I asked the above question last night on Twitter after the Devils had eliminated the Flyers, and the replies I got from my tens and tens of followers were practically unanimous.
“Yes and I am flabbergasted by that.” — @BAR_DOWN
“100% yes, and it’s not close. At least 3 goals in 7 straight games.” — @ComfortableCam
“Unfreakingbelievable we’re even contemplating such a question.” – @Hibackhand
Nobody called me crazy for asking.
Of the four other remaining teams — the Capitals, Rangers, Coyotes and Kings – only Los Angeles has managed to score consistently in the playoffs.
Now, to be fair to the Capitals, Rangers and Coyotes, the Devils got to play Philadelphia, a team that doesn’t mind trading chances. (Or, against New Jersey, just give them up.)
But what does it say that we’re even wondering whether a team that’s become synonymous with defensive hockey could be the most exciting one of the five left?
Do we credit New Jersey for acquiring a player like Ilya Kovalchuk and employing a slightly more up-tempo style? Remember, signing Kovalchuk to an enormous contract was more than just a hockey move. In many ways, it was a business deal. Owner Jeff Vanderbeek wanted to provide a more entertaining product for the fans in hopes of improving attendance that had continued to languish despite three Stanley Cup championships since 1995.
Or, is it less about the Devils than the trend towards defensive hockey that emphasizes protecting leads, not building on them.
Or, is New Jersey still boring and I’m completely off base here?