‘Devils in the Details’
By Sean Hartnett
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Throughout the preseason and into their 0-4-3 start, many questioned whether the New Jersey Devils possessed the necessary talent to challenge for a playoff seed in the newly configured Eastern Conference.
On Saturday night, the spirited Devils finally earned their first win of the 2013-14 season by trouncing the rival Rangers at Prudential Center. The one-sided 4-0 victory lifted the spirits of Devils fans, who were openly pondering whether it was time to overhaul an aging roster and questioning whether head coach Pete DeBoer’s tenure was nearing an end.
Questions still remain about the athleticism and durability of the Devils’ roster. One thing’s for sure: DeBoer will squeeze everything he can out of this group. The players are extremely loyal to their head coach. They trust DeBoer’s even-keeled mentality and embrace the grinding tendencies that he demands.
Center Adam Henrique was effusive in his praise for DeBoer following Saturday’s victory at “The Rock.”
“He’s been great in here,” Henrique said. “He’s always been positive. It starts right with the coaching staff. They work hard every day, and they bring that positive energy — and it goes right through the team. Through the tough losses, he still sees the positives. There’s always areas to improve. He keeps the mood in here light,and he’s done a great job so far.”
The Devils did not take their foot off the gas Saturday night. Whether the score was 1-0 or 4-0, they kept charging. It was something that the rival Blueshirts were clearly lacking as Rangers’ head coach Alain Vigneault admitted his team did not have enough “pushback.”
Center Travis Zajac felt the Devils came out with the correct level of urgency and did not let up for the entire 60 minutes.
“We came out with some jump,” Zajac said. “We got a couple early, and we didn’t stop after that. For us to hold onto the lead and get Schneider a shutout, I think that’s big too for our confidence.”
Henrique echoed similar thoughts.
“I thought we played the right way for a full 60 minutes,” Henrique said. “Even going in with a 4-0 lead in the third, it’s still important to play the right way. We knew if we did that, we’d come out and be on top again.”
DeBoer was relieved for his players, who have been putting in consistent, determined efforts during games and practices.
“They didn’t lay down. They kept working at it,” DeBoer said.
There’s finally a sense of relief for DeBoer and the Devils, knowing that their hard work has finally resulted in a victory.
“It feels great. I’m glad for the players,” DeBoer said. “These guys have put in a lot time. They have a lot of pride in their own game. They worked hard at it.”
Hard work is what you’re going to get from the Devils. You can question whether this team is stocked with enough natural talent, or debate over whether the Devils are too reliant on aging veterans.
What’s clear is that the Devils have the right mentality every time they hit the ice and a strong measure of belief. That’s an invaluable asset for any team to have.
Follow Sean on Twitter @HartnettHockey.
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