In what can be considered a gross understatement, the New Jersey Devils should receive a trophy as the turnaround team in the NHL this past season.  With an improvement of 25 more wins and 49 more total points from 2021-22 to 2022-23, the Devils finished up this year comfortably in second place in the Metropolitan Division. They were one of the most explosive teams offensively in the entire league.  Well done; now time to get back to work.

The Devils are loaded with talent this year, and it shows.

This Tuesday starts another chapter in the history of the fabled “Hudson River Rivalry” between the Devils and their nemesis, the New York Rangers (extra note: the New York Islanders are joining in the fun as well as a wild card team, so all three New York area teams made the playoffs.)  This will be a new chapter in the rivalry since the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, where the Devils won in six games on their way to the Stanley Cup finals.  Sadly, this rivalry will send home a team in the first round, but what a round this one will be for hockey fans.

The Devils can legitimately claim some of the top offensive players in the NHL, including Jack Hughes, who scored 43 goals and 56 assists to set a Devils single-season scoring record.  Hughes was able to score at least one point in 56 of the 78 games he played this season.  Accompanied by the likes of Jesper Bratt, Nico Hischier, recent trade acquisition Timo Meier and Dougie Hamilton, the Devils are an offensive firepower showcase.

The Devils have their own stellar netminder guarding the pipes as well.

While fans immediately focus their attention on the goalkeeping duel and look to the Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin, the Devils have their own version of a Shesterkin-like hero in the form of Vitek Vanecek.  In his first full year as the Devils’ goaltender, Vanecek registered 52 games played and had 33 wins with a 2.45 goals-against average and a strong .911 save percentage.  On top of his strong numbers, Vanecek also posted three shutouts this season.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 28: Vitek Vanecek #41 of the New Jersey Devils keeps his eyes on the puck during the third period against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on November 28, 2022 in New York City. The Devils defeated the Rangers 5-3. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

This playoff series is must-see hockey.

It doesn’t really matter if you like the Rangers or the Devils; simply being a hockey fan should give you the motivation to check out this first-round series starting this Tuesday.  The Rangers are a tough, physical team with a Vezina Trophy goalkeeper, and the Devils are simply one of the most explosive teams on the ice.  Fans probably wish that this series could have been saved for the Eastern Conference finals, but let’s take the games as they come, and they’re starting on Tuesday.  Get ready for the puck drop  -this should be a wild one!

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