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N.J. in a Devil of a hole

Can the Devils continue on their upward trajectory and get past the tough Hurricanes in the first round? (Getty Images)

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Can the Devils continue on their upward trajectory and get past the tough Hurricanes in the first round? (Getty Images)

It’s hard to imagine a team finishing with a franchise-record 51 wins and the league’s fifth-best record being in the midst of a downer, but that’s where the Devils are heading into the playoffs.

New Jersey lost six in a row before winning four of their last five to end the season. But of those four victories, only Carolina was a playoff team and the Devils barely squeaked by bottom-feeders Tampa Bay and Ottawa and lost to the Maple Leafs.

New Jersey plays the Hurricanes in Round 1 and will be in tough. The Canes come at opponents in waves, averaging nearly three goals-per-game since Paul Maurice took over behind the bench Dec. 3; they’ve put up five-plus goals nine times – with two nine-goal games – during that time.

New Jersey will have to turn it around quickly if they hope to get anywhere beginning Wednesday.

The Hockey News Power Rankings will return next season.

THE HOCKEY NEWS POWER RANKINGS
RK.
TEAM
LW
OVERALL
L10
THE SCOOP
1
Boston Bruins
1
53-19-11
8-2-0
Boston made a strong push for first overall and showed Montreal in the final week of the regular season what to expect physically in Round 1
2
Pittsburgh Penguins
4
45-28-9
7-2-1
Malkin clinches Art Ross becoming the 13th Penguin in the past 21 seasons to do so
3
San Jose Sharks
3
53-18-11
5-4-1
Losses to the Coyotes and Kings to close out the season are concerning, but the Sharks are back to full strength with the return of regulars, including captain Marleau
4
Carolina Hurricanes
2
45-30-7
8-2-0
Losses to the Sabres and Devils kept Canes from home ice in first round, but they're 13-3-0 since the beginning of March and are the hottest team in the league; Erik Cole has 15 points in 17 games with Carolina
5
Vancouver Canucks
8
45-27-1
6-3-1
Wrapped-up Northwest title with three wins to finish the season; Sedins both finish with 82 points, third season in a row they've been 1-2 in Canucks scoring
6
Detroit Red Wings
5
51-21-1
3-6-1
Franzen is the newest long-term Wing with 11-year, $43.5-million contract
7
Washington Capitals
7
50-24-8
6-2-2
Ovie wins second Rocket Richard Trophy, his 528 shots are second most in NHL history behind Phil Esposito's 550 in 1970-71
8
Chicago Blackhawks
10
46-24-12
7-2-1
First playoff-berth in five seasons, first 100-point season since 1992-93
9
St. Louis Blues
12
41-31-10
8-1-1
No goaltender has more wins than Chris Mason in the past four weeks
10
Anaheim Ducks
9
42-33-7
7-2-1
Looks like Jonas Hiller will be the starter for the playoffs
11
New Jersey Devils
6
51-27-4
4-5-1
Devils' late-season slide continued, although they won their final two games; will Patrik Elias be healthy for a tough first round series versus Carolina?
12
Calgary Flames
11
46-30-6
4-6-0
Late-season swoon cost Flames the Northwest Division and home-ice advantage; Iginla finished with lowest point total in three years
13
Philadelphia Flyers
13
44-27-11
4-5-1
Loss to Rangers on final day of season cost Flyers home ice in first round; Jeff Carter led the team in goals, points and plus-minus
14
Buffalo Sabres
21
41-32-9
7-2-1
Goalie Ryan Miller went 5-2-0 after returning from injury in late March, too late to propel Sabres into post-season
15
Florida Panthers
17
41-30-11
6-3-1
Panthers finish 14th overall, but miss final playoff spot in East on tiebreaker
16
Columbus Blue Jackets
15
41-31-10
3-3-4
Columbus' worst power play in the NHL meets Detroit's No. 1 power play in Round 1
17
Montreal Canadiens
16
41-30-11
5-3-2
Lose their final four games and just squeak into post-season; no Markov and a battered Schneider means Habs are in tough versus Bruins
18
Minnesota Wild
18
40-33-9
6-3-1
Gaborik returns with 18 points in Wild's final 11 games; team misses playoffs by two points, coach Jacques Lemaire steps down
19
New York Rangers
20
43-3-9
5-4-1
Without a 60-point scorer, it begins and ends with goalie Henrik Lundqvist in the playoffs
20
Nashville Predators
14
40-34-8
5-4-1
The Predators' post-season dream died on the vine with a 10th-place finish in the West; Pekka Rinne finishes sixth in GAA and ninth in save percentage
21
Phoenix Coyotes
23
36-39-7
6-4-0
Shane Doan led Yotes in goals by 16 and points by 27…ugh
22
Atlanta Thrashers
24
35-41-6
6-4-0
Thrashers finished with the 11th-best power play, but the 29th-best penalty kill
23
Toronto Maple Leafs
27
34-35-13
5-5-0
Signings of NCAA stars Tyler Bozak and Christian Hanson add depth to woeful system
24
Dallas Stars
25
36-35-11
3-4-3
Normally stingy Stars gave up the sixth-most goals-per-game in the league this season; rookie Fabian Brunnstrom disappoints with 17 goals and 29 points
25
Los Angeles Kings
26
34-37-11
4-5-1
Talented, youthful Kings expected to be big trade market players this off-season; looking for veteran scoring presence
26
Edmonton Oilers
19
38-35-9
3-7-0
Big steps back for Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and Dustin Penner; Sheldon Souray ties for team lead with 23 goals
27
Ottawa Senators
22
36-35-11
4-5-1
Banking on Pascal Leclaire to be the No. 1 goaltender the team hasn't had since Dominik Hasek; will Spezza and Heatley both be Senators when the puck drops again in October?
28
New York Islanders
28
26-47-9
2-7-1
Virtual American League team for final weeks of the season assured the Isles of finishing last overall
29
Colorado Avalanche
29
32-45-5
1-6-3
Poor signings and boatload of injuries added up to a miserable season in Denver; GM Francois Giguere paid with his job
30
Tampa Bay Lightning
30
24-40-18
1-7-2
Loser point kept Lightning from last overall; did its best to get there with nine losses in a row to close out the season

The Hockey News ranks the teams 1-30 each Monday based on a combination of last week’s play and a squad’s overall outlook.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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