On the evening of February 4, GM Lou Lamoriello galvanized the fanbase and his slumping team behind the explosive Russian sniper Ilya Kovalchuk, the league’s most prolific scorer since 2004; and while Kovalchuk did not deliver the astronomical offensive production the Devils hoped for and needed, he did provide flashes of brilliance and a boatload of heart, something his teammates sorely lacked during their swift playoff exit.
Kovalchuk wasn’t flawless by any means, though. He frequently turned over the puck on the powerplay, and his insistence on skating through the entire opposing team was often met by pokechecks and groans from wide-open teammates. Yet his persistence and physicality was admirable, particularly considering the rest of the team looked nauseatingly indifferent. Kovalchuk’s ten goals were not enough to revitalize the Devils’ offense, but he was a point-per-game player in twenty seven regular season games and five playoff contests.