Jeff Frazee has received an offer to play in Sweden next season, but his agent says he still intends to return to Devils organization.— Tom Gulitti (@TGfireandice) May 21, 2013
Frazee will likely end up competing with Keith Kinkaid and Scott Wedgewood for one of two goaltender jobs with the Albany Devils.
Prospect Buzz: Albany Goaltending Has Not Been A Problem
While the New Jersey Devils goaltending has been a source of recent stress, the Albany Devils have not struggled with such problems.
The three-headed monster of Keith Kinkaid, Jeff Frazee and Scott Wedgewood have combined for an .899 save percentage and 2.65 goals-against average in 59 games.
Toss out Wedgewood’s so-so three games, and Frazee and Kinkaid have combined for a 2.62 goals-against and .912 save percentage.
“(Kinkaid) has been good for us all year,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said Sunday after Albany’s 2-0 loss to Bridgeport. “Our goaltending hasn’t been an issue.”
The problem is, Kinkaid and Frazee — and more recently Wedgewood — have been doomed by Albany’s sudden lack of offense. As was discussed Sunday, Albany’s power play is converting just 11.4 percent of the time.
“We’d be sitting in a lot better position than we are now if it was better,” Kowalsky said.
With Tim Sestito called up — and perhaps another forward making the jump after Alex Ponikarovsky’s recent injury — offense may continue to be the A-Devils’ downfall.
Most of you know that Stefan Matteau was sent back to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Sunday.
But what does that actually mean?
Matteau was eligible to return to Blainville-Brisbois because he is only 19-years old. When Blainville-Brisbois’ season ends — the Armada open a best-of-seven series with Acadie-Bathurst Thursday — Matteau will be eligible to complete the year with Albany or return to New Jersey.
Matteau, who only recorded three points in 17 games, already has played in enough NHL games to start his waiver clock. I imagine since Matteau obviously was not quite NHL ready yet, the Devils are trying to let him gain some confidence and keep him from reaching the 160 games which also would remove him from waiver exemption.
In what was a wholly expected move, the Devils officially removed Martin Brodeur from injured reserve and assigned backup goalie Jeff Frazee to AHL Albany. Brodeur will serve as the backup goalie tonight before returning to the starting position Thursday.
Brodeur also told reporters that he woke up “feeling fine” and is “100 percent.” He is ready to start any time, he added.
Johan Hedberg will start again for the last time in probably a little while.
As we said yesterday, Brodeur will back up Hedberg tonight only because of conditioning reasons. Monday was Brodeur’s first practice with the team since a pinched nerve kept him on the sidelines for weeks. Now, if Moose suddenly gets shelled by the Rangers in the first period, I wouldn’t be shocked in the least if Marty ends up entering the game for him. First off, Hedberg has gotta be exhausted, but, more importantly, Brodeur would probably feed off the energy of the crowd and adrenaline to help him get through any rust factor. Don’t go expecting a sudden change at the last minute, but don’t be surprised if Marty finds his way into tonight’s game at some point.
Life On The Farm Is No Glamorous Road
No Albany Devil has recorded more points in two years than Joe Whitney.
The 5-6, 170-pound winger’s game is tenacious and feisty. Playing such a game has enabled him to record 85 points in 122 AHL games in Albany.
“He’s playing with intensity, he’s competing,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said Sunday after Albany’s 2-0 loss to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. “He’s not a big guy, but he’s strong on the puck. He’s been doing it all for us.
“I’ve really liked his play.”
Still Whitney’s not gotten his call. Many of his teammates have. Heck, his linemate — 30-year-old winger Matt Anderson — even got his brief moment in the show, recording an assist in two games in New Jersey earlier this year.
“I’m happy for those guys who get to go up,” Whitney said Sunday after the Devils’ 2-0 loss to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
But Whitney’s not concerning himself with all that. The recently-turned 25-year old is working to help the A-Devils’ struggling power play and trying to help Albany reach the Calder Cup playoffs.
“We haven’t gotten rewarded much,” Whitney said of the power play. “We’ve got to figure it out down the stretch if we want to win some games and get into the playoffs.”
Albany sits in ninth, just one point behind eighth-place Syracuse, with only 16 games left.
“I’m giving it everything I’ve got every night,” Whitney said. “Right now, it’s about wins.”
The road to the NHL is littered with stories like Whitney’s. Anderson was one until he got his call this February. But after only two games, he was sent back to Albany.
Likewise, A-Devils goaltender Keith Kinkaid spent eight days with New Jersey — playing in just one game — before being recalled for Jeff Frazee on March 6.
“It’s just more stuff to work on,” Kinkaid said. “It’s a battle to get back up there.”
With Martin Brodeur’s return imminent, Frazee likely will be sent back to the AHL life of riding buses and playing three games in three days over a weekend that takes you from Rochester, N.Y. to Syracuse to Bridgeport, Conn. like this past weekend did.
With Martin Brodeur slowly but surely creeping toward a return, Pete DeBoer was asked whether we might see Marty in net this weekend. You know, because the Devils just played Wednesday and then have a back-to-back set on Friday and Saturday.
DeBoer said Brodeur is "day-to-day" and didn't rule him out for Saturday's home game vs. Montreal, but that doesn't' sound realistic (to me)— Tom Gulitti (@TGfireandice) March 14, 2013
OK, so does that mean the 39-year-old Johan Hedberg will look to extend his streak of 10 straight starts in net to 12? Yup.
DeBoer said he'd have no problem starting Hedberg in the back to back and 3 out of 4. That sounds like the plan.— Tom Gulitti (@TGfireandice) March 14, 2013
Hedberg’s looked much better of late, but I imagine he’s looking forward to getting at least one night off once Marty does return.
Midterm Grades: It’s The Goalie!
Has the Devils’ goaltending duo been a boost or a weight around their neck? Hmm.
Being that the Devils are at the half-way point of the season (OK, a couple games past it but cut us some slack), we decided to do some “grades” for this team. Originally, this was supposed to be one full post, but after compiling them, it seems better to break them up into different pieces today. Earlier, we gave you our grades for the forwards and the defensemen. Now, we get to the goalies.
(Disclaimer: All “grades” comments are usually entirely too general and tend to omit more detail than normal, so apologies in advance if we left a player out.)
When you’re guilty of multiple defensive breakdowns in the first period and no-show the entire second, it’s highly unlikely that any sense of urgency in the third is going to save you. That was pretty much the story for the Devils as they went back into the losing side of the ledger Saturday. Some thoughts…
What are you waiting for: Remember when bad starts were the problem? Well, that’s not exactly the case now — the Devils’ starts have actually been OK, but they haven’t shown any urgency over the past three games until their backs are up against the wall in the third period. Thursday night the Devils did just enough to force OT, but tonight and the time before came up short. And it’s not even just about the offensive side of their game. The Devils basically allowed the Hurricanes to walk into their zone time after time and showed absolutely no fight in clearing the crease. Two of the goals tonight were the direct result of Devils defenders allowing a Hurricane forward to stand right in front of Johan Hedberg and play the puck. That’s simply unacceptable and has to change, because it doesn’t look like the Devils are going to be able to score more than two or three goals on a regular basis. I’m starting to worry this is more than just a bad habit. I’m starting to worry this “is what it is.” The defense is slow and sloppy, the offense is pressing and gripping their sticks too tight and Pete DeBoer showed at least four different versions of the “You gotta be kidding me” face tonight. I can only imagine what he said to them between the second and the third period that had them jumping out of their skates to start the period, but it’s probably not along the lines of “Good job, good effort.” Will things change tomorrow night against Winnipeg? Maybe, but I’m not holding my breath.
Break it down: The first period wasn’t bad. In all actuality, the Devils were probably the better overall team, but there were two breakdowns and that led directly to goals. On the first goal, the Devils (again) overpursued the puck, with three Devils on one side of the faceoff dot and facing the puck carrier. OK, that tends to happen on a penalty kill — but the Devils happened to forget the guy behind the net: Alexander Semin, who was wide open in front of the net, deked Hedberg out of the crease and backhanded an easy goal. Normally I would’ve called this the Bryce Salvador Special, but he didn’t even play tonight. On the second goal, it was another case of the Devils not backchecking and not taking care of the trailer, who happened to be defenseman Jay Harrison. When Eric Staal’s puck bounced to an open portion of the net, there was Harrison, streaking into the slot and completely unchecked. He had enough of the net to shoot at that it wasn’t really all that difficult a shot for him. And those two goals ruined a solid first period for New Jersey, which is exactly what happened in Tuesday’s loss. As for the second period, it looked like the Devils were sleeping for almost the entire period. Hedberg will take the fall, and he should, but he was consistently let down by a defensive group that did nothing to protect the ice around the crease and a defense that let the Canes come and go from the Devils’ zone at will. Breakdowns of a different sort, but breakdowns nonetheless — and far too many in a game against a team that boasts two legit scoring lines. That’s basically been the story of this slide for the Devils, breakdowns on top of breakdowns, average to below-average goaltending and not enough offense. That’s how you go from first to seventh in the conference in two weeks.
Backup blues: So, I know we all knew the Devils needed Martin Brodeur before he got hut, but I think we all know right now just how badly they need him this year. Hedberg is either exhausted, finished, overwhelmed or some combination of the three. He’s clearly not up to the job of being this team’s full-time goaltender and DeBoer has absolutely no interest in starting anyone else in net while Brodeur is out. Tonight, Moose let in at least two goals that he absolutely should’ve had and just looked completely shell-shocked by the time of the fourth goal. Unfortunately, there’s no other real answer except to wait for Marty to return and no one seems to know when that will be. The only option for the Devils is to become a team that scores three goals a night on a regular basis and hope to either win or get to overtime and get a point. Do you see that happening any time soon? I didn’t think so.
Notes: All of the Devils’ assists tonight came from the blue line. That tells you all you need to know about the offensive output from the forwards tonight. … Adam Larsson is much stronger in his own zone than he was last year, but he’s gotta be more aggressive with the puck on his stick. The Devils need some sort of offense from the back end besides Marek Zidlicky. … Semin is making himself a lot of money right now — a lot. … Jiri Tlusty: Four goals in two games against the Devils. Jeez, they might wanna put someone on him every time he enters the offensive zone, like how NFL defenses use a “spy” on mobile quarterbacks. … How many times are we going to have to watch the Devils make one too many passes on an odd-man rush? … Travis Zajac may be a ghost in the offensive zone, but credit to him for getting back and using his stick to disrupt Semin on what should’ve been a 3-on-2 and likely a goal for Carolina during the first period. … I can’t get over how different the Devils look in the third period over the last three games. If only DeBoer could bottle that and somehow deploy it for the other periods, the Devils might actually put together a winning streak. … Ilya Kovalchuk’s good at hockey. Really good. I feel like I need to repeat that once a week so no one forgets. … Peter Harrold, who played solidly Thursday night, was the worst Devil on the ice tonight. If either Henrik Tallinder or Salvador are healthy tomorrow, I don’t think there’s any doubt who’s coming out. The question now is whether he’s worth keeping on the NHL roster — but you already know my feelings on that. … I thought Jeff Frazee looked OK, but he wasn’t really tested enough for me to form a real opinion. I thought Keith Kinkaid had a much tougher first NHL test.
Despite getting pulled, it’ll be Johan Hedberg back in net tomorrow night.
Hedberg will start again tomorrow in NJ— Rich Chere (@Ledger_NJDevils) March 10, 2013
More on this in the postgame thoughts, but I can imagine most of you are none too pleased.
Prospect Buzz: Boucher Sets Sting Record; A Look At Goaltending
To hold the Sarnia Sting’s single-season scoring record is no small accomplishment.
But Reid Boucher has it all to himself.
We discussed his chances of scoring 60-plus goals in a season last week, but 59 goals in 63 games is still something else.
Mr. Boucher’s had a lot of press come his way, deservedly so, but to trump a record held by Steven Stamkos is no small feat. Plus, Sarnia still has five games left this year, so don’t discount Boucher from at least three or four more goals.
Boucher’s been getting a lot of press today, but today– as a response to Martin Brodeur’s balky back, and Johan Hedberg’s inability to stop pucks– we can visit New Jersey’s young goaltending situation.
It’s of paramount importance. As I said yesterday, Brodeur is done after next year, and Hedberg appears to be done now.
We’ve seen Keith Kinkaid, Jeff Frazee is up with the big club, and Scott Wedgewood– who recently was promoted to Albany — could be the next big thing. The Devils signed him from Plymouth of the OHL last year.
Still, Wedgewood has struggled this year. He was only 17-21-5 in the ECHL in Trenton, with an .895 save percentage and 3.24 goals-against average. He is just 20 years-old, but those numbers are alarming.
Frazee, on the other hand, has displayed confidence, and it feels like he’s been in the system forever. He’s only 25 years old, but it’s getting late quickly for him. Plus, he’s only played in 21 games in Albany, ceding much of the play to Kinkaid.
Kinkaid is 23 and has earned the lion’s share of AHL play. Kinkaid’s 17-11-5-2 in 45 decisions thus far in Albany.
I’d venture to guess Kinkaid is the heir to Brodeur’s throne. But, based on the Hockey’s Future boards, none of them are projected to be superstars.