In a magical night in Toronto, the New Jersey Devils continued to keep their ever-so-slight playoff Impossible Dream alive, while Jacques Lemaire became the eighth member of the 600-win club, as the Devils defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs, 2-1.
He joins a pretty exclusive club, with the other members being Scotty Bowman (1,244), Al Arbour (782), Dick Irvin Sr. (692), Pat Quinn (684), Mike Keenan (672), Bryan Murray (620) and Ron Wilson (605).
The game-winning goal Thursday night was scored off a beautiful end-to-end rush by star Ilya Kovalchuk, who has begun to silence a lot of his critics, thanks to eight goals and seven assists in his last 14 games and has stepped up his play at both ends of the ice, showing why and how he earned his $100 million contract.
As for the team as a whole, the Devils remain the hottest team in the Eastern Conference and are now 11-1-2 in their last 14 games. The Devils have climbed in the standings from 27 points back of a playoff spot on January 8th to now just 13 points back today.
Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves just yet, there is still an incredibly large mountain for the Devils to climb before they are even truly in the playoff hunt.
But with the way the team has come together in this last stretch, it does at least make you begin to wonder: Well, what if their level of success continues? What is the magic number the Devils need to get to before they really will have a shot at a playoff spot?
Do the Devils have a realistic chance to make the playoffs?
At a record of 21-30-4 (and 46 points), and with 27 games left, the Devils need to set a target of 90 points to at least get them in the conversation for a playoff spot. If you look at the five years of post-lockout hockey, the eighth playoff spot had the following point totals:
2009 - 10: Montreal 88
2008 - 09: Montreal 93
2007 - 08: Boston 94
2006 - 07: N.Y. Islanders 92
2005 - 06: Tampa Bay 92
The average for the five seasons is 91.8, meaning if the Devils do reach the 90-point plateau, it doesn't even assure the Devils will make it into the postseason dance. Let's also not forget, the Devils would need to go 21-4-2 to get to 90 points, meaning their second half record would be an amazing 32-5-4.
That is the kind of stuff legends are made of, and would be something remembered for years to come. But let's not expect it to happen quite yet either.
So, what should Devils fans do? I guess the best advice to give is to enjoy the ride while it lasts, and hope it doesn't end, even though it's probably inevitable. Tonight's matchup with the San Jose Sharks pits the two hottest teams in the league and will be another big test for the Devils. Another win could help keep the thoughts of the playoffs going, so enjoy the ride Devils fans........ as long as it lasts.
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