If you've been sleeping on the New Jersey Devils, it's time to wake up and smell the winning momentum. The Devils, who just booked their ticket to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a decisive 4-0 victory over the New York Rangers, are looking like a force to be reckoned with as they gear up to face the Carolina Hurricanes.
Speaking of offense, the Devils' top line, featuring Tatar, Nico Hischier, and Jesper Bratt, is starting to find its groove. Hischier and Bratt both contributed insurance goals in the Game 7 win, and if this trio continues to click, they could prove to be a nightmare for the Hurricanes' defense. In addition to Schmid's heroics, the Devils saw contributions from key players like Tomas Tatar, who netted his first goal of the postseason, and John Marino, who grabbed two assists in the Game 7 win. Tatar's late-series surge and Marino's strong performance are promising signs for New Jersey's offensive potential moving forward. New Jersey's performance in Game 7 against the Rangers showcased their true potential, with rookie goalie Akira Schmid stepping up in a big way, making 31 saves for his second shutout of the series. Schmid's ability to bounce back from a Game 6 loss and deliver when it mattered most is a testament to the resiliency of this young Devils team. He's the real deal!
Of course, it's not just about the stars up front. The Devils' depth players have also shown their ability to step up when it counts. Michael McLeod and Erik Haula each scored crucial goals in the series decider against the Rangers, highlighting the balanced attack that has become a hallmark of this Devils team.
On the flip side, the Hurricanes are no pushovers. They've earned their spot in the second round, and their high-octane offense will undoubtedly test the Devils' resolve. However, with Carolina's injury concerns, the onus will be on their third and fourth line forwards to pick up the slack – and that's where New Jersey's relentless pressure and commitment to defense could pay dividends. The Devils are ranked No. 5 in shots against this season, while sporting a +67 goal differential.
The Hurricanes, though a formidable opponent, have some serious injury concerns on their top two lines that could make all the difference in this Eastern Conference showdown. Carolina hasn't been the same team since losing wingers Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen to injuries.
When it comes to special teams, the Devils have been no slouch either. While their power play (13th) could use some polishing, their penalty-killing unit has been nothing short of spectacular. In a tight series where every advantage matters, New Jersey's ability to shut down the opposition's power play could prove to be a game-changer. Both teams have outstanding penalty kill units. The Devils are ranked No. 4 in PK percentage, while the Hurricanes are ranked No. 2 this season.
In the end, it's all about seizing the moment, and the New Jersey Devils have shown that they're more than capable of doing just that. With their young core stepping up, key players finding their stride, and a balanced attack that's tough to contain, the Devils have all the ingredients needed to cook up a series win against the injury-riddled Carolina Hurricanes. New Jersey has the better goalie in this series, even as a rookie!
This should be a fantastic series to watch, and I like the New Jersey Devils to win in six or seven games.
Follow Jeff on Twitter @JHSPORTSLINE