Devils should stick with Schneider, despite potential for damaged relationship with Brodeur

Dave Turner

With the New York Yankees’ farewell tour for Mariano Rivera fresh in our minds, it’s easy to have wanted the same thing for Martin Brodeur. If this is, in fact, Brodeur’s final season, it seems like he may be down to his last few starts. With Cory Schneider establishing himself as the No. 1 goalie of late, there may not be much more of No. 30 between the pipes and that’s OK. Cory Schneider

We constantly try to humanize sports and make it about the individuals, but at the end of the day, it’s a business. It’s no knock on Brodeur to admit that the better goaltender is in net right now.

Starting Schneider now is about the present and the future.

Since the low point of his season, five goals allowed against the Blackhawks, Schneider has been excellent. He has given up three goals or more only once and he was under a minute away from surrendering just one, before a deflected pass resulted in a goal by David Legwand in the Devils 3-2 overtime loss to Nashville.

The case that the team scores more for Brodeur might be true in terms of sheer numbers, but with Brodeur struggling some, the decision to go to Schneider makes sense.

The former Boston College netminder has some of the best numbers in the game right now. Amongst goaltenders who have started at least 25 games this season, Schneider’s 1.88 ranks second in goals against average. His .925 save percentage ranks sixth among that same pool.

Saying that Brodeur should be the starter based on the team’s offensive production is a statement with wanton disregard for the production of the former Canuck. If you give up less goals, you have a better chance to win; plain and simple. Consider that the Devils are an offensively challenged team, the smaller the number of goals needed to win, the better off they are. Screen Shot 2014-02-08 at 12.32.07 PM

Schneider’s numbers have been spectacular, but his play in itself warrants such a decision. His rebound control has been superb. When he’s on his game, he’s so positionally sound that he makes difficult saves look easy. Even last night against the Oilers, he made a few post-to-post saves with no wasted movement.

What we’re seeing from No. 35 is an ascension towards the top of the NHL goaltending hierarchy. For the first time in his career, he’s been given the keys to the car and he’s taken off with it.

More importantly, it’s about the future. The Devils have seen too many big names depart in prior years. The twenty seven-year-old is slated to become a free agent after next season, but as the Devils have so harshly learned, letting his contract situation to extend into the 2015 offseason may be a recipe for disaster.

Starting Schneider makes sense not just in terms of giving the team the best chance to advance to the postseason this year, but it may help during contract negotiations. Giving No.35 the starting role now and continuing it into next season should certainly help. If he constantly has to look over his shoulder, he may bolt for a situation where he’s guaranteed to start 60-plus games.

Though this team is no lock for the playoffs and it’ll take a strong effort coming out of the Olympic break, there is no doubt who should be in net. Again, this shouldn’t be looked at as a scathing indictment of the greatest goaltender of all-time. Right now, Cory Schneider is playing some of the best hockey of any goalie in the league and should be given the chance to backstop this team towards a playoff run.

Final Score: Avalanche 2, Devils 1 (OT)

The New Jersey Devils failed to protect another late lead and fell to the Colorado Avalanche in overtime by a score of 2-1. The loss brings the Devils record to 23-21-13.

- For the third straight game, the Devils could not hold onto a late third period lead, as P.A Parenteau scored the tying goal with under two minutes to go in the third period.

- With a power play heading into overtime, the Avs cashed in, as Ryan O’Reilly scored in the extra session to give Colorado the win.

- The Devils had multiple chances all night to score, but managed only one goal, a first period tally by Ryan Carter.

Dave Turner

Under normal circumstances, holding the Colorado Avalanche to one goal through the first 60 minutes would be considered an excellent night. Just ask the Buffalo Sabres.

This was an all-too familiar scenario as the lack of scoring, coupled by the lack of ability to close out a game, burned the Devils once again.

Multiple posts, a shot by Jagr that inexplicably died on the goal line between the legs of J.S Giguere and an inability to score on the power play doomed the Devils.

For the first 58 minutes of the contest, they played well enough to come away with two points. They had chances in the offensive end and limited Colorado’s ability to get their offense going, but in the end, it wasn’t enough.

There are plenty of culprits to blame for this letdown, but it’s a matter of the entire team not coming up big when needed. With Andy Greene in the box in overtime, Bryce Salvador and Mark Fayne were out there on the kill. Considering that the penalty kill was strong all night, Pete DeBoer’s decision to go with those two is certainly debatable, but seems like the right choice, considering the circumstances. Would it be a better decision to put Marek Zidlicky or Jon Merrill out there? That’s debatable, at the very least. devilskessel615apr6

The fact is, when your team isn’t scoring, any goal against is put under a microscope. If the Devils had a 3-0 lead going into the final few minutes, a goal against wouldn’t come with nearly the same level of angst that it does when it’s only a 1-0 game. Sure, it’s very troubling that they’ve been unable to protect leads, but as a whole, the defense has played well for large stretches of the last three games.

Considering that the Devils were unable to get a change late in the game, it led to the wrong players being on the ice. With Merrill and Peter Harrold being caught for an extremely long shift, it made for a tough situation.

Michael Ryder made a extremely risky pass in the middle of his own end that turned into the penalty for Greene, in turn, essentially ending the game in overtime.

The offense played well enough in terms of scoring chances, shots attempted and zone time, but they were unable to score. Sure, the chances were nice, but unless it’s in the back of the net, no amount of shots for makes any sort of a difference. Ryder hit a post on a 2-on-1, Dainius Zubrus rang a pipe and numerous other chances were there for the taking. Needing only one goal over the final forty to presumably put the game out of reach, the Devils failed to increase the lead. That’s on the offense.

Defensively, it was the same story as the prior two contests. A strong performance thrown away by a poor play at the end. Considering the kind of firepower that Colorado possesses, they actually played a very smart game against an elite offensive team. Harrold, who returned to the lineup after a long absence, was strong in his first game back.

On the game-winning goal, Salvador was caught in between trying to break up the pass and playing in front of O’Reilly. He did well to position himself in front of O’Reilly at first, but when he committed to Matt Duchene up top, it left the O’Reilly wide open to bang home the winning goal. There’s no doubt that Salvador would like to have that play back, but he got pulled out of position and paid for it.

Even still, just one more goal over 60 minutes could have eliminated any chance of that play even happening. If you let a team stick around, there is more of a chance of a mistake happening.

Where to place the blame is one thing, but what is becoming apparent at this juncture is that this team will need to make a move for additional scoring if they hope to stay in the playoff race. Though they sit only one point back of third place in the Metropolitan Division, all of the teams in front of them have at least one game in hand on the Devils. Carolina, who is tied with the Devils at 59 points, has three games at hand. That equates to the fact that these one point games won’t be enough. At some point, they’re going to have to string together wins or they’ll find themselves behind almost everyone in their own division.

Final Score: Blues 3 – Devils 0

St. Louis gets a small measure of revenge on their home ice with a shutout over a snakebitten Devils team, who could not find an answer to the perfect play of Jaroslav Halak. This one drops the Devils’ record to 22-21-11 on the season.

- Alex Steen is having the season of a lifetime. Tonight he netted his 27th of the year on a wrister from Jaden Schwartz and David Backes in the first. As it would turn out, that goal was also the game winner.

- The dominant Blues power play that the Devils stoned last time came through in a big way tonight, with Brendan Morrow deflecting a shot from Jay Bouwmeester to break the Devils midway through the third period. On the other side of the ice, the Devils went 0/4 on their power play opportunities.

- With all the talk of Corey Schneider’s play coming into tonight, (which was still fantastic, even in a loss) it was Jaroslav Halak who who made a very strong push to be his team’s starter tonight with a 23 save shutout.

Ryan Jahnke

After crashing back down to Earth in the Bronx on Sunday, New Jersey took another hit via a shutout loss to the St. Louis Blues.

On Tuesday night, the Devils were left flustered, frustrated, and finally — for five periods and counting — scoreless. The Blues brought everything they had for their rematch with the Devils. Unlike the fatigued team that showed up in Newark to play on January 21, tonight St. Louis was fast and physical, and showed why they are considered among the league’s elite teams. The Blues didn’t overwhelm the Devils. For the most part the game was 1-0 until a deflected power play goal and an empty-netter changed the look of the scoresheet. Yet, somehow, the game was never really in doubt for St. Louis. The stat lines were pretty even, and might have even favored New Jersey. But, in the end, St. Louis played relentless coverage against their top scorers, pushed the Devils to the outside, and made sure that the vast majority of the Devils chances were no real threat.

For the Devils, it was a game that they’ll have trouble seeing the bright side of. Corey Schneider put together one of those games that he’s starting to become known for, but, true to their own reputation, the Devils offense failed to hold up their end of the bargain. This was more to the credit of the Blues. Whenever Jaromir Jagr got the puck, Barret Jackman was all over him, taking him off his game. The same could be said of Patrik Elias, Ryan Clowe, Ryan Carter, Michael Ryder and plenty others. While they didn’t necessarily play poorly, they were constantly prevented from hitting the top of their games. Every shot was contested, and every pass had two men in the way.

New Jersey’s defense, despite what the final score might have you think, played fairly well. They held the Blues to two very difficult goals, the empty-netter aside, and made sure that the team was in the game all the way. Eric Gelinas and Andy Greene played their part in the offensive zone, and, in general, the D did what they could to help push the team up the ice. In terms of intensity, however, they failed to match what St. Louis brought to the table. The Devils shooters had to work for every opportunity they had against Halak, and usually got a little roughed up for their trouble. The Blues, on the other hand, seemed to have plenty of time to work with against a very cautious Devils’ team. This is something that they must change if they want to right the ship Thursday in Dallas.

Despite the outcome, the NHL hit it out of the park with the Stadium Series

Dave Turner

Relegated to the back page and beyond on most days in the New York/New Jersey area, for one day in January, hockey was king.

The sights were incredible. Gazing upon Yankee Stadium decked out in NHL logos was quite a sight. There was a buzz even before you entered the stadium. With media crews working to get fan interviews and photos, it was clear that this event was so, so much more than just a regular game.


The Atmosphere

I met a large group of fans for the game and we enjoyed standing outside of Gate 4 as the droves of people entered the stadium. It was cold, but it was fitting. I couldn’t help but feel that the outdoor game in Los Angeles lacked something because it wasn’t exactly “hockey weather.”

Walking into the stadium, it hit me that this chance to play a game outdoors, with a “neutral site” game was so rare. Yes, the NHL plays the Winter Classic every year and there will be plenty more Stadium Series games to come, but never have they played a game between two bitter rivals that are located so close together.

There were tons of fans for both teams. Some were surprised at how many Devils fans showed up for the game, but those are just people who don’t understand the passion and dedication of the New Jersey Devils fan base.

The fans were fantastic. Between some good natured ribbing and tailgating in the few parking lots around the stadium, it was a sight to behold. Swarms of people dressed in red and blue, ready to support their teams.

This game did something for the New York area in terms of hockey coverage. It showed everyone that hockey DOES matter to a lot of people and that a major event involving hockey can fill up a baseball stadium.

Inside the Stadium

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With six games before the Olympic Break, will this stretch define the season?

Sunday’s 7-3 loss to the Rangers might have felt like more than a loss, but it wasn’t.

Sure, the Devils lost a chance to pull even with the Rangers in the standings, but losing those two points doesn’t yet spell disaster.

In the coming weeks, the Devils will need to address what is a hole at first line left wing. Whether it’s moving someone like Dainius Zubrus back to the first line and sliding someone Steve Bernier onto the line with Patrik Elias, the lack of another scorer on that top line is an issue that the Devils will have to tackle. Patrik Elias2

As of Monday morning, the Devils are just one point out of third place, behind the Flyers (56 points) and Blue Jackets (56 points). With Columbus playing Carolina, (55 points) that game means that the Devils will be two points out when they take the ice on Tuesday at St. Louis if Carolina wins, or three points out if Columbus wins.

As for the wild card, they currently sit just two points behind Detroit (57 points).

So, as bad as Sunday’s loss was, the playoffs are still right there for the taking.

Tuesday, January 28th – at St. Louis

Thursday, January 30th – at Dallas

Friday, January 31st – at Nashville

Monday, February 3rd – vs. Avalanche

Friday, February 7th – vs. Oilers

Saturday, February 8th – at Capitals

Dave Turner

Looking at these six games, there are certainly no gimmes. A road trip that starts with St. Louis is no easy task. As much as you can expect the Devils to try to raise their play in their first game after the outdoor game, St. Louis is home and will certainly remember the 7-1 defeat they suffered on a snowy night in Newark. The Blues are one of the best teams in the league and they’ll be more than ready for that game.

After that, Dallas will be no easy pickings either. The Stars are on the fringe of the playoff picture and need every possible point to stay alive. Expect Dallas to be very formidable in their own building.

Nashville has their issues scoring, but they’re still hanging on (just barely) in the Western Conference playoff picture. If I had to rank these games in terms of difficulty, Nashville is a game that the Devils should win.

After that, the Devils move back home for two games, taking on the Avalanche and Oilers. The Devils stuck with the Avs out in Colorado and though the Avs are a speedy team, if the Devils are able to control the tempo in their own building, they can come away with a win. The Oilers have had their struggles, but as the Devils remember, this team can score goals.

They’ll finish off their pre-Olympic schedule with a trip to Washington. It’s a divisional game and the Caps are still right in the thick of it. This is one that the Devils will need to win.

Realistically, anything under six points would probably put the Devils in troubled water coming out of the break. Seven or eight points might have them right where they are now, within a game or so of cracking the top eight. The Devils took a regulation loss on Sunday and too many more of those will make it substantially tougher to find a road to the playoffs. As we’ve said before, if they’re going to lose, it has to at least be a one-point loss.

Three regulation losses in the next six would be tough. At some point, the Devils need to start gaining points in chunks. A win one, lose one stretch will eventually lead to them losing ground.

Eight points would be a strong number of points to come away with. That’s a number that would keep them right in the mix. It certainly won’t be easy, with four of the next six on the road, but this team did well to get themselves back into the playoff picture.  At the very least, they keep themselves in the postseason conversation going into the Olympic break.

In terms of the goaltending split, I expect that Cory Schneider will get at least the next two starts, barring an injury or sub-par game. Schneider’s numbers have been excellent lately and he has to be given the chance to take the reins at some point. Martin Brodeur will get some starts before the break, but a 4-2 Schneider split seems completely feasible. With the Devils needing every available point, from this point out, it would be the responsible choice to put the best netminder in the net every night that gives the team the best chance to win. That being said, you can’t ice Brodeur and expect him to have to step up if Schneider goes down with an injury.

These next two weeks will tell a lot about this team, starting with a tall task in St. Louis in the wake of the Devils’ worst defeat of the season.

Cory Schneider’s numbers have been fantastic and that’s why Martin Brodeur should start on Sunday

Dave Turner

It has been announced that Martin Brodeur will be between the pipes for Sunday’s game at Yankee Stadium.

The way Cory Schneider has been playing of late, from a sheer numbers standpoint, it would have made sense to give him the nod. Those numbers are exactly why Brodeur should be starting.

As the Devils head into the stretch run of the season with a playoff spot right in their sights, it needs to be Schneider playing the majority of the way as long as he continues to play at the same level. Cory Schneider

The old saying, if you have two goalies, you really have none, is true in a sense. If neither goaltender is playing well enough to take the job, then you’re without a real number one netminder. Look at the St. Louis Blues for example. Great team, but neither Jaroslav Halak or Brian Elliot have been able to completely wrestle away the job.

Even when asked about who the starter should be, prior to the announcement, Schneider was quick to praise Brodeur.

“It’s a pretty special game and Marty’s been a big part of this and gotten a lot of wins for us this year and whether he picks him or me i don’t think it changes the way we feel about it or how we play, I think we both trust each other and respect the way we’re playing,” Schneider told the media after Friday night’s win over the Capitals. “This is a game that would mean a lot to Marty, having never played an outdoor game in his career and i’m sure he would really enjoy it.”

Both goaltenders have been eloquent and supportive when asked about each other and because of that, an entire “goalie controversy” never happened. Even when one was outplaying the other, the team and both netminders stayed the course and had nothing but positive things to say about each other. That peaceful coexistence certainly helped to keep things together when the team was struggling early on in the season.

Now, as they inch towards the playoffs, they need to do so on the back of one of the goalies. Right now, the numbers say that it is Schneider.

Screen Shot 2014-01-25 at 2.18.59 PM

Not to say that Brodeur hasn’t been playing well, because he has had some brilliant moments this season, but Schneider’s numbers are among the league’s best. Among goaltenders who have enough stats to qualify, Schneider’s 1.84 goals against average is second best in the league and his .928 save percentage ranks fourth.

Cory Schneider is becoming the number-one goaltender on this team. Sure, things can still change between now and the end of the season, but the former Vancouver Canuck has played more than well enough to establish himself as the man moving forward.

If this was any other veteran goaltender behind him, it would be no big deal, but it’s Martin Brodeur. The outdoor game serves as perhaps Brodeur’s last big moment of his career. 20120110-155120.jpgHe’ll get to play in front of 40,000-plus and on national television. With the area basketball teams struggling, this is one of the biggest moments for New York area sports this winter. No. 30 needs to start this game, there is no other way.

Sunday’s game against the Rangers can be one final moment to revel in the play of the greatest and most decorated goaltender in NHL history. Brodeur’s accomplishments and decades of service, serve as the reasons why he should start. He has been the face of the franchise for years and with the entire NHL and tri-state area looking on, it has to be Brodeur showing what he can do one last time with the bright lights on him. He has earned that opportunity, even with the strong play of No. 35.

By the time that Brodeur skates off of the Yankee Stadium ice on Sunday afternoon, this might be Schneider’s team. But that’s okay. One of the classiest men in hockey may soon show us  that he’s able to valiantly pass the torch if needed.

Final Score: Devils 7, Blues 1

New Jersey earned an impressive win against an elite team in the St. Louis Blues. The Devs pulled out all the stops, finding a big reserve of goals for Cory, and treated the fans that braved the elements to a 7-1 victory. This win brings the Devils’ record to 21-19-11 on the season.

Normally a slow starting team, the Devils manufactured two goals in the first three minutes from Mark Fayne and Ryan CarterJaromir Jagr would add one off the skate at the midway point to make it three in the first.

The dominant Blues power play was blanked on all three opportunities, while New Jersey caught fire and went 3/4.

In his first game back Damien Brunner was named the first star, wracking up a goal and a pair of assists in his return. Also earning 1G and 2A was Eric Gelinas.

Any chances that the Blues might have had for a comeback were snuffed out by Corey Schneider who stopped 26/27 shots from St. Louis.

Ryan Jahnke

What a night! And, what a response from a team that was pretty down on itself after last Saturday’s loss to Phoenix. Against the St. Louis Blues, the Devils showed what they can really do when they are healthy and this whole roster can take the ice.

Offensively, what can I really say that the seven-goal headline doesn’t? After the game at Phoenix, Coach Pete DeBoer voiced concerns about the team’s ability to score even strength goals, which only compounded the fears of fans who have long worried about the team’s struggles on the power play. Tonight was a great exhibition of both elements of their offensive game. With tallies from seven different skaters, three of them on the power play, it felt like New Jersey couldn’t be stopped, no matter who was shooting. Mark Fayne scored his first goal since November 29, Ryan Carter and Damien Brunner scored their first goals since coming back from their respective injuries, and the team’s recent top players, Jagr, Clowe, and Adam Henrique continue to produce. Add in multi-point nights from Eric Gelinas and Patrik Elias, and there’s a lot to be excited about following this effort.

There was some concern about Adam Henrique who left the game in the third period after being hit with a slap shot on his surgically repaired left thumb. Hopes are that this was just precautionary, as the game was already well out of St. Louis’ reach by the third. It should be noted that Henrique’s goal came after the injury occurred, so it didn’t seem to slow down his play too much. We’ll keep you updated with any information on his status whenever we get it.

A big part of tonight’s victory for New Jersey was receiving contributions from all four lines, which coach DeBoer admitted after the game is a team goal. But, it wasn’t just the tallies on the scoring sheet that had the team’s manager so excited. He made a point to mention that there were big contributions down the line on both ends of the ice. The Devils laid down to block 14 shots for their goaltender, as opposed to St. Louis’ four. And in the first two periods, before the game was out of hand, the Devils’ suffocating defensive play held the Blues to a mere 13 shots on goal. This was a complete reversal from the 25 SOG they allowed Phoenix in the same amount of time.

With Schneider putting together another stellar performance, turning away 26 out of 27 shots, it’s hard to think of a single aspect of the Devils’ game that didn’t click tonight. That’s not to say that all their woes are behind them. There are still questions to be answered, acquisitions to be made, and a few too many streaky scorers to ever be completely comfortable. What this night was, was great sign of things going forward. When the Devils can play the four-line game that Pete DeBoer wants, and can showcase that depth that had everyone so excited before the season, they are a different team, and a strong threat to make a run for a playoff spot in the tightly contested Metropolitan division.