New Jersey Devils forward Patrik Elias has had a long career of putting up big numbers and to this point this season he’s put up 51 points.
For Elias it’s the 12th time in his career he’s had 50 or more points. He gives a lot of credit for his production to Adam Henrique as Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger shares.
“It’s also helped me by playing with Rico for the majority of the games and having something constant on the line,” Elias said. “Look at my first 40 games. I had two or three breaks in between because of injuries. You always fall out of rhythm, so that played a role. And I played with a different guy almost every night.”
Consistency and having a guy who’s also having a strong season in Henrique makes a lot of sense for how well Elias has done. Having Czech countryman Jaromir Jagr in the locker room has probably helped as well.
Elias is the most prolific scorer in Devils history. Hitting 50-plus points 12 times in his career is five more times than either Kirk Muller or John MacLean did it. Henrique is following the 37-year-old nicely with 43 of his own points and a team-leading 25 goals.
If ever there was a guy for the Devils to keep Henrique glued to it’s Elias.
It’s rare that you lose your coaching job with one team and then face them in the first round with your new squad less than a year later. That’s what happened to Peter DeBoer though, who was dismissed by the Florida Panthers only to be hired by the New Jersey Devils.
The Devils were coming off a disappointing 2010-11 campaign where their strong finish couldn’t make up for their poor start under former head coach John MacLean. So DeBoer does deserve credit for guiding the Devils back to the playoffs.
That being said, New Jersey is one game away from elimination and the obvious question is how much of the blame DeBoer deserves.
NJ.com blogger Steve Chernoski argues that DeBoer is struggling to adapt on the fly and his attempts to do so have resulted in futile line shuffling. Chernoski’s “biggest criticism is that once the Panthers get a lead, they go into a shell and DeBoer cannot concoct a plan to beat it.”
It’s worth noting that DeBoer shuffled the top line several times with the Devils trailing in Game 5 to no effect.
DeBoer’s biggest accomplishment in this series was probably his decision to stick with Martin Brodeur in Game 4 despite his struggles in the previous contest. Brodeur responded by earning his record-breaking 24th shutout, but even a relatively solid game from Brodeur wasn’t enough to save them in Saturday’s 3-0 loss.
Now DeBoer has some big decisions to make and he’ll need to coach a good game on Tuesday to force a Game 7.
Tonight, Carolina assistant John MacLean faces the Devils for the first time since being fired last year.
Remember that? GM Lou Lamoriello canned MacLean two days before Christmas, mostly because of his 9-22-2 record (though running afoul of Ilya Kovalchuk probably played a part). New Jersey then proceeded to go on a tear under new head coach Jacques Lemaire.
So yeah, tonight shouldn’t be awkward at all — though to his credit, MacLean is trying to downplay how strange it’ll feel.
“I’m sure it will be for about the first six seconds,” MacLean told the Star-Ledger. “And then it’s just another team. You have to get focused in on what you’re doing. You can’t get caught watching. You have to be prepared and help out any way we can on the bench.”
It’s not fair to say the Devils completely tuned out MacLean last year…but hindsight being 20/20, they weren’t exactly tuning him in. He was a rookie head coach in charge of a massively-paid star (Kovalchuk), strong veteran personalities (Martin Brodeur, Brian Rolston, Jason Arnott, Jamie Langenbrunner) and a thinned-out blueline. As Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski put it, “[it] was like asking a rookie transit cop to take down a Mexican drug cartel.”
That said, it’s not entirely surprising MacLean resurfaced as an assistant in Carolina. He’s good friends with head coach Kirk Muller and did have some success coaching Lowell of the AHL prior to his disastrous stint with Jersey.
“I’m not sure you ever get peace,” MacLean said of how things ended with the Devils. “It’s part of the game. It’s part of the learning experience. You learn from it and you move forward. Now I’m moving forward and I’m excited about it. I don’t look back. I look forward. This is a good opportunity for me and right now that’s what I’m focused on.
“For me to be involved with Kirk in this situation is exciting. I’m looking forward to it. This is a team that’s had some struggles, but it has great potential. I think we’re going in the right direction.”