-- The numbers show that the most successful teams are the ones that can win away from home. And with nine straight road wins to open the season, the New Jersey Devils
have blazed their way to the top of the Eastern Conference.
They enter Monday's game against the Philadelphia Flyers
at the Wachovia Center with a chance to tie the NHL mark of 10 in a row, held by the 2006-07 Buffalo Sabres
That Sabres team used their 10-game road win streak to open the season as fuel to win the Presidents' Trophy and earn a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals.
How far can this Devils team go?
"It's amazing, but it doesn't surprise me who it is," Versus television analyst and former NHL player/coach Ed Olczyk told NHL.com. "You look at the personnel -- when you have the consistency with Marty (Brodeur) in there and you have two great young players in (Zach) Parise and (Travis) Zajac, and they've been banged up. That's probably the thing that makes it even more intriguing. Look at the regulars that have been out of the lineup a lot of this run on the road."
Flyers forward Danny Briere
, who was on that 2006-07 Sabres team, said during that team's season-opening streak, and after, his team felt it could go into any building on any night and come out with two points.
"It's like being in a zone," he told NHL.com. "Some players get on a hot streak and you feel going into games that you're going to get so many chances, you're going to find ways to score goals. It's the same thing with teams sometimes. You get on a roll, you're playing loose, you're not afraid to make mistakes. That's the way they're feeling right now."
And like a snowball rolling downhill, the more any team wins, the better it's going to feel about itself. And that goes even more on the road. Last season, Detroit and Boston tied for the League lead with 24 road wins -- Boston finished atop the Eastern Conference standings, while the Red Wings advanced to the Stanley Cup Final. In 2007-08, the Red Wings were second in the League with 25 victories en route to winning the Stanley Cup. In 2006-07, Detroit (29), Buffalo (28) and Anaheim (26) finished in the top five in road wins and all made the conference finals.
"Success is important," Brodeur said. "Doesn't matter when you do it in a season, but sometimes when you streak, when something (bad) happens you have a cushion. Being able to put games together, it's similar to what playoff hockey is like. You have to be able to put a lot of good games together to move on. We're slowly building that up and hopefully we'll keep that going to the end of the season."
But there will be lulls -- no team is going to go 41-0 on the road. And when that lull comes, the Devils can use their road win streak -- no matter how far it goes -- as a great touchstone.
"You can use it down the road as a real rallying point that maybe when you do hit a little bit of a rut and you can't win games, you just go back to that and know that you can get out of it," said Olczyk.
Flyers coach John Stevens
said what he's seen from the Devils is the sameness of their game, which works in their favor.
"I think Jersey plays the same whether they're at home or on the road," he said. "They play the same style. They've got an identity they keep. Doesn't matter if they're home or away, they're going to play the same way."
Not true, however, said Brodeur. The future Hall of Famer said it's been the game-to-game adjustments implemented by coach Jacques Lemaire
that has powered their streak.
"We play a team differently every team we play on the road," Brodeur said. "We don't let them match what we're going to do; we're matching them, as far as how their power play is, if we have to tweak our penalty killing. We went on a streak where we were killing every penalty, and the next game we played against Pittsburgh and we changed everything because of a certain element they bring to the table.
"Tonight, Jacques will prepare us exactly for the Flyers. And just that preparation that it's against every team we play, and it's not get our game together and let them adjust. It's kind of the opposite. We did that with (former coach Brent) Sutter, the hell with everybody else we're going to do our thing. Us, we respect the top guys, we'll look at (Mike) Richards, at Briere, what they do and what they could bring to the table and see if we can adjust it and limit some of the things they could do to dominate the game."
Whatever is working, the Devils would be wise to keep doing it. Olczyk is a big believer in the mental side of the game, and right now the Devils are excelling in that phase.
"Belief is an important thing, not only in life but in sports, too," he said. "The belief is something that can take you for a long time."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org.