Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Best of the Rest Series: New Jersey Devils


By Josef Schaetzle (@Schaetz23):
Everybody remembers their team when they win the big one. "That was the best team we ever had" is always a popular phras e surrounding the success oforganizations. But what about the teams that fell just short, or surprised everyone with their success.
Here we are going to count down the top five teams from each New York and metro area team that "didn't" win it all. Here we will celebrate the accomplishments of the teams who fell one goal, one run, one play away from grabbing glory, or who went out and made believers out of the doubters. These are the teams who brought success and excitement to the fans, but in the end failed to achieve what every player desires, a championship.
We begin with the top five Devils teams to not win the Stanley Cup:

5. 2005-2006-  In 2005 the Atlantic Division had the tightest race of any in hockey. The New York Rangers looked like they would win the division, but the Devils and the Philadelphia Flyers were hot on their heels. The Devils won eleven games in a row, and edged out the Rangers and Flyers on the final day of the season for the Atlantic Division title. Brian Gionta set a team record for goals in a season when he scored his 48th against Montreal on the final day.

After snatching the division title away from the Rangers, the Devils swept their Hudson River rivals in the first round out scoring the Blueshirts 17-4. It was the first time the Devils had defeated the Rangers in a playoff series. The Devils would be ousted by the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Carolina Hurricanes in the second round four games to one.

The Devils finished the regular season on one of the hottest runs in hockey, and stole the Atlantic Division on the final day. Thanks to players like Martin Brodeur, Brian Gionta, and Scott Gomez, this Devils team looked like they could be a team that could make that magical Stanley Cup run, and after their first round sweep of the Rangers, it looked even better. The Devils took a fifteen game winning streak into the second round against Carolina where they would be eliminated and their run at the cup would be over. They may not have won the cup, but you cannot deny the run this team made in the Atlantic Division and into the playoffs

4.  1987-1988-   The 1987-1988 season marked the first season that the Devils clinched a playoff spot. Led by Pat Verbeek (46 goals), Kirk Muller( 37 goals) , and John MacLean, the Devils had a chance to make the playoffs on the final day of the season if they could beat the Chicago Blackhawks. With the game tied at three in overtime, MacLean netted the game-winner that would send the Devils to the Patrick Division semi-finals instead of their rivals, the New York Rangers.

Not only did the Devils make the playoffs, but they won their first two playoff series against the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals. In the conference finals, the Devils fell just short against the Boston Bruins losing the series in seven games. It was the first time the Devils organization reached the postseason, and the Devils made the most of the opportunity by getting to the conference finals.

This team may be the overall favorite team to not win a cup for Devils fans. They were a franchise on the rise, but were still not taken as serious as the top teams in the league. The run to the conference finals set the tone for the Devils organization, and since the 1987-1988 season, the Devils have been one of the most successful franchises in the NHL.

3.  1993-1994- The 1993-94 New Jersey Devils went somewhat unnoticed during the regular season. The Devils finished second in the Eastern Conference, six points behind their division rivals the New York Rangers.
In the regular season, the Devils would allow the fewest even strength goals in the league, and had one of the most balanced offensive attacks. Jersey had six players score 20 or more goals with two players exceeding the 30 goal mark. The Devils scored 306 goals in the regular season, second most in franchise history.

In the playoffs, the Devils would reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the second time in team history. The Devils would be matched up with the New York Rangers in one of the most memorable series in playoff history. In game 7 at Madison Square Garden, the Devils would score a game-tying goal with under ten seconds left in the third period and send the game to overtime tied at one. After a scoreless first overtime, Stephane Matteau beat rookie goaltender Martin Brodeur on a wrap around and the Devils season came to a sudden end. The Rangers went on to win the Stanley Cup while the Devils waited for a chance to get back to the finals the following year.
In case you are wondering, the Devils did get to the finals in the shortened 1994-95 season, and won their first Stanley Cup.

22011-2012- Last season the Devils again flew under the radar in the Atlantic Division. Four of the five teams from the Atlantic made the playoffs with the Rangers and Penguins having the most points in the Eastern Conference. All the talk was surrounding the Rangers, Penguins, Flyers and Bruins. Which one of these teams would represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup? How about none of them?

The Devils had a regular season that was good enough to get the sixth seed in the playoffs, and once you get to the playoffs it's a new season. The Devils took full advantage of the second season. In the first round, Jersey and the Florida Panthers went to a seventh game where Adam Henrique scored the overtime winner. The Devils disposed of the high powered Philadelphia Flyers in five games, and set up a conference finals match-up with the top seeded Rangers. Sounds familiar doesn't it?

After dropping game one 3-0, the Devils took control of the series and went into game six up 3-1. This time it would be the Devils who would send the Rangers home. In overtime Adam Henrique put home a rebound that found it's way behind Lundqvist, and the Devils were back in the Stanley Cup Finals. Unfortunately for the Devils, they ran into the hottest team in the playoffs, the L.A Kings. The Kings were a team of destiny and capped off an amazing run by winning the cup in six games.  If it were any other team in the Stanley Cup Finals, the Devils would probably be the defending champs.

12000-2001- Yes, this is the greatest Devils team not to win a championship, and it was not close. This team would have been the greatest Devils team in history if they could have beaten the Colorado Avalanche in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. The Devils were a +100 in goal differential, and scored 69 goals in the playoffs, the most in franchise history.  This Devils team was led by Alexander Mogilny,who scored a team high 43 goals, Patrick Elias who led the team with 96 points, and Marty Brodeur who notched 42 wins during the regular season.

The Devils went 19-2 in their final 21 games to finish tops in the Eastern Conference, and took down Carolina, Toronto, and Pittsburgh to win the Prince of Whales trophy. Unfortunately Patrick Roy and the high powered Avalanche were too much for New Jersey, and won their second Stanley Cup in six years.
In their short history, the Devils have had some great championship teams, but sometimes great teams get upended, and this was the greatest Devil team to not hoist the Stanley Cup.

Up Next: The New York Islanders

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