Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Re-living the Devils' Cup run in 1995, Part 1

The playoffs are just around the corner, which means that the playoffs are about to start, most Canadian teams are eliminated and there's no more shootouts!  Before the 2012 playoffs get under way, I wanted to take a look at each of the three Devils Stanley Cup runs.  Hopefully, this will get Devils fans in a playoff state of mind.  All videos in these posts are courtesy of YouTube user  .

PART ONE: 1995 New Jersey Devils Season in Review (plus first two rounds of the playoffs)

Coming off a 47-25-12 season in 1993-94, the Devils made a statement to the rest of the league that they were no longer the "Mickey Mouse organization" that Wayne Gretzky infamously named them in the early 1980s.  The Devils entering 1993-94 having made the playoffs in six of the past seven seasons, but after the famous Game 7 loss to the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals, it was time for the Devils to take the next step.  They finished second in goals for (306) and second in goals against (220) in 1993-94, so they had become a complete team, with youngster Martin Brodeur in net.

Their season was delayed for several months due to the half-season lockout that plagued the entire NHL at the start of the 1994-95 NHL season.  Finally, by the end of January 1995, the season was ready to go.  Each team would play just 48 games of regular season hockey, so it was more of a sprint than a marathon.  The Devils did not get off to a good start.  They went 0-3-1 in the first four games, and looked like anything but a team that was destined to take the next step in the playoffs, but even though the season was shortened, there was time for improvement.  The Devils won their next two games, over Buffalo and Quebec, and a mid-season surge pushed them up the conference standings.  Here's SportsChannel New York's regular season recap.

The Devils, who slid late in the season, earned the fifth seed in the playoffs, and would travel to Boston for their first two playoff games.  Led by center Adam Oates and future Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque, Boston got the better of the Devils in the regular season, beating the Devils three times, and dropping the other meeting in overtime.

The Bruins soon learned that the Devils were a different team in the playoffs.  The Devils led 3-0 by the first intermission, and cruised to a 5-0 win in Game 1, led by Claude Lemieux's two goals.  For Lemieux, it was just the start of a magical post-season.  Game 2 was a closer game, as the Devils held on to a 1-0 lead into the third period, before tacking on two more goals, but Martin Brodeur earned his second shutout in a row, and the Devils swept the first two games in Boston.  The Bruins finally scored a goal in the second period of Game 3.  In fact, they scored three goals in the period, and held off a late Devils' push to win Game 3 by a 3-2 score.

Then came the infamous Game 4.  The game was scoreless into overtime.  Then this happened.

The Devils took a 3-1 series lead on Brodeur's third shutout of the series.  The Devils went into Boston Gardens two nights later and finished the B's off, 3-2 to win the series.

The Devils advanced to the second round, where Jaromir Jagr and the powerhouse Penguins awaited.  The Devils did not beat Pittsburgh during the regular season, although they only faced them three times (0-1-2).

Unlike in the Boston series, the Devils were unable to strike first in Pittsburgh.  The Penguins held on for a 3-2 win in Game 1.  Another two goal game from Claude Lemieux sparked a 4-2 Devils win in Game 2, and the Devils quickly stole home ice as the series moved to New Jersey tied at one.  In Game 3, the "Crash Line" scored twice, Lemieux added another one, and the Devils cruised, 5-1.  The Devils got a little extra from Scott Stevens in Game 4.

One Neal Broten goal in regulation and another in overtime gave the Devils a commanding 3-1 series lead.  In Game 5, it was Claude Lemieux with yet another multi-goal game, and the Devils wasted no time in bouncing Pittsburgh, 4-1 in the game and 4-1 in the series.

The Devils were halfway to the promised land.  They were 8-2 in the playoffs and now faced another division rival, the Philadelphia Flyers.

To be continued...