressive performance Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia, where the Devils beat the NHL-leading Flyers 3-1.  For the Devils, it was their first win at the Wells Fargo Center since a 3-2 overtime winner on December 4, 2008. 

For a team that had high expectations going into the season, it's pretty clear the first half was nothing short of a disaster, which I documented here.  However, it seems the return of Jacques Lemaire as Head Coach has finally brought the team the little something extra it so desperately needed.  Although the team is just 6-7-1 overall since Lemaire's return, it doesn't take much of a look to see how great of a difference there is in the team. 

It's hard to pinpoint exactly what it was to help turn the season around for New Jersey, but the team has put together an impressive six-game stretch, and some key players have spear-headed that run. 

Guys like Brian Rolston (two goals, six assists, +6), Dainius Zubrus (two goals, one assist, +6), Andy Greene (four assists, +5), Martin Brodeur (4-0-1, .938 save %, 1 shutout), and Ilya Kovalchuk (three goals, two assists, +4) have turned their seasons around. Patrik Elias is another big reason why the Devils are climbing towards the road to respectability, and perhaps even out of the NHL basement.

But, while the Devils may be feeling pretty good about themselves for the nice six-game run, it's still a long ways away from having any thoughts about the playoffs.  After all, the Devils are currently 21 points out of a playoff spot.  Despite two games in hand on the current eighth-seeded Atlanta Thrashers, the Devils would need to put up a ridiculous, unprecedented type of streak to even have a conversation about the playoffs. 

To get to the 90-point mark, the Devils would need a streak of something like 27-6-2 to get to that level, and even that alone wouldn't assure the Devils a playoff spot.  Remember also that it would mean the Devils would finish the season 32-6-3 in the second half of the season.

So Devils fans, it's very nice to see the streak the Devils have put together, and while it's been long overdue, enjoy the ride while it lasts. Lets hope the momentum carries into next season and with the return of Zach Parise from injury, the Devils can position themselves to get back to the level they are normally expected to be for next season and beyond.