Currently browsing author


Oh, calm down, this isn’t as good as it sounds: The 2013 New York Mets


No. Wait. It– shit, no. It can’t be. That’s not…. optimism? No, no way. Who could be optimistic about this team? Who would be optimistic about a team that just traded away the reigning Cy Young Award winner, a team that hasn’t had a winning record or finished above fourth place in five years or a team whose two highest-paid outfielders now play for the Seattle Mariners and no one?
Why would any fan with his frontal lobe intact be the least bit happy about the impending train of mediocrity that will be the 2013 New York Mets?
Well, even if the next six months will be some mild drudgery — and they will be — there is, at long last, some light at the end of what has been frustratingly long tunnel. No, the Mets won’t be great this year. They won’t be particularly good either. In fact, they’re almost certainly not going to have the horses to get so much as a winning record for the first time in the Obama administration, not when Lucas Duda, Mike Baxter and Kirk Nieuwenhuis are some of the fine men certain to get starting outfield time. Do not let the cautious optimism in Port St. Lucie or Queens fool you. This is probably a bad baseball team, even if Pecota somehow has the Mets projected to go 82-80 at the moment.
But that’s ok.
 …

The State of the Devils: Do not pinch me under any circumstances

ImageContemplate what the Giants would look like without Eli Manning, the Lakers without Kobe Bryant or the Mets without David Wright. Well, I suppose in the case of the Mets it wouldn’t make much of a difference, but typically the loss of your best player is detrimental to a franchise. If he happens to be an all-American marketing dream who pushes himself to the limit every shift, is clean cut, a born leader and always says the right things in front of the cameras it can leave an even bigger void to fill.
Oh, and did I mention he’s only 28?
Well, that’s essentially the fate that befell the Devils eight months ago when Zach Parise, already arguably the best forward in the franchise’s history (though Patrik Elias could lay significant claim to that title) opted to return to his home state of Minnesota to play tiddly winks with the Wild for the next 14 years. Already the Devils’ captain and poised to be a leader and a talent for the next decade-plus, this was perhaps the most significant blow the team had ever taken in its history, at least as far as personnel was concerned.
As a result, the expectations for New Jersey in the 2012-13 season, truncated as it is, were not, how you would say, “high.” Yes, the Devils had gotten within two wins of an unlikely Stanley Cup title in 2012, but in the eyes of many, this author included, that miracle run was the product of multiple relatively flukey factors. For one, New Jersey rode a no-name defense that played well above its head and somehow got four goals and 10 assists in the postseason out of 36-year-old Bryce Salvador, a blueliner who had a total of seven goals and 32 assists in his previous three¬†seasons. The Devils also got somewhat surprising play out of legendary goaltender Martin Brodeur, who despite turning 40 during the playoff run played as if he was 10 years younger. The rest of the luck came from a surprisingly effective checking fourth line of Steve Bernier, Ryan Carter and Stephen Gionta, players who might not make the rosters of some NHL teams, and an incredibly favorable draw of Florida (young and inexperienced), Philadelphia (emotionall exhausted after a massive first-round upset of Pittsburgh) and the New York Rangers (physically exhausted after going seven games in two rounds and throwing their bodies around like rag dolls to do it).
Yes, there was offensive talent in Elias, Ilya Kovalchuk, Travis Zajac, Adam Henrique, gritty forward David Clarkson and, yes, Parise, but the general consensus was that the Devils had a remarkable, inspiring run that belied a base of talent not so on par with the rest of the League. Take Parise out of the equation and you have a roster with one overpaid sniper, one elderly goalie and a dozen complementary pieces that can help you win a Cup, but can’t lead you there. As a result, many prognosticators had the Parise-less Devils scrambling to make the playoffs this season, and quite possibly missing them altogether.
So all of this hasty exposition begs one simple question to anyone who glances at the NHL standings this morning:
“Why do the New Jersey Devils have the most points in the Eastern Conference with a third of the season gone?”… Read more...

We’re back everyone! A hastily-written 2012-13 NHL season preview

So, not so surprisingly, I’ve been somewhat quiet around these parts and though I’d rather not go into it, there was a really good reason why. That said, on Saturday at long last the puck will be dropping on the 2012-13 NHL season and there is just a ton of stuff to get excited about, to say nothing of the premier matchups (Chicago-Los Angeles, Pittsburgh-Philadelphia, New York-Boston) that we get on opening day alone.

However, given the consequences of the NHL’s work stoppage, rather than the full 82-course serving of a standard NHL season, we’ll be seeing a slap-dash truncated 48-game menu this time around. What’s even more wild is that the 48 games each team plays will be played entirely within a span of 99 days, which means less of a developed and cohesive performance all around and more of a frenetic breakneck scramble to make the postseason, which will be played out in full.

If anyone remembers last season’s 66-game NBA slate in which it seemed like the Knicks were playing about five times per week, this will be something like that. No one is entirely sure how different teams will respond to it, and as a result of the condensed schedule certain teams one might have expected to be title contenders (the Rangers, Detroit) might fall victim to exhaustion due to age or an aggressive style of play while teams not quite ready to make the jump (Edmonton, Florida) could take advantage because of their relative youth in the shortened schedule.

The important thing to understand, however, is that with only one other example of this situation to fall back on, no one is really sure how this will shake out, though if it ends the same way, I won’t really be complaining. Either way, it’s going to be kind of hard to predict who to bet on in the horse race, but because we need to fill these column inches, here is who might be Secretariat, and who might be Zippy Chippy.… Read more...

Feeling Big Blue

This season Sports Illustrated revamped it’s NFL predictions from September with the foresight and knowledge of eight weeks of football already past and came up with new picks for the Super Bowl that were different, rational and not far off from what I would have pegged it at myself. The choice by SI’s Jim Trotter, with the argument of “Whom do you trust late with the game on the line? Two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning or Matt Schaub, who has never started in the postseason?” was the New York Giants to win a second consecutive championship with a 24-20 victory over the Houston Texans in Super Bowl XLVII. At the time that I saw this after I got my issue in the mail I had one thought run through my head.

“Oh, I don’t like this one bit.”

I hesitate to say that I’m superstitious. After all, the idea that a few words printed on a page in a soon to be forgotten article in a weekly periodical don’t actually have the power to unseat or upset anyone or anything. They’re just words, meaningless as every game in college football’s postseason with the notable exception of one. And yet fear still ran down my spine as I saw it, hypothetically jinxing everything I had known to be a true, reasonable interpretation of the season’s first half. After all, the Giants had overcome an early season hiccup against Dallas and were 6-2 with a comfortable division lead at the season’s mid-way point, their lone other loss being a frustrating, but forgiveable road defeat at Philadelphia which had not yet revealed itself to be utterly horrendous.

Otherwise, the Giants were off and running with an offense looking every bit as potent as one would have expected, a solid defense, championship experience in their back pockets and an absolute thrashing of a San Francisco team many expected to (and still expect to) compete for a Super Bowl title this February. All of this makes the fact that New York is already home for the summer more than a little baffling, and if you happen to call yourself a Giants fan (spoiler alert: I do), it’s more than a little frustrating. I sat in my father’s living room in New Jersey Sunday watching my team display in just about every facet why it has the potential to make a Super Bowl run any time it gets into the postseason and the entire time I kept watching Chicago stave off Detroit on my laptop and realized what the Giants did wouldn’t mean a thing. This is maddening to some extent considering had the Giants done what was required of them in just one of any number of previous games this all would have been moot, but in the end, a rational man takes his gifts and hesitates to get greedy.

This offseason, I am going to pretend that that is me.

After all, with two championships in five years, how upset can I be? There are teams that wait lifetimes for that kind of success, some longer than lifetimes and in one or two cases, hopefully forever. It would be unbecoming to believe you were somehow slighted by a team that in such a small span has gifted you with two titles and arguably the greatest upset in the history of the sport. Given that, it’s hard to let the disappointments beat you down and even without a track record like that, perspective should keep your head on straight. As I explained to a teenage fan in front of me when I traveled to Cincinnati in November to see a game that, uh, didn’t go as planned, in all likelihood, he would watch the Giants play roughly 700 more times before he died. For your heart’s sake, you can’t let yourself get frazzled over on… Read more...

Love and the New York Giants: It happens when you least expect it

I am single. I’m fine with this, but I know I won’t be forever. As a result, I date a lot. Probably too much if you ask my friends or my wallet, but in the now multi-year, multi-part journey I’ve endured in hopes of finding someone to share a few months if not my life I have been met by one frustration after another and remain single. This is partially because I’m picky and partially because I’m an obnoxious sarcastic loudmouth who occasionally misses the nuances of charmed conversation, but in all irksome experiences that compose the catastrophic cluster that is dating in New York city in your 20s, my friends have continually harped on one maxim to ease my anxieties.

“It always happens when you least expect it.”

Now that is a load of horseshit if I ever heard it. I’ve spent all but three years of my post-pubescent life not particularly trying in the dating world and the vast majority of that was all spent single. So clearly, not expecting it hasn’t really been the elixir. In all of my life the only area in which not expecting anything has truly paid off has been with the first, most dearest thing I ever truly fell in love with: The New York Football Giants.

I was a wide-eyed optimist when I first was cast under the spell of Big Blue in the early 1990s. After all, the Giants were just a few seasons removed from their last Super Bowl title, an upset of the high-powered Buffalo Bills in 1990 that is unfortunately far more widely remembered for Scott Norwood’s miss of a far more difficult than remembered game-winning field goal as time expired than it is for Bill Parcells’ brilliant ball-control game plan — the Giants had more than 40 minutes of possession — or Mark Ingram’s insane, twisting extension that earned a crucial New York first down. The first season I truly got invested in the NFL, the Giants battled with Dallas for the top seed in the NFC before the Cowboys, and Emmitt Smith, literally ran away with it in overtime in the final game of the season in 1994 — on a separated shoulder no less.

Surely, I thought, it wouldn’t be long before the Giants climbed to the top again though. And that’s when the years of frustration set in, starting right with the nationally televised Monday Night Opener in 1995 in which the Giants got drubbed by the ‘Boys on their home turf 35-0. For most of my life that had been the way for the Giants, a constant disappointment as I desperately searched for success in my football team. A few exciting seasons came and went, division titles in 1997, 2000 and 2005 and a Super Bowl berth in 2000 among them. But the frustrating, head-shaking losses came, too.

A stunning loss to Minnesota in the 1997 playoffs, an embarrassing Super Bowl defeat to the Baltimore Ravens, an almost incomprehensibly absurd blown 24-point lead in the 2002 playoffs to the 49ers in a game that featured botched field goals and botched officiating aplenty, an embarrassing playoff loss to Carolina in 2005, Vince Young’s coming out party in 2006 in which the Giants blew a 21-0 lead with 10 minutes to play and the entirety of the 2006 season in which the Giants were poised to enter the second half of their showdown for first place in the NFC with the Bears up 10-0 before a converted draw on 3rd and 22 for Chicago upended the game and Devin Hester slow-played a short field-goal return for a touchdown. All of this would send New York into a disastrous 2-6 spiral to end the season before it was mercifully put to an end on a last-second field goal by Philadelphia in the … Read more...

Zach Parise and Ryan Suter can go home again

Hockey does not have “bringing my talents to South Beach” free agent bonanzas. Yes, there are teams that win championships as a result of being heavily stocked with talent and depth that rolls them to a Stanley Cup, but often those teams are built as a result of deftly scouted drafts with the occasional smart free agent signing sprinkled in here or there. Look no further than the 2009 Penguins or the 2010 Blackhawks for evidence. While free agency is a large part of hockey, the tendency, often, is for teams to lock up their prized young assets early on, or at least attempt to do so, with a massive contract that gets them paid, but keeps them in the fold through their formative years. Many stars stay with the same organization for the vast majority of their careers and few championship teams are built almost exclusively on big-name free agents. The closest team in recent memory that might fill that description is 2002 Detroit Red Wings, an astonishingly old team which had four Hall-of-Famers (Steve Yzerman, Igor Larianov, Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille), six more players that are certain to be inducted at some point (Pavel Datsyuk, Sergei Fedorov, Brendan Shanahan, Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios and Dominik Hasek), two more that just might join them (Darren McCarty and Tomas Holmstrom) and two players that had already scored overtime Cup-clinchers for other teams in the previous six years (Hull and Uwe Krupp).

They were an immortal squad built on the backs of veteran acquisition and free agency in a way that is a dramatic outlier from how the NHL, generally speaking, has done business. Even that team, however, was no situation of LeBron James and Chris Bosh signing contracts as the top two free agents with the same team. Seeing the top two names on the market go to the same place is rare. Seeing them go to a small market is rarer still. And yet, on July 4, 2012, while most of us in the U.S. were prepping for our barbecues or traveling to to someone else’s, the Minnesota Wild, they of the one division title in their history, three playoff appearances all time and none since George W. Bush was still in the White House, managed to sign Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to identical 13-year $98-million contracts that will carry them both from the age of 27 to their post-retirement fishing days near the Superior Hiking Trail.

The Minnesota Wild are not a good team. Despite a surprising first half before a tumbling second in 2011-12, they are an unbalanced mixed of unfulfilled promise (Dany Heatley), inconsistent offense (Devin Setoguchi) and a whole lot of youth. And yet, somehow, some way, they took the two prizes of free agency in this offseason, Suter, the top defenseman on the market, and Parise, the top forward available and given his combination of youth, leadership, offensive production and defensive dedication arguably the most desired free agent in the history of the NHL. While the idea of the Wild attempting to lure Suter and Parise to Minnesota as a package deal had been floated for months due to the fact that both are friends, Parise is a Minnesota native and Suter is from neighboring Wisconsin, the notion had been met by most hockey insiders and fans alike with scoffing and amusement.

As a lifelong Devils fan, I personally felt as if of all the teams in the hunt for Parise, Minnesota was probably the least likely destination. Rumors that the Rangers, Penguins, Flyers, Blackhawks and Red Wings would all be hot on his trail seemed a far more likely result to anyone paying attention, and despite the rampant assumption that Parise would simp… Read more...

Blood in the Hudson: Rangers vs. Devils

If you grew up in the New York metropolitan area in the 1990s, the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals left a mark on you. It didn’t matter if you liked hockey or if you didn’t, but the Devils were playing the Rangers, 1940 was emblazoned into your psyche and Mark Messier was busy carving out a place there for himself, too. Of course, if you liked hockey, then it was a horse of a different color entirely. The 1994 Eastern Conference Finals in the NHL were a series with drama that was almost unmatched by any other postseason series in the history of sports. Granted, I have a particular soft spot for both hockey and this series in general, but if you look at the facts — and we will do that in a moment — there is no postseason series I have seen in any sport that has proven its equal, though the 2001 World Series comes close.

To wit:

The 1994 season is widely remembered as the campaign in which the Rangers finally broke the curse of 1940, when the team opted to burn its mortgage on Madison Square Garden in the bowl of the Stanley Cup in celebration, thereby desecrating a sacred object and sentencing the team to more than half a century without a championship. Or so the theory goes. While the Rangers’ victory over the Devils in that season’s Eastern Conference Finals is not forgotten, people often forget that while the Rangers had the second-best record in the NHL that season, the Devils had the second-best just six points behind them. Add into the mix the natural geographic rivalry of two teams that played across the river from one another, as well as a bitter dynamic for New Jersey in which the Devils played consistent ugly duckling to the big, bad Blueshirts — something that is still the case despite the Devils being the more successful franchise since 1994 by an extremely wide margin — and what lay ahead was a dream set up to a dream series.
So to recap, this is what we were presented with before that series:

— The two best teams in the NHL’s regular season by the most significant empirical metric
— A natural geographic rivalry between two teams and fan bases that hate each other
— A measure of recent history, as the Devils and Rangers had played a bitter seven-game series two years earlier
— A chance for the Devils to finally crawl out from big brother’s shadow
— A chance to reach the Stanley Cup Final, the most that could possibly be at stake between these two teams given the League’s format

This is what we got:

— A Claude Lemieux goal in the final minute of regulation ties the game before Stephane Richer scores the winner for New Jersey in double overtime in Game 1
— A Rangers blowout in Game 2
— Stephane Matteau scoring in double overtime to give the Rangers a 2-1 series lead in Game 3
— A 3-1 Devils win in Game 4 to even the series
— A surprisingly convincing win by New Jersey at the Garden in Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead
— Game 6: Messier guarantees a victory for New York on the road to extend the series, and with the Rangers trailing in the third period Messier himself scores not one, not two, but three goals to rally the Rangers and force a Game 7
— Game 7: New York takes a 1-0 lead into the final moments before New Jersey’s Valeri Zelepukin ties the game with 7.7 seconds left in regulation. At 4:24 of the second overtime, Stephane Matteau beats New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur on a wraparound to end the series and send the Rangers to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1979 and, eventually, their first championship since 1940.
…

Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 2 Preview: Late Night With the NHL

If you watch as much of the Stanley Cup Playoffs as I do, you have to be prepared for some late nights. After all, the postseason, with its potential for games that theoretically can never end is often full of overtime epics that stretch into the early morning hours, and this season’s rendition has been no exception. In fact, the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs had a record 16 overtime games, with the piece de resistence being between Chicago and Phoenix, a series that saw overtime in the first five games.

So, of course, it’s only fitting that the last game of the round, last night’s Game 7 thriller between New Jersey and Florida, which didn’t start until 8:30 p.m. despite being on the east coast so as not to coincide with the end of Game 7 between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators, needed more than 60 minutes to be decided. After all, Game 6, too needed more than 60 minutes to be figured out, resulting in Ilya Kovalchuk’s beautiful backhand feed after noticing he had lured in both defenders on a 2-on-2, which Travis Zajac took in front of the net and deposited between the legs of Scott Clemmensen to save New Jersey’s season.

But what was surprising about Game 7 between New Jersey and Florida was not that it needed more than 60 minutes to be decided, but that it needed more than 80. Double overtime isn’t something particularly unheard of, but overtimes have ended surprisingly early this postseason. Only three of the 16 overtime games this season reached a second extra period in the first round and the vast majority of games were done within about 10 minutes. This seems to run contrary to the typical postseason overtime trend of “try to end it quickly and if you can’t settle in and lock down the neutral zone and wait for a break,” not because games aren’t ending fast on the whole but because they aren’t ending immediately and still aren’t running on forever.

No need to worry, though. The Devils and Panthers solved that problem for everyone Thursday night by keeping the sportswriters, TV watchers and schedule-makers up deep into the evening in a holding pattern until somebody scored. As someone who is, shall we say, emotionally connected to one of these teams, it was an experience that was euphoric at its end but excrutiating for the rest of the duration. After all, playoff overtime is a precarious tight-rope walk where every slight shift in weight or brief mental mistake — and those are inevitable — could mean the end of a game or a season. The playoffs are stressful. Game 7 doubly so. Game 7 in overtime triply so. A Game 7 in double overtime? You get the idea. And despite nibbling on my fingers for most of the late evening, it was an immediate and explosive relief when Adam Henrique did this.

The game wouldn’t have gone that far, however, were it not for the absolutely stellar play of Martin Brodeur. As we’ve noted here earlier, Marty has struggled for stretches of this season and started to look his age — an age that will reach 40 next weekend — and while the Panthers did manage a furious third-period rally that tied the game with less than four minutes left, both of those goals were the result of an unbelievable amount of pressure and maybe a little too much contact with Brodeur put on by Florida. After all, people will forget that a third Florida goal early in the third period was waived off as a result of goalie interference, but they may not forget that the Panthers peppered Brodeur with an almost absurd 19 shots in the third … Read more...

2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Primer

So, once every year — let’s call it, “spring time” — people remember that not only is hockey going on, but it’s playoff time. Now every sport’s playoff time is better than its regular season (take note, BCS) due to the increased stakes and the ratcheted-up intensity that results from it. Out of all of the major sports postseasons we see in North America, the Stanley Cup Playoffs stand out above them all as the best.

Don’t buy it? Let me count the ways.

1) That marathon quality

Both the NHL and NBA have postseasons that last four full rounds of best-of-seven series that whittle 16 teams down to one, and there is certainly an argument to be made that the NBA is a physically grueling experience. Just ask a 6’7″ man how it feels to pound his knees by jumping for 48 minutes every night on a hardwood floor for two straight months. But all that said, the sheer exhaustion and physical nature of the game of hockey truly creates a situation with speed, strength and durability, which allow the cream to rise to the top over those two months. It is a brutally exhausting experience to get through four rounds of postseason hockey. And that’s probably why seeing the smiles — and frowns — on the faces of the teams in the Finals is that much more remarkable once its over. Oh, and these guys are all making these world-class moves on quarter-inch thick pieces of metal. Food for thought.

2) Playoff beards

Is there any postseason superstition cooler than the refusal to shave until you’ve been eliminated or won it all? Not only does it provide some of the best beard and hair combos ever, but in the game of hockey it’s nearly impossible to see a player looking whiskery and not know it’s playoff time. It can accentuate the experience of the greats and sometimes, it just looks so damn awesome.

3) Multiple overtime games

There is almost no postseason that brings overtime to such a fever pitch of excitement quite like the NHL’s. The difficulty of scoring in the NHL, as well as its sometimes precarious nature, combine with sudden death rules to make marathon events in that can sometimes reach a level of greatness. Sometimes, you never want them to end, and sometimes it feels like they never will end. Games reaching double overtime are so common place in the postseason that it almost doesn’t warrant a mention, but every year has a game or two with four or five overtimes that bring an epic importance. And what’s even greater, the cathartic explosion when a team finally ends one of them is a moment unlike any other in sports.

4) The Stanley Cup

I mean, come on. What sport can boast a trophy like this? There is no other prize in professional sports that can come close to the beauty, grandeur and the symbolism embodied by the Stanley Cup. Does anyone remember how uncomfortable Raymond Berry looked when he awarded the Lombardi Trophy to the New York Giants after they won the Super Bowl this February? Well, you should since it was hilarious, but you probably don’t and that’s because no matter how hard the NFL, NBA or Major League Baseball try, there is simply nothing on this level.

So there you have it. These are four solid reasons why this is the greatest postseason in professional sports and if I were you, I’d be trying to watch as much of it as humanly possible. And in case you were worried, you’ll get to watch as much as you want this time around because for the first time in NHL history, every single playoff game will be broadcast live on a national network Read more...

Speak of the Devils: New Jersey at the 3/4 mark

The New Jersey Devils started this season as something of a mystery and for the hockey masses of the Garden State — and elsewhere — that demand some clarity, the Devils haven’t really answered those questions. There are 19 games that now separate New Jersey from the end of the regular season and barring the unexpected it appears the team should earn a playoff berth, something that used to be an afterthought for the Devils. Of course, in a League where more than 50% of the teams make the postseason, that doesn’t really much to tell else just how good this team is or isn’t — and frankly the empirical evidence doesn’t really clear that up either. We do know a few things. We know they’re not bad, although sometimes they can be. We also know they’re not great, although, sometimes they can be that, too.

All in all, if you are a Devils fan, given that the team had a conspicuously murky future heading into this season and was coming off its first non-playoff year since 1996, it’s hard not to be fairly satisfied. After an inconsistent start of the year, the Devils have several positive things going for them. They seem to have bought into coach Peter DeBoer’s aggressive defensive style — New Jersey continues to thrive off turnovers, its penalty kill is third best in the League, the Devils easily have the most shorthanded goals in the NHL and while their average goals against per game (2.71) is not superlative, it has improved over the course of the season.

In addition to that, Ilya Kovalchuk must have been reading this blog, because he seems to have gotten the message and has thrived over the second half of the season. Right now the Russian dynamo has 25 goals and 36 assists, which puts him 11th in the League in scoring, and he seems to have taken his defensive duties on the penalty kill seriously as his three shorties this season are the third most in the NHL. Zach Parise appears to finally have overcome the recovery process from his torn meniscus a season ago, to the tune of 24 goals and 29 assists, and Patrik Elias, with 20 goals and 39 assists seems reborn.

What might be disconcerting however is that despite having a powerful trio of scorers, to say nothing of Adam Henrique being on the inside track to the Calder Trophy as the League’s best rookie and David Clarkson somehow scoring 25 goals so far this season, is that the Devils don’t have much offense beyond that. The Devils are 16th in the NHL in goals per game and their offensive struggles are a sign of some pretty glaring scoring depth. In fact, there is little offense to speak of outside New Jersey’s top six forwards. Of the 165 goals the team has scored in 63 games this season, 139 of them have been scored by just seven people.

That’s an astonishing 84% of the goals coming from just 30% of the nongoaltenders on the team.

This is not the kind of scoring depth that is the mark of Stanley Cup winners. Championship teams roll four lines that both check and score with ease and for any indication of that the Devils can look no further than their own history, as the 2000 Stanley Cup championship team was second in the League in scoring while the 2001 team, which lost Game 7 of the Final to Colorado was No. 1.

For the Devils to have a real impact in the postseason they will need to start getting contributions from their third and fourth lines — not the majority of contributions, but certainly enough to ease the burden lest New Jersey’s elite players be spent by the time they reach the second round.

The good thing is that the De…