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. --S.C.
( 1 Best - 30 Worst )
POWER PLAY 15
PENALTY KILLING 5
G.M. AND COACH 1
Even with a revamped backline, the Devils' defense will be
stifling and will slow games to a crawl when necessary. At 39,
Scott Stevens is still the unquestioned leader of the team....
The Devils have an unusual number of small but gifted and strong
players--F's John Madden, Sergei Brylin, Scott Gomez and Brian
Gionta and defenseman Brian Rafalski. It proves that size isn't
everything.... Martin Brodeur is the league's top goaltender: