After tonight's win against the Rangers in MSG, the Devils gained ground on the Flyers, Penguins, and aforementioned Rangers.
Despite playing fewer games than any of these teams, the Devils are in excellent position within the standings, and are within serious striking distance of the two teams ahead of them. They have two games in hand versus the Flyers, who are just two points ahead, and four compared to the Rangers, who are only four points in front.
The Devils are arguably the best team in their division, and they've been doing a lot of what they couldn't do last year—namely, scoring in bunches and beating the Rangers.
After years and years of success against the lesser New York team, the Devils lost all composure last year, and let the Rangers beat them in seven of eight tries.
Despite continuing to finish with more points each year, there were many who felt the Devils had lost their footing, and were now the second-best team in the area.
However, they have now defeated the Rangers two straight times, and they've done it by scoring. A lot. This is also uncharacteristic of the Devils, who traditionally play a more conservative, defense-oriented game.
Oh, and before we forget: They've done it all without Martin Brodeur.
Under the coaching of Brent Sutter, the Devils have blossomed despite a plethora of early-season injuries, including the biggest loss in all of hockey. The man has taken this team to a new level, and he's done it without the help of the greatest goalie in the game.
Zach Parise has gone from up-and-comer to star, Patrik Elias and Brian Gionta have regained their form (Elias in particular), every line is clicking, and Scott Clemmensen has learned how to play hockey.
The entire team is playing on a much higher level. Even after being shut out on back-to-back nights, the only thing people noticed was that the Devils played extremely well in both games, and were the victims of bad luck.
So is it too early to start the chant for Coach of the Year? I think not. Sutter certainly has the achievements to back him up thus far.
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