The Pittsburgh Penguins were looking like a serious Cup contender a week ago. Then they added Brenden Morrow, Douglas Murray, and Jarome Iginla and now they appear to be, at least on paper, the clear Stanley Cup favorites.
Of course, the New Jersey Devils have seen some of those. As the sixth seed last season they had to get past Cup favorites to get to the actual Finals where they faced an eighth seed Los Angeles Kings team that dispatched a number of highly regarded teams too.
“I think last year’s a good example of why you play the playoffs,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said in a Bergen Record report.
The Devils won’t be able to match Pittsburgh star-for-star in a playoff series, but DeBoer argues that “there’s a lot of intangibles.”
That’s not to say that New Jersey is assuming that Pittsburgh will collapse under the weight of expectations or the trades will upset the Penguins’ chemistry. The Devils just think that they’re competitive regardless of the Penguins’ moves.
Part of the reason for that confidence is because adversity has brought them closer together. They’re working through Ilya Kovalchuk’s shoulder injury now and had to endure a rough patch without Martin Brodeur. Not to mention people being down on the Devils from the beginning of the season after they lost Zach Parise as a free agent.
“You’ve got to be careful about picking favorites,” Devils captain Bryce Salvador said. “The thing about hockey is it’s a team game, so it’s whoever’s going to be hot and whoever’s going at the right time there at the end. As we saw last year, that’s what really matters.”
It’s going to be interesting to see if Hammond can replicate the success he had last season, when he came out of nowhere to go 20-1-2 with a 1.79 GAA and .941 save percentage, and finish seventh in Vezina voting.