to an assessment of a couple of

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Postby zhangzk » Thu Sep 27, 2018 8:12 pm

It would be easy to say the New Jersey Devils are back after ending a six-year playoff drought.

John Hynes’ team went from last in the Eastern Conference in 2016-17 to the postseason in less in the year Bobby Orr Jersey , riding a career year by left wing Taylor Hall and outstanding first seasons by No. 1 overall draft pick Nico Hischier and Will Butcher. This was a team that made it tough on opponents almost every time it stepped on the ice.

The standings said it all. New Jersey went from 28 wins and 70 points to 44 wins and 97 points.

Still, it was only good enough to outlast the hard-charging Florida Panthers in the closing weeks of the regular season and get the No. 8 seed.

The Devils discovered that playoffs were another level. They were eliminated by Tampa Bay, the top seed in the Eastern Conference, in five games.

”Of course, we’re disappointed,” veteran center Travis Zajac said Tuesday as the Devils cleaned out their lockers. ”But we accomplished a lot as a team. This is just the beginning. I like how we come together as a team. We faced a lot of adversity, but we survived. Because the league is so close and it’s going to be that way again next year, we have to continue to get better.”

The Devils have ridden a roller-coaster in Hynes’ first three seasons as coach. They exceeded expectations in his first year, plummeted two years ago and then stunned the league in getting back to the playoffs.

”You have no idea of how good I feel about what we did this year,” said captain Andy Greene, who like Zajac was with the Devils when they reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2012. ”We were a lot better. The way we competed every game down the stretch. We were fighting for each other. We were picked last in the division and last in the conference. We took that to heart. It’s all part of the process. You don’t go from the bottom to the top unless you work hard.”

Hall carried the Devils this season, scoring points in 26 straight games in which he played. He finished with 39 goals and 54 assists. His 93 points were 41 more than the next closest player on the team, Hischier (20 goals, 32 assists).

”I knew he was a really good hockey player, but it was nothing like what I saw this year,” said forward Marcus Johansson, who was limited to 29 games by concussions. ”He was unbelievable day in and day out.”

If Hall can match next season and young players like Hischier, Butcher, Myles Wood Frans Nielsen Jersey Kids , Blake Coleman and Jesper Bratt improve and the work ethic remains the same, the Devils can easily make it back to the playoffs next season.

Here’s some things to watch next season:

GOOD GOALTENDING: The Devils have two starters. Backup Keith Kinkaid had 16 wins in the final two months to secure the playoff berth. Cory Schneider, who lost the starting job after groin and hip injuries in January, was outstanding in the playoffs after taking over for Kinkaid in the second game.

FREE AGENCY: General manager Ray Shero has three big decisions with unrestricted free agents: forwards Patrick Maroon and Michael Grabner and defenseman John Moore. Maroon, who like Grabner was acquired in a deal near the trading deadline, played better and provided a net-front presence. Moore might be let go to create space for youngsters Mirco Mueller and Steven Santini.

Blake Coleman and Stefan Noesen, who were the wings on the checking line with Zajac, are restricted free agents along with Wood, who had 19 goals. Expect them back along with Santini, another restricted free agent.

HISCHIER: The 19-year-old can play. He’s not in the same class as Connor McDavid or Austin Matthews. Still, he does all the little things and he will score more if he starts hitting the net.

DEFENSE: For the second straight year the Devils gave up 244 goals. That’s too many. Sami Vatanen, who was acquired from Anaheim, helped the defense and was Greene’s partner on the top pair. The defense needs a star and Shero may go after the Capitals’ John Carlson.



Associated Press freelancer Jim Hague contributed to this report.



More NHL hockey: The football field was Tony Sparano's element, just like the coaching peers he left behind.

Walking in the freshly cut, bright green grass on Wednesday while directing the Minnesota Vikings through their first practice of training camp was, naturally, the best place for Mike Zimmer to be.

"It takes a little bit of the sting away," Zimmer said, pausing to recover from a crack in his voice Drew Doughty Jersey , "of losing a great friend, a great coach, a good man."

The Vikings and the rest of the NFL were stunned on Sunday when Sparano, their tough-loving offensive line coach, died suddenly at age 56 of heart disease .

"It'll be a hard few days, but we'll get through it and we'll get back to work and do the things that we do," Zimmer said, "and that's what he'd want us to do."

After two days of workouts for rookies and others selected for early duty either due to relative inexperience or a recent injury, the Vikings will take a break Friday to attend Sparano's funeral in the Twin Cities area. Then the entire team will convene for the first full practice on Saturday.

"The most important thing is when you're a family, the family is what helps you get through it," said general manager Rick Spielman, who like Zimmer had to stop for composure several times during an interview session with reporters.

As evidenced by and during the run last season to the NFC championship game, the Vikings from the top down have forged an environment as tightly knit as any point in their history. This is an organization that has seen plenty of dysfunction over 57 years. The solidarity comes in handy at a tragic time like the unexpected loss of life, but it can also intensify the grief.

"We had quite a relationship," said Zimmer, who was on the same staff as Sparano for the last four of his 13 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. "His wife, Jeanette, I told her the other day, she reminds me a lot of my wife. She's the sweetest lady."

Zimmer's wife Calvin de Haan Jersey Kids , Vikki, passed away in 2009. His father, Bill, died in 2015. So he's had unfortunate experience in straddling the fine line between proper mourning and pressing on. What's clear to the Vikings, at least, is that Sparano would pick the latter.

"If Tony knew we were having this talk about him, I could just hear him in his very endearing way what his opinion on this would be," Spielman said.

With darkened sunglasses he wore since a teenage accident with hot oil from a deep fryer while working at a restaurant, Sparano had an intimidating presence. A significant portion of the screaming audible during a typical Vikings practice came from Sparano, who as a fellow understudy of former Cowboys head coach and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Bill Parcells came from the same hard-nosed mold as Zimmer.

"He was a lot like me, probably the only person in the building who was grumpier than I was," Zimmer said. "But he really cared about his players. I've sat in with him in offensive line rooms a lot, and he had a way of poking the stick at the guys and then putting his arms around him."

Sparano's daughter was married in Texas just 2陆 weeks ago. He told Zimmer last month he felt his health was the best it'd been. Since Zimmer hired Sparano in 2016 to help instill a tougher mentality in the offensive linemen, the two early-to-arrive-and-late-to-leave coaches spoke often, and not just about football. As a former NFL head coach, Sparano served as a sounding board for Zimmer, as was their shared mentor, Parcells, the source of many of Sparano's customary colloquialisms.

"Instead of saying Vladimir Sobotka Jersey , 'It's one or the other,'" Zimmer recalled, "he'd say, 'It's a horse apiece.'"

That could've been applied, for example, to an assessment of a couple of potential draftees. Spielman fondly remembered Sparano's thoroughness, taking the time to study video of a tackle prospect when he played guard in a years-old game.

"I've never been around a coach who put in so much time and energy into everything he did," Spielman said.

There was a soft side to Sparano, too, when it came to his family, whether immediate or football. Zimmer smiled as he recounted playing in Spielman's charity golf tournament on the course where Sparano's house was, not far from the team's old headquarters.

"We get to whatever hole he was on, and he'd have a big cooler out there with beer and wine," Zimmer said. "He gave me a bottle of wine so we could play the rest of the course. That's Tony. He was a genuine person who cared an awful lot about a lot of people."

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