When the New Jersey Devils signed Ondrej Palat to a five-year, $30 million contract in the summertime, they wanted him to help them make it into the NHL playoffs. Now that their wish came true, Coach Lindy Ruff will finally be able to use Palat when they play against the New York Rangers on Tuesday at the Prudential Center.
The playoffs will have important players like Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Dougie Hamilton and Vitek Vanecek. But the teammate they all call ‘Pally’ has the most experience in this kind of situation – he’s a pro! This former Tampa Bay forward already played 138 playoff games and scored 48 goals, plus 46 assists which adds up to 94 points. Altogether, his scoring puts him 119th overall in NHL playoff history.
Since 2013-14 season, Ondrej Palat has only had one season where he scored more than 20 goals. On Saturday, Ruff said: “When you do the right thing enough times and you’re at the right place, you will succeed. And that’s exactly what Ondrej has done.”
Ondrej Palat, a 32-year-old hockey player from the Czech Republic, had an unfortunately difficult first season in New Jersey. He needed surgery one month into the season, and only came back to playing in early January. In total, he made only 49 games, scoring 8 goals and 15 assists – which was his lowest season since 2012/13 when he only played 14 NHL games.
Palat said that he would’ve liked to have more goals and points, but he’s happy because now they are heading into the playoffs – “the real season”!
Palat said he doesn’t expect to score goals when he goes into a game. He’s just there to do whatever job the team needs from him like scoring some goals, blocking shots, or anything else that might help his team win. He doesn’t feel any pressure since he is more than happy to take on any role given to him.
Most of the players on the Devils’ team have never been in a playoffs game before. Players like Hughes, who had an excellent season with 43 goals and 99 points; Mercer with 27 goals; Hischier with 31; and Bratt with 32 goals – all have 5 or fewer playoff games under their belts.
Palat told them two important things about the playoffs: to enjoy it and understand that being there means they can win the Stanley Cup.
It’s been tough for Tampa Bay. Even though Palat has been around for six postseasons, it only took them until his seventh and eighth season to clinch the championship. Last year, they didn’t make it as they lost the Stanley Cup to Colorado Avalanche.
Palat said that not having enough playoff experience could be a problem.
He said they worked very hard for eight or seven years before they finally won the championship. Winning isn’t easy – sometimes no one wins, so it’s a big deal to win!
The Devils were working super hard this season since they had more wins and bigger points than any other year in franchise history.
The Rangers lost to the Lightning in the finals of the Eastern Conference last season, and they had 107 points with 47 wins, 22 losses, and 13 ties. The series against New Jersey during this season ended with them winning two times, one in overtime. Meanwhile, Timo Meier who scored 40 goals has been feeling better after having food poisoning and Michael McLeod returned to practice after missing his last two games.