It's absolutely remarkable what the Devils are doing this season. A nearly-brand new defense in front of him that, on paper, isn't much to write home about. An offense that has struggled with inconsistency all season long. Considering that, Rich Chere's column in today's Star Ledger is very poignant. The Devils continue to silence the doubters by still leading the conference, albeit with a thin margin, with 10 games left to play. What's this I see?
"If you looked on paper at our roster and compared it to some other teams in the conference, possibly not," captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. "But I think some guys on this team are underrated as far as putting up numbers."
Okay, so rookie coach Brent Sutter turned out to be the right fit behind the bench, the Devils abandoned their plan to give Brodeur more time off and they got another 30-goal season out of Zach Parise.
But first place in the conference?
"I think other people might've been surprised," center Travis Zajac said. "But us, as a team, aren't. We know what we have here."
Looks to me like a little confidence within their team. And why not? While they aren't in a comfortable position in the standings, the Devils are clearly contenders in the Eastern Conference by virtue of leading a very tight conference, much less a division. This year's group is similar to, say, 1995's and 2003's team in that it doesn't matter that it looks like on paper; they're getting it done on the ice.
Of course, a big a reason for their success from 1994 and forward has been Martin Brodeur. And it's not just Devils fans who notice this. Darren Eliot at Sports Illustrated is giving The Man his due. He works hard, he's not a "character," he doesn't sulk after a bad game, and he makes ridiculous saves on a routine basis - especially this season. Thanks to David Puddy at HF Boards for finding this article. Consider this article before thinking that the Devils aren't getting enough respect in the larger hockey press. Maybe you may think there should be more columnists and journalists saying things like this about Marty, but praise is always better than none at all.
Lastly, on Wednesday, the Devils host Our Hated Rivals. What a way to kick off a division-heavy stretch-run. Let's look back at some Devils domination of a deserving squad (originally found at Devils Due, so says the video description at Youtube. Also, is anyone still there at DD?):