During the offseason, The Hockey Writers will be doing a ten-part series on the success stories of the 2013-14 New Jersey Devils. Despite missing the postseason for the second consecutive spring, the Devils had a memorable season. The second success story is about NHL legend Jaromir Jagr and his first season with Jersey’s Team.
The Kladno, Czechoslovakia, native brought 1,391 games of NHL experience along with 1,688 points into his first season with the Devils. Taken fifth overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft, he was one of only two players remaining in the NHL that were taken in that draft, the other being Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur. The Devils, including Head Coach Peter DeBoer, did not know what to expect from the 41 year-old winger but what they received was a season that will go down in Devils lore. He put up 24 goals, led the team in assists and points, with 43 and 67 respectively, was the team leader in game-winning goals with 6, and played in all 82 games. He also had a +/- of +16 which led the team while no other Devil had higher than a +3. Along the way he passed a number of all-time greats of the game in all three offensive categories. Jagr is also a finalist for the 2013-14 Bill Masterton Trophy, awarded “to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”
After being held scoreless in his first two games as a Devil after not playing in an any exhibition games Jagr broke through with three points in two games. Against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place on October 7, Jagr skated to the slot and let loose a wrister for his first goal as a Devil. The following night he opened the scoring again and then picked up his first assist as a Devil on a goal by fellow Czech Patrik Elias against the Vancouver Canucks.
From October 19 through October 29 Jagr registered a point in five consecutive games, the first of three streaks of at least five games or more this season. During the final game of the streak Jagr stole the puck from Tampa Bay Lightning winger Martin St. Louis and then scored on goaltender Ben Bishop for his first goal at the Prudential Center with the Devils. The goal would hold up as the game-winner in the Devils 2-1 win.
Watch as Jaromir Jagr lights the lamp for the first time at the Prudential Center as a member of Jersey’s Team:
On November 16 on home ice against the Penguins he picked up his first two-goal game with the Devils and two games later he would tie longtime teammate Mario Lemieux with his 690th goal at the Los Angeles Kings. After Marek Zidlicky entered the Kings zone he passed it to Jagr who picked up the game-winning goal from the edge of the crease. The goal was also Jagr’s 18th career goal in overtime, an NHL record.
Three games later Jagr would pass Lemieux in goals in the first game of a home-and-home set with the Carolina Hurricanes. Two nights later in the latter game, Jagr notched a goal and pair of assists in the Devils 5-2 win over the Hurricanes. Jagr’s goal, his 692nd, tied him with Steve Yzerman for the eighth most in the history of the NHL.
From the Devils 4-3 overtime win at Madison Square Garden on December 7 through the Devils victory at the Washington Capitals on December 21 Jagr picked up at least one point in seven consecutive games, a season high. During the streak, he would pass Yzerman in goals on December 18 when he scored against the Ottawa Senators at the Prudential Center. More importantly, his goal was the 122nd game-winning goal of his career, a new NHL record. He had been tied with Gordie Howe.
On December 21, Jagr scored a goal and added two assists as the Devils rallied from a 4-2 third period deficit to defeat the Capitals on the road 5-4 in overtime. Jagr’s goal, his 13th of the season and 694th of his career, tied him with another NHL legend, none other than Devils nemesis Mark Messier.
The Devils and Florida Panthers battled into overtime on January 11 and with 2.1 seconds remaining in overtime Zidlicky blasted the puck past goaltender Tim Thomas. The primary assist belonged to Jagr and with the assist Jagr passed Lemieux and moved into seventh place on the all-time NHL scoring list with his 1,724th point. Jagr would pass Messier for the seventh most goals in NHL history on January 14 at the Montreal Canadiens.
From January 18 through January 31, Jagr notched ten points in seven games. Then at Nassau Coliseum on March 1, Jagr scored the game-winning goal in the Devils 6-1 triumph over the New York Islanders. The goal was the 700th of Jagr’s career. Travis Zajac, Jagr’s center for the majority of the season, picked up the primary assist.
On March 31 at the Prudential Center, Zajac had a night to remember as he recorded the first hat trick of his NHL career in the Devils 6-3 victory over the Panthers. Jagr picked up an assist on two of Zajac’s goals, coupled with Zajac to record an assist on Ryane Clowe’s goal, and scored a goal of his own when he roofed the puck past Dan Ellis for his 24th and final goal of the season. Jagr’s four-point night was a season-high.
In the Devils season finale against the Boston Bruins, Jagr picked up a pair of assists on Zajac’s goal that tied the game and Zidlicky’s game-winner. With his two assists he tied and passed Howe for the eighth spot in NHL history in career assists with 1,050.
The 2013-14 season showed that even at an advanced age Jagr was still capable of performing at a high level. His leadership on and off the ice and determination to be the best possible player was contagious as Zajac and Dainius Zubrus can attest. It did not go unnoticed and Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello knew that the pending unrestricted free agent belonged in New Jersey for at least one more season. Tom Gulitti reported that an official announcement will take place shortly stating that Jagr is officially signed for the 2014-15 campaign.