Kovalchuk Retires… Wait, WHAT???!!!

Kovalchuk

Ilya Kovalchuk announces his retirement from the NHL. He leaves $77 million on the table and heads back to Russia, where one can only assume he will play in the KHL. No one leaves the NHL to go play in the KHL because the hockey is better, it always comes down to $$.

NHL Roundup: A look at Saturday’s games (The Canadian Press)

The Atlanta Thrashers are doing just fine without Ilya Kovalchuk, and they emphatically hammered that point home on Saturday night.

Boulton’s hat trick leads Thrashers over Devils (The Canadian Press)

ATLANTA - Ilya Kovalchuk doesn't want to discuss the Atlanta Thrashers' success when his New Jersey Devils are in disarray.

Kovalchuk scores 2 as Devils top Coyotes (The Canadian Press)

NEWARK, N.J. - Ilya Kovalchuk sensed something different about the New Jersey Devils before they faced the Phoenix Coyotes.

Kovalchuk scores 2, Brodeur and Devils top Coyotes (AP)

Ilya Kovalchuk sensed something different about the New Jersey Devils before they faced the Phoenix Coyotes. It suddenly didn't matter that they had dropped five straight and six of seven. Ilya Kovalchuk snapped out of a five-game drought by scoring two goals, his first multiple goal game of the season, and carried the Devils to a 3-0 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday night.

Odds of a Devils’ Stanley Cup Win

Fans of the New Jersey Devils have had a lot to celebrate over the past few regular seasons. They’ve been one of the most dominant teams on the ice leading up the playoffs, giving the home-team faithful months of chest-painting, white-knuckled, devil-shouting opportunities.

When the Stanley Cup Playoffs roll around, however, the Devils have a nagging little habit of being a habitual one-and-done squad.

What are the odds that all changes this year? It’s still very early in the NHL season, but based on the offseason moves, the current momentum the team is carrying, and the weight of the Devils’ competition, it’s the perfect time to lay down the lines and to call things like they are.

New Jersey has an extremely talented team. With their 38-year-old lock-down, never-say-die staple goalie, Martin Brodeur, the Devils rarely have to put up big offensive numbers to win. And forward Ilya Kovalchuk was a great addition when he came along halfway through last season.

They’ve also won four of the last five Atlantic Division titles. But don’t risk it all just yet. This isn’t a casino online; we’re talking about hockey. Sure, the Devils are regular season juggernauts, but out of those four division wins, they’ve only won two playoff series and, out of five straight postseason appearances, haven’t made it past the first round in three years.

Kovalchuk couldn’t get the Devils over the hump last year. Some say the mid-season acquisition was the reason, and that things will flow more smoothly this year. But it’s hard to forget that five-game beat-down New Jersey took from the Flyers.

Overall, the Pittsburgh Penguins are favored to win the Atlantic this year, at -150, but are essentially a .500 team to date. This does leave the door open for New Jersey to knuckle-up and handle business in the regular season, surpassing their +300 odds and taking down the title again, but they have to prove it out on the ice.

To get to the Stanley Cup Finals, we’re looking at a completely different set of odds. The fact that the Devils fall short year after year has to be factored in, even if you’re approaching it through pro-Devil bias. The odds of hitting a big win playing slot online are better; New Jersey is +1500 to get to the Finals.

Nothing is outside the realm of possibility. New Jersey is a great team with a few weak runs on their schedule that could bode extremely well. However, the team has to show up during the playoffs and prove that they’re worthy of a Stanley Cup. Until then, all the odds in the world won’t help the Devils.