Are the Devils a Deep Playoff Team Upfront?

When I think about playoff teams that end up going deep in the NHL playoffs I think of the ability to score in any situation. In the past this may not have been true, but in today's NHL you need a few knockout scorers. In the regular season you can rack up points without being prolific scorers because teams heat and cool and take some games less serious than other. Teams like the Florida Panthers, who have a negative eleven goal differential this season, can hold a playoff spot. In the playoffs, it is important that your scoring can come from anywhere. In 2008 and 2009 the Penguins and the Red Wings made the Stanley Cup Finals both times and they both had three strong scorers. Detroit had Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Pavel Datsyuk and Pittsburgh had Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marian Hossa. The Blackhawks had Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Patrick Sharp in 2010. Last year, Boston had David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, and Brad Marchand and they won the cup. Convinced?

Since this is a blog about the Devils, I'll tell you the Devils DO have the three scorers they need to win a cup. The Devils have three stars that happen to be surpassing 50 points this season. Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias have surpassed 50 points with 56 and 54 respectively. Zach Parise is knocking on the door of the 50 point threshold with 49 points. AND all three players have done this in fewer than 57 games. Read on after the jump to see how the Devils top three forwards and their supporting cast stack up for a deep playoff run.

I know many of you will have differing opinions on how a championship team is built whether its defense first or offense first or goaltending. I'm just looking at a unique facet that I can quantify and prove to you nay-sayers that the Devils aren't a long shot team to win the cup. The Devils top three scorers combine for 0.98 points per game. This means that Parise, Kovalchuk, and Elias are all good for a point a game if they played 100 games. That's a pretty dangerous top three. So how does it compare to the top three scorers for the last four cup winners? I'm glad you asked.

Detroit '08 = 1.05

Pittsburgh '09 = 1.10 (Crosby and Malkin had monster 100+ seasons)

Chicago '10 = 0.90

Boston '11 = 0.77

By this measure, the Devils can be in the talk of having a top trio in the NHL. This trio may also help propel the Devils to a good playoff run. As we all know, this isn't always the case. So I did more digging and built this little table for optimistic Devils fans.

Regular Season Points Scorers

Team/Year

10+

20+

50+

Detroit '08

17

11

4

Pittsburgh '09

19

12

2

Chicago '10

18

13

5

Boston '11

19

13

4

(Devils '12)

15*

10*

4*

*Projected

The only anomaly I see in this chart is that the Devils have slightly fewer 10 point scorers. However, my projection could be off by about 2 skaters either positive or negative. Therefore, the Devils may have 17 players who reach 10 points. Other than that the Devils scoring looks very good on paper. Having four 50+ point producers on your team is splendid, especially when a rookie (Adam Henrique) is projected to be one of those scorers. I remember a time when the Devils had a rookie who amassed over 50 points and helped on the way to a Stanley Cup, but who knows if he's any good these days.

Brief Aside: If the Devils do make a deep playoff run, they will be more appealing financially. They will also have more wiggle room to sing any UFA's in the summer. That is definitely a good thing.

As with any analysis of a team, there is lingering thoughts. The largest concern for me is that the Devils top three scorers average over 20 minutes on the ice per game. Zach is young and will be fine. Kovalchuk is not in his early twenties anymore and will likely face a small amount of fatigue in the playoffs, especially with his huge frame. Elias... isn't as quick as he once was, but I feel he never tires. That could be my fandom kicking in and blinding me.

How do you feel about the Devils scoring? Do you think this analysis needs something added to it or do you feel it holds water? Thanks for reading!

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