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Hartnett: Devils Are Back Where They Belong

'Devils In The Details'
By Sean Hartnett
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After lifting the Stanley Cup in 2003, the Devils' dynasty was expected to continue into the modern era. Martin Brodeur, Patrik Elias, Scott Niedermayer, Jamie Langenbrunner and Brian Rafalski were all in their prime years.

Over the next couple seasons, Zach Parise, David Clarkson and Travis Zajac came through the system and a burden was placed upon this next generation to keep the Devils' winning traditions alive.

Through free agent departures and the struggle to cope with the salary cap era, this group failed to reach their full potential.

That is, until now.  After many facelifts to their roster and a coaching merry-go-round, the Devils' new core has finally reached the promise land of the Stanley Cup Finals.

"We wanted to show everybody. I believe my whole career here, the Devils have always belonged as one of the top teams. Our goal was to go out there and play our game and show everyone where this organization belongs," a proud David Clarkson revealed following the Game 6 victory.

Brodeur and Elias are the lone survivors of that 2003 team. At 40, Brodeur enjoys being able to watch players who've come through the system develop into stars.

He spoke of his joy to see Parise and Clarkson reach this stage but also pointed out that the Devils' have a new star in rookie Adam Henrique who scored the overtime winner.

Adam Henrique 2nd OT goal, handshakes. NJ Devils vs Florida Panthers 4/26/12 NHL Hockey by Fred Murtz on YouTube

"For me, the stage of my career where I'm at, I think the beauty of still playing hockey, is watching these guys grow into superstars. And we've got one right here beside me (Henrique) that won, that scored some big goals for us and another big one today," Brodeur explained during his post-game press conference.

Clarkson credited Henrique for his contributions during the season and his impact during the Devils' playoff run.

"It's great. Henrique's played unbelievable. He's been great all season. There's a reason why he's up for rookie of the year. He's had two overtime winners for us. He's been outstanding, can't say enough good things about him," Clarkson stated.

Henrique has been a rarity in finding immediate playoff success, but the path to the Stanley Cup Finals took significantly longer for Parise who remembered when he was first introduced to the Devils' proud expectations.

"The year I got drafted, after the draft, we went down and they had the Stanley Cup there. All the scouts and everyone was having a big party, and you get the sense that you were going into something pretty special," he mentioned during his post-game press conference.

"Unfortunately, we didn't have great playoff success since then, but you're playing for an organization that takes a lot of pride in winning and doing things the right way. They do a great job of building a team, a team that works and a team that's tough to play against."

He continued, "Now, everything... I mean it might have taken a little while. All of a sudden you play seven, eight years and you haven't made it past the second round, but it's definitely worth it. It was worth the wait to get here."

Parise and many of his Devils' teammates have waited a long time to reach the Stanley Cup Finals.  Now, it's their time to take advantage of their shot at lifting Lord Stanley.

Has the Devils' new core finally lived up to their expectations?  Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.


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