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Why New Jersey will win the Cup

by Mike G. Morreale /

There's reason for optimism if you're a New Jersey Devils fan entering the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Big Why: The Devils also have three 30-goal scorers at their disposal. That's something the organization hadn't produced in nine seasons.

Ilya Kovalchuk
Ilya Kovalchuk
Left Wing - NJD
GOALS: 37 | ASST: 46 | PTS: 83
SOG: 310 | +/-: -9

Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and David Clarkson all surpassed the 30-goal mark this season and four players topped 50-plus points in Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Parise and rookie Adam Henrique.

Speaking of Henrique, the 22-year-old versatile forward certainly had a coming-out party in his first NHL season. Not only did Henrique finish among the League's top three rookies in points, but he gained valuable experience centering Parise and Kovalchuk in the absence of Travis Zajac earlier this season. He also ranked second on the team in faceoff wins behind Elias.

The recent return of Zajac, who has a pair of 60-point seasons and missed most of the season with a nagging Achilles injury, is just starting to pay dividends centering Parise and Kovalchuk. One other area the team will benefit from Zajac's presence is on faceoffs -- he finished the season with better than a 55-percent success rate and that will certainly carry over into the postseason as he continues to regain his strength.

The Devils are a tad bigger and tougher entering this postseason than in recent years, with the likes of hard-hitting defensemen and shot blockers Anton Volchenkov and Bryce Salvador, and forwards Clarkson Ryan Carter, Dainius Zubrus and Alexei Ponikarovsky in the mix.

The team has also overcome plenty of adversity this season, something it most certainly will face at some point in the playoffs.

One other area that cannot be overlooked and where New Jersey will likely hold a significant edge on any playoff opponent is on the penalty kill. The team finished the year tops in the NHL with its record 89.6 percent success rate on the man disadvantage. On top of that, the team had 15 shorthanded goals -- which also led the League.

The Big Uh-Oh: Martin Brodeur, the legendary 39-year-old goalie hasn't won a playoff series in four

Martin Brodeur
Martin Brodeur
Goalie - NJD
RECORD: 31-21-4
GAA: 2.41 | SVP: 0.908
seasons, but there have been flashes of the old Brodeur in 2011-12. He might also have added motivation knowing he is in the final year of his contract. But, there is no denying that he has had some serious hiccups in his most recent playoff outings, including a painful loss to Carolina a few years ago.

Also, this team lacks a ton of big-game experience as only four players have won the Stanley Cup. Its coach is making his first playoff appearance.

Final Argument: While thre are warts on this team for sure, it still did amass 100 points to make its case as an elite club. Plus, unlike past editions of the Devils, this club has the ability to score goals at any time -- led by the game-changing ability of Kovalchuk. No longer are the Devils in a life-and-death battle just to get to three goals.

As a result, the Devils are in a great position to post a few upsets and win its fourth Stanley Cup since 1995.

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