If your team has won a Stanley Cup, chances are that season was most special to you. However, there are seasons in which one can look back on fondly, even if the end result made for a bittersweet taste, rather than drinking from Lord Stanley’s Cup. If the 1987-88 season marked the arrival on the NHL map for the New Jersey Devils, then the 1993-94 campaign was one that had them knocking on the doorstep of a dynasty.
It was a year (back when they played 84 games) that saw New Jersey reach new heights. Those Devils became the first squad in franchise history to register a 100-point season, finishing with a ledger of 47-25-12 and 106 points in all. They posted the second best record in all of hockey and their plus 86 goal differential was tops in the NHL. Leading the Devils in scoring that year was Scott Stevens and his 78 points. Emerging in net for those Devils would be Calder Trophy winner, Martin Brodeur. The first year of the Jacques Lemaire era, would be quite memorable.
Right out of the gate, New Jersey flourished with a 7-0 start. New Jersey would follow that up with four additional winning streaks of four consecutive victories.
When the Stanley Cup playoff rolled around, the Devils played some epic battles.
A first round series against the Buffalo Sabres, would define a decade of goaltending prowess. Dominik Hasek fired the first salvo, recording a 30 save shutout in a Game 1 victory. Brodeur and company would take the next two, with a pair of 2-1 victories. After trading 5-3 wins in games 4 and 5, a 4OT contest at Buffalo, saw Hasek make 70 saves and Brodeur 49, in a 1-0, Game 6 win for the Sabres. In Game 7 at New Jersey, goals by Bruce Driver and Claude Lemieux, made the difference, as the Devils advanced with a 2-1 win.
In their second round series against the Boston Bruins, a pair of heartbreaking one-goal losses, resulted in a change in net. From there, the Devils reeled off four straight victories to capture the series in six. A streak that saw Chris Terreri win three of the four contests, going 3-0 with a goals-against average of 1.95. The other victory saw Brodeur capture his first career playoff shutout, stopping all 22 shots in a 2-0, Game 5 win.
New Jersey carried that momentum into Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals at Madison Square Garden. A 2OT winner by Stephane Richer, gave the Devils a 4-3 victory over the New York Rangers. After losing the next two games, the Devils would bounce back with wins in games four and five, taking a 3-2 series lead. Although they dropped Game 6 at the Meadowlands, the Devils pushed the Rangers to the limit in Game 7. A Valeri Zelepukin tally in the waning seconds of the third period, knotted the contest at one. However, despite making 46 saves, Brodeur couldn’t make a 47th and the Devils fell in 2OT, 2-1.
It wasn’t to be for the Devils but that season did lay the foundation and would serve as a motivator of things to come.