1995 New Jersey Devils: Their Dominant Path to the Stanley Cup Championship

Mike LynchContributor IIIJune 12, 2011

1995 New Jersey Devils: Their Dominant Path to the Stanley Cup Championship

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    The New Jersey Devils were expected to be a Stanley Cup contender in 1995.  The previous season ended with a heartbreaking Game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference Finals to the New York Rangers.  

    On a positive note,  Jacques Lemaire had won the Jack Adams award for best coach and Martin Brodeur was named rookie of the year.  An NHL lockout delayed the season debut to January and shortened it to 48 games.  

    The team underperformed in the first half of the season, finding themselves under .500. They picked it up to finish 22-18-8, making the playoffs as the fifth seed.

    The Devils went on to dominate the playoffs, winning 16 of 20 games.  Here is a look back at the run they made and the key players on the team.

Martin Brodeur

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    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Martin Brodeur won the Calder Trophy as best rookie the prior season.  The Devils drafted him in the first round with the 20th selection in 1990.  

    He was stellar in the 1995 playoffs, recording all 16 wins, posting three shutouts and a 1.67 goals against average.  Brodeur has gone on to set numerous NHL records and is considered one the greatest goalies ever.  

Claude Lemieux

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    The Devils acquired Claude Lemieux from the Montreal Canadiens in 1990 for Sylvain Turgeon.  He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.  He had 13 goals; three of them were game winners.  

    His game-winning goal against the Flyers was the most important goal of the playoffs.  He was traded for Steve Thomas in October 1995.  

    The Devils reacquired him in the 1999-2000 season, when they again won the Stanley Cup

Scott Stevens

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    The Devils acquired Stevens as compensation for the St. Louis Blues signing restricted free agent Brendan Shanahan.  1995 marked Stevens transition to a stay-at-home defenseman.  

    The Devils captain recorded eight points and was a plus 10 in the playoffs.  He delivered a signature bone-crushing hit to Slava Kozlov in the finals.

    Stevens spent the remainder of his career with the Devils.  He won two more Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe Trophy in 2000.  In 2007, he was elected to the hall of fame.

Scott Niedermayer

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    The Devils drafted Niedermayer with the third pick in 1991.  He was the leading scorer among Devils defensemen in the playoffs.  

    He scored a big game-tying goal in Game 2 of the finals.  Niedermayer won two more cups with the Devils in 2000 and 2003.  He likely will be elected to the hall of fame.

The Mid-Season Acquisitions: Neal Broten and Shawn Chambers

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    Neal BrotenGlenn Cratty/Getty Images

    The Devils traded Corey Millen to the Dallas Stars for Broten in February 1995.  They acquired Chambers along with Danton Cole for Alexander Semak from the Tampa Bay Lightning.  

    Broten led the team in the playoffs with four game-winning goals.  He was second in points and scored a memorable overtime goal in the first round.  He won a gold medal with the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" Olympic team.

    The veteran Chambers helped to solidify the defense.  He also chipped in with four goals and five assists.

    Both men were on the 1990-91 Minnesota North Stars, who lost in the Finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins.  

Stephane Richer

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    Richer was acquired along with Tom Chorske from from the Montreal Canadians for Kirk Muller and Roland Melanson.  He led the team in scoring in both the regular season and playoffs.  

    He was teammates with Claude Lemieux on the 1986 Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadians. 

John MacLean

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    The Devils selected him sixth overall the 1983 entry draft.  He seemed on the verge of being a superstar, before missing all of the 1991-92 season with a knee injury.  He still remained a solid player and was third on the team in scoring during the playoffs.

    He later had a disastrous tenure as the Devils coach in the 2010-11 season and was replaced by Jacques Lemaire.

Ken Daneyko and the Crash Line

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    The Crash Line was Bobby Holik, Randy McKay and Mike Peluso.  They had a propensity for hard hits and dropping the gloves.  Holik and McKay also had scoring ability.

    Ken Daneyko was the first draft choice ever made by the Devils franchise in 1982.  He was a stay-at-home blue collar defenseman who had no issue with dropping the gloves.  

    He spent his entire career with the team, retiring in 2003.

Bill Guerin

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    Guerin was the fifth overall pick of the 1989 entry draft.  He was big, physical and could score.  He had 11 points during the playoffs.  He won a second Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009.

Eastern Conference Quarter Finals: Boston Bruins

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    The fourth seeded Boston Bruins featured Ray Bourque, Cam Neely and Adam Oates.  The Devils embarrassed the Bruins on their home ice 5-0 in Game 1 and 3-0 in Game 2.  

    The Bruins won Game 3 by a score of 3-2.  The Devils kept control of the series, winning Game 4 1-0 in overtime.  John MacLean scored the winning goal.  The Devils closed out Boston in Game 5, winning by a score of 3-2. 

Eastern Conference Semi Finals: Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Despite missing Mario Lemieux, the third-seed Penguins looked to be a tough match up.  They featured the NHL's co-leading scorer, Jaromir Jagr.  They also had Ron Francis, Larry Murphy, Luc Robitaille and Kevin Stevens.

    Robitaille scored a last-minute goal to give Pittsburgh Game 1.  The Devils would win the next four games to take the series.  They blasted the Penguins in Games 2 and 3 by a combined score of 9-3.  

    Game 4proved to be the most dramatic, as Neal Broten scored in overtime for a 2-1 win.  They clinched in Game 5 by a decisive 4-1 score.  Claude Lemieux led the Devils, scoring six goals in the series. 

Eastern Conference Finals: Philadelphia Flyers

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    The Flyers were seeded first in the east and had only lost one game in the opening rounds.  They had the league MVP, Eric Lindros, who teamed with John LeClair and Mikael Renberg to form the "Legion of Doom."

    They had another talented forward in Rod Brind 'Amour and veteran goalie in Ron Hextall.

    The Devils trounced the Flyers in the first two games by a combined 9-3 score.  However the Flyers would win both games in New Jersey, setting up a pivotal Game 5.  

    With the game tied 2-2 late in the third period, Claude Lemieux launched a shot from beyond the blue line that somehow beat Hextall.  The Devils clinched the series in Game 6, with a 4-2 victory.  

Stanley Cup Finals: Detroit Red Wings

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    The Red Wings won the Presidents Trophy with the NHL's best record and were heavily favored to win the Stanley Cup.  The team was loaded with talent.  

    Steve Yzerman, Sergei Federov, Dino Ciccarelli, Ray Sheppard, Slava Kozlov and Kieth Primeau led the forwards.  The defense featured Paul Coffey and Nicklas Lidstrom.  Mike Vernon was the goalie, and the coach was legendary Scotty Bowman

    The Devils took Game 1 with a 2-1 win.  Claude Lemieux scored the game-winner.  Game 2 saw the Devils battle back from a 2-1 deficit in the third period.  Scott Niedermayer went end to end and scored off his own rebound to tie the game.  

    Brick, N.J., native Jim Dowd scored the go-ahead goal after Paul Coffey was hurt blocking a shot.  The Devils added an empty netter to win 4-2.

    The Game 2 loss seemed to kill Detroit.  The Devils jumped out to a 5-0 lead in Game 3, winning 5-2.  Bowman stated he was embarrassed by the effort.  

    Detroit gained an early 2-1 lead in Game 4 but ended getting smoked 5-2 again.  Shawn Chambers and Neal Broten each had two goals.

    The Devils had won the Stanley Cup with an unfathomable sweep of the Red Wings. 

An Amazing Run

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    The Devils playoff run was simply amazing.  They never had home-ice advantage in a series but won 10 of the 11 road games they played.

    There were only three games played where the Devils did not hold a lead in the series, excluding opening games of course.

    The Devils faced four First Team NHL players: Eric Lindros, Jaromir Jagr, John LeClair and Paul Coffey They also saw two Second Team NHL players, Ray Bourque and Larry Murphy.  

    The combined records of Philadelphia and Detroit before they faced the Devils was 20-3, against them it was 2-8.

How It Was Done

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    Jacques Lemaire along with Assistant Larry Robinson installed a system designed to create neutral zone turnovers.  This wasn't a new concept; Lemaire has stated that it is exactly how they played on the late 1970's Montreal Canadians.  It was an effective way to match up with offensive-minded teams.

    In retrospect, the combination of Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer and Martin Brodeur are viewed as much more formidable.  In 1995, it wasn't realized that the Devils had three superstars of their own.

    While not having an elite offensive player, they had a number of good ones.  Stephane Richer, John MacLean, Claude Lemieux, Bill Guerin, Bobby Holik and Randy McKay were all threats. Combined with a physical team overall, they had an ability to grind out goals. 

    Hopefully as the years go on, this team will get the recognition it deserves.  Since the adoption of a best-of-seven format for all rounds, only the 1988 Edmonton Oilers have topped the Devils 16-4 playoff record.