After the NHL trade deadline, the Calgary Flames upgraded their roster by adding Olli Jokinen and Jordan Leopold and maybe considered the best team in the Western Conference. But that did not phase the New Jersey Devils.
After the Long Island debacle last Saturday, Brent Sutter made it very clear he did not want anymore lapses and was quick to point out about last season, in which they stumbled towards the finishing line. He wanted more leadership and the veteran players to lead by example as the Devils look to build for their playoff push.
Jamie Langebrunner, who received the first star of the game with one goal and one assist, got the message and as captain, he helped erase all fears when the Devils were down 1-0. This is important for New Jersey.
The two games prior (Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Islanders) showed a Devils team not ready to play and they let their opponents dictate the tempo of the game. Sutter recognized this and let his veteran players know what is expected. In a seven game playoff series, there is no margin for error and even the slightest mini slump can cost a team the series. The time after the trade deadline and before the start of the playoffs is an important period for team building and elevating the level of intensity for the playoff push. With Langenbrunner, Brodeur, and Rolston responding to Sutter's challenge, the Devils proved they can make adjustments quickly and did so by beating a very good Calgary Flames team last night.
Mathematically control their own destiny to win Eastern Confernce
I mentioned this on NHL Home Ice about 7 weeks ago. The Devils will win the Eastern Conference and Boston's predictable game plan will be figured out soon enough. At the time, New Jersey was 19 points behind the Boston Bruins. Now they are 6 points behind with two games at hand.
With a showdown scheduled in Boston on March 22nd (SHOULD BE ON NBC), that means the Devils technically control their fate of getting home ice advantage by winning the number one seed. If the Devils win every game till the end of the regular season, including beating Boston in regulation, they will win the Eastern Conference regular season title and possibly the President's trophy. This is all in theory of course.
Right now, Brodeur is at 549 wins and may have a chance to tie the record in Montreal and break Patrick Roy's record on St. Patrick's Day at home against Chicago Blackhawks. That is the best case scenario.
If you look down the schedule, the Devils do play the Philadelphia Flyers away on March 23rd and lately, it seems like Brodeur has been breaking records in that building.
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