Just one year after missing the postseason entirely, the New Jersey Devils are the Eastern Conference representatives in the Stanley Cup Finals.
They defeated two division rivals on their way to the finals, and dispatched of a team who won their first division title. Each round has had its share of both new and familiar "clutch" players, and the run has put a revitalized Martin Brodeur on display.
New Jersey is looking to become the first team since the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes to win the Stanley Cup the year after missing the playoffs. Here is a look at how they got here:
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: New Jersey Defeats Florida Panthers, 4-3
The upstart Panthers gave New Jersey all they could handle during the first round. Florida continually fought back from deficits in a game, and pushed the Devils to the brink of elimination. New Jersey battled back from elimination twice, winning Game 6 and 7. Adam Henrique played the hero, scoring in double overtime of the final game to push the Devils into the Eastern Conference semifinals for the first time since 2007.
Eastern Conference Semifinals: New Jersey Defeats Philadelphia Flyers, 4-1
The first of two division rivals New Jersey would face in the playoffs, the Flyers came into the second round series the favorites to advance to the Stanley Cup. They made easy work of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round, dispatching them in six games. New Jersey, coming off the seven-game series, couldn't keep up in Game 1, and lost when Danny Briere scored in overtime. The series, however, was all New Jersey after that. A mix of an effective forecheck and disciplined play unwound Philadelphia, and the Devils won four straight to send their rivals home.
Eastern Conference Finals: New Jersey Defeats New York Rangers, 4-2
The Hudson River Rivals clashed in the Eastern Conference Finals, where the two teams hadn't met since 1994. That year, Mark Messier made his famous guarantee, and the Rangers twice avoided elimination before defeating the Devils in double overtime of Game 7. Henrik Lundqvist, a Vezina and Hart finalist, cooled New Jersey in Game 1, posting a shutout. New Jersey rallied in Game 2, and the teams split the first two games at MSG.
Lundqvist would once again frustrate the Devils in Game 3, blanking them for the second time in the series. Game 4, however, was a turning point. The Devils hung four goals on New York in that game, evening the series. New Jersey went on to win the next two games, scoring at least three goals in each win. In the clincher, Henrique would once again play hero, scoring an overtime goal to sink the Rangers.
Despite being the sixth seed, New Jersey clinched home-ice advantage for the Finals. It's their first trip to the championship since 2003, and New Jersey is gunning for their fourth title.