Once again, the New Jersey Devils did not make the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the 2021 season. You probably know that already. However, neither of the Devils’ two most hated rivals also not made it. You can (probably) enjoy one of the greatest tournaments in sports without worrying about having any success rubbed in the face of our favorite team. The passion, the intensity, the action, and the drama of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is rarely matched. This year’s version could be especially dramatic as the first two rounds will be match-ups that each team would be familiar with given it is within the division and the division-only regular season schedule.
The schedule for the first round of the playoffs is here at NHL.com. With the North Division finishing up their regular season schedule later than everyone else, it is a bit staggered. Nevertheless, it begins tonight with the Washington-Boston series. The other series will begin in the coming days. The latest the first round will go is May 30.
While the Devils are not in it, there are two teams that would impact the team’s draft picks depending on how they perform.
1. The Islanders. Thanks to the Travis Zajac & Kyle Palmieri trade back in April, the Devils own their first round pick. Thanks to last year’s Andy Greene trade, the Devils also own their second round pick. If you want these picks to be as high as possible - 21st and 53rd overall - then you want them to go no further than the second round. If they make it to the third round, then the first round pick will drop to
28th 29th at best. If they do go all the way, a conditional fourth round pick in 2022 gets upgraded to a third - but the first would become 31st or 32nd overall. I do not think that is worth cheering for. So it is best for the Devils that the Isles get bounced in the first or second round. Sorry, Zajac & Palmieri. This is business.
Will they get bounced out early? I think so. I do not have a lot of hope for the Isles. The Islanders have the second-worst road record in the East and they are starting on the road against Pittsburgh, who has the best home record in the East. Pittsburgh, who now has a healthy Evgeni Malkin, went 6-2-0 against the Isles this season and were the only team in the East to average over 3 goals scored per game against the Isles. As much as the Islanders have made a point about beating expectations, I think this match-up really sucks for them. But we shall see. Outstanding goaltending tends to flip series on their heads. (P.S. Getting Boston or Washington in Round 2 is also a bad match-up for the Isles.)
05/26 UPDATE: The Islanders beat the Penguins in six games. Ilya Sorokin was hot. Tristan Jarry was not. If you want the Isles’ first round pick to not fall to the bottom four spots in this year’s draft, then you want Boston to win Round 2. Simple as.
06/09 UPDATE: The Islanders also beat the Bruins in six games. Boston had a great top line...and that was it. Tuukka Rask was solved. Second periods were rough. No matter how much complaining there could be had about the refs, the Isles prevailed. The Devils’ second first round pick will now be at the end of the first round; it can be no better than 29th (or 28th if you don’t count Arizona). Great.
06/25 UPDATE: The Islanders took the Tampa Bay Lightning to the distance in the third round. But the Lightning prevailed with a 1-0 win in Game 7 in Tampa Bay. Nassau Coliseum did get one last legendary playoff moment before it closed with the Game 6 comeback and OT win to force the seventh game. But it’s over. The Islanders are out. This means the Devils’ second first round pick will be 29th overall. Which is technically 28th because Arizona’s pick is forfeited.
2. The Oilers. Trading Dmitry Kulikov to Edmonton returned a conditional fourth round pick in 2022. If Edmonton wins a round, then this pick will be upgraded to a third round pick. It is not much but it is something.
Edmonton will start their first round series at home against Winnipeg. Unlike the Islanders, the Oilers have a great match-up in the Jets. They went 7-2-0 against them this season, the Jets’ least success All 7 wins were in regulation. They averaged over 3.7 goals per game against the Jets. Connor McDavid is literally the best player in the world right now and Leon Draisaitl is a Kurri-like compliment to him. As much as there are real concerns about 39-year old Mike Smith holding up in net (Suggestion: Get a How Would Martin Brodeur Do This? bracelet, Mike; it couldn’t hurt.) and the team’s depth, I think Edmonton can prevail in a series against Winnipeg. After then, who knows. They did not do so well against Toronto or Montreal. But it would not matter with respect to that conditional pick, so I do not care. It is simple for the discerning Devils fan: Just beat the Jets, please,
05/25 UPDATE: They did not beat the Jets. They did not even win one game. Each game was close but they lost all four. Edmonton got swept by Winnipeg. The 2022 fourth round pick will stay as a fourth round pick.
Technically, a final four of a non-Islanders team, St. Louis, Nashville, and Montreal would be the absolute best case scenario as it would push the Isles pick up in the first round to 18th. But that is incredibly unlikely to happen. Any of the other match-ups are basically free of stakes for the Devils. You can enjoy them however you wish.
You can also enjoy and comment and react and rant about 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs - games, news, plays, etc. - here in this Open Post. Not anywhere else on the site, please. If it is about the postseason, then it goes here. As usual, all site rules apply for this Open Post. There will be a separate Open Post for the World Championships, which will begin next week and feature Matt Tennyson and Matt Hellickson of all players. Enjoy the postseason. I’ll update this on an as-needed basis.