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3 NEW JERSEY Devils
Stephen Cannella
October 13, 2003
The defensive-minded defending champions return virtually intact, and that may be enough
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October 13, 2003

3 New Jersey Devils

The defensive-minded defending champions return virtually intact, and that may be enough

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SI RANKING
(1 BEST-30 WORST)

OFFENSE

13

DEFENSE

6

GOALTENDING

1

POWER PLAY

15

PENALTY KILLING

5

G.M. AND COACH

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In July, fresh from winning his first Stanley Cup, coach Pat Burns brought the trophy to his summer house in Magog, Que., to celebrate with friends and family, including his 90-year-old mother, Louise, who lives in a nursing home nearby. It was an emotional evening that even had the curmudgeonly Burns weeping at the sight of his mom caressing the Cup. But the Devils, some of whom objected to Burns's gruffness during his first year in New Jersey, shouldn't expect their coach to be cuddly now that he has a ring. "I won't change," says the 51-year-old Burns, whose Devils outlasted the Mighty Ducks in seven games to win the Cup. "I'll be just like I was."

The same goes for his team, which has lost only three mainstays from last year's championship squad: sixth defenseman Ken Daneyko to retirement and second-line center Joe Nieuwendyk and fourth-line wing Jim McKenzie to free agency. "Those are three vocal leaders," says wing Jamie Langenbrunner. "But we're fortunate to have a good group that knows how to win."

The formula, as usual, will be based on defense. Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens, Brian Rafalski and Colin White form two of the top blue line pairs in the league. The signature forward line is the checking unit led by center John Madden. "You win the Cup, but that's a month less you have to recover and prepare for this season," says Madden. "So we have to be more focused on playing to our strength."

That's especially important for a team of veterans that will be pushed by the speedy Senators, who took the Devils to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals. Goalie Martin Brodeur, 31, was awarded his first Vezina Trophy but lost the Conn Smythe as postseason MVP to Mighty Ducks netminder J.S. Giguere. "The system is weird when the winning team doesn't have the MVP," says the miffed Brodeur.

With Patrick Roy retired, Brodeur is the gold standard for big-game goaltenders. For that reason alone, the Devils will be difficult to dethrone.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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