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Devils are more than at home on the road

Sunday, 11.15.2009 / 3:30 PM / NHL Insider

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

The almost bashful look on Zach Parise's face explained a lot about how the New Jersey Devils feel about their near record-setting road success.

Don't look at me for a reason.

"I don't know," a smiling Parise told NHL.com. "I can't help you there."

Well, there's gotta be a reason, because on Monday in Philadelphia (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN2) the Devils, winners of eight straight overall, will try to tie the NHL record for road victories to start a season with their 10th in a row.

The Buffalo Sabres reeled off 10 straight road victories to start the 2006-07 season and Toronto did the same in 1993-94. Detroit owns the NHL record for consecutive road victories, putting together a 12-game streak in 2006 from March 1-April 15.

The Devils have already won in Pittsburgh and in Tampa twice. They also own victories in Ottawa, Boston, Washington, Florida and in New York against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

They have outscored the opposition, 29-15, including a pair of goals added on for shootout wins in their nine road games. At home, where they have reeled off four-straight wins after a 1-4 start, the Devils are even with 22 goals for and 22 goals against.

"Every game is played in the same size rink," said Parise, who has scored six of his 10 goals on the road. "I mean, there is no difference. Maybe sometimes we get booed less on the road than we do at home, but really, there's no difference. I think it's just coincidence."

Actually, it's not. The Devils can point to a few reasons why they have been better on the road than at home as a whole this season.

First off, you can make a strong case that the Devils' organizational philosophy is actually tailor-made for road hockey.

They have always played a simple game and don't concern themselves with being overly entertaining, so they don't feel the need to cater to the home crowd by trying to be fancy. They instead entertain when they win, which they do on a regular basis.

Entering this season, they had won only 26 more home games than road games this decade. It's an average of only 3.25 more home wins per season. That number has obviously bled down to 22 with their four-game discrepancy so far this season.

In 1998-99, the Devils won 28 road games as opposed to 19 at home. In two of their three Stanley Cup runs (1995 and 2000), the Devils set and then matched an NHL postseason record with 10 road wins. They are still the only team in history to win as many as 10 road games en route to a championship.

They also won 10 straight on the road in 2001 from Feb. 27 to April 7.

"We are built for road-type victories whether we're at home or on the road," defenseman Mike Mottau told NHL.com. "The organizational philosophy is five-man units and playing three zones with five guys. I think more often than not that will win a lot of games. It has been proven."

For this season in particular, we could also point to their special teams. On the road, the Devils' penalty kill is 90 percent (27-for-30), which is the best in the NHL. They are 79.3 percent (23-for-29) at home. On the road, the Devils' power play is nearly 27 percent (8-for-30), which is third best in the League. They are 16.7 percent (7-for-42) at home.

New Jersey has also scored the first goal in six of their nine road games as opposed to four of their nine home games.

"I think on the road we pay attention to the details a little bit more closely and we're stronger in the areas we need to be in, either on the blue lines or getting pucks deep," Mottau said. "As they say, you're playing a road game and that means just being sharper in all of those areas."

It usually means playing freer and looser, too, because you're not concerned about matching lines as you would be at home. The Devils, though, insist that's not the case this season because they haven't been overly concerned about matching in any of their games.

"We are built for road-type victories whether we're at home or on the road. The organizational philosophy is five-man units and playing three zones with five guys. I think more often than not that will win a lot of games. It has been proven." -- Mike Mottau
"There are certain lines (coach Jacques Lemaire) wants against certain lines, but it's not like in years past where we had to have (John) Madden's line out against (Alex) Ovechkin or we couldn't play hockey anymore," Parise said. "We've gotten away from that, which I think is great. Now we all play against Ovechkin and (Sidney) Crosby whereas in past years we had to sprint off the ice when they got on and you were terrified."

Perhaps, then, the best explanation comes from defenseman Colin White, who somehow, with the use of many clichés, adequately explained the Devils' approach.

"You know what, we're playing each and every game just one game at a time," White told NHL.com. "We haven't spoken about home or away or any of that. It's just been get ready for this game, tonight, and then worry about what comes tomorrow tomorrow-type of deal. It's obviously been good."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com

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One player does not make your team. One player can help your team, but one player does not make your team. We're not a bare-bones organization.

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