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.
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.
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.
New Jersey Devils vs. New York Rangers – 12:30 pm EST
Yankee Stadium, The Bronx, New York City
TV: NBC Radio: WFAN
Here’s our mega-post for Sunday’s afternoon tilt from the Bronx against the New York Rangers. We’ll have predictions and unit by unit breakdowns.
Jacob Josefson – Travis Zajac – Jaromir Jagr
Ryane Clowe – Adam Henrique – Michael Ryder
Dainius Zubrus – Patrik Elias – Damien Brunner
Ryan Carter – Stephen Gionta – Steve Bernier
Andy Greene – Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador – Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov – Eric Gelinas
Goaltender: Martin Brodeur
Three keys to victory for the Devils:
1. Win the special teams battle- The Rangers have a good power play and with the ice expected to be a little slow, anything can happen when you’re a man down. As for the Devils power play, it has been excellent as of late. If they expect to win tomorrow, they’ll need the power play to be a part of that.
2. Don’t give anything easy- The Devils allowed some odd-man rushes to the Capitals on Friday night. Against a team like the Rangers, that will spell disaster. The Rangers have quite a few players who can beat you and if they’re going to give up a goal, they’ll have to make the Rangers work for it.
3. Play Devils hockey- Maybe this one is easy, but with the slow ice and a playoff-style game expected, the game plays right in to the Devils system. Look for the Devils to slow it down and possess the puck, they’ll make the Rangers run around their own zone for periods of time. Make the Rangers defend for long stretches and it will limit their scoring chances. The Devils will look to find some of the clutch goal scoring that they’ve had from all four lines lately.
With the showdown in the house that Jeter built looming less than 24 hours from now, we have to take a deeper look at the defensive end for both teams.
That means that we have to start with the marquee matchup in net, as we can now confirm that the first ever Stadium Series game between the Devils and the Rangers will see Martin Brodeur go head to head with Henrik Lundqvist. So far this year, the numbers between the two goaltenders are pretty even, with the edge going to Marty. The Devils have had Henrik’s number thus far, taking three straight against the league’s highest paid netminder. However, in the last two meetings, both of which Brodeur started, the Rangers have come closer and closer to turning the tables on the Devs. Games two and three of the series were decided by a single goal, scored by the Devils mere moments before and after the start of overtime period.
Coming into the Stadium Series, Andy Greene and Ryan McDonagh are the defensemen to watch from their respective teams. These two have been having two of the best years of any of the league’s top defensive players. Both are playing stellar in their own zone, and both have put up some great scoring numbers. As a whole, however, Jersey’s defenders, like Marek Zidlicky and Eric Gelinas, are proving to be more productive. New Jersey’s defense has contributed 24 goals and 71 assists to the effort, as opposed to 14 and 51 from the Rangers D. What’s more, the defense for the Red and Black has found the back of the net on the power play 12 times, while Ryan McDonagh has the only blue line power play goal for New York.
In the end, it will be the Devils’ forwards that make the biggest difference in the defensive game. While both sides dress very strong defensemen, the Devils offensive players are some of the best defensive forwards going. Travis Zajac, Patrik Elias, and Adam Henrique are among the league’s elite right now, and backing them up are the likes of Ryan Clowe, Danius Zubrus, Jacob Josefson, Ryan Carter, and Stephen Gionta. These men are a big reason why the Devils have allowed fewer goals than all but three NHL teams, and fewer shots per game than anyone.
The Devils are finally boasting four lines and it can’t come at a better time. With Patrik Elias and Damien Brunner back in the lineup and Ryane Clowe and Adame Henrique producing, New Jersey now has some of the depth that they had hoped for coming into the season.
Coming into this game, the biggest question mark is at first line left wing. Slated for that spot tomorrow is Jacob Josefson. After being drafted, the Devils had so much hope for the young Swede, but he has struggled to stay in the lineup. Now, he’ll get a chance to play on the top line with Travis Zajac and Jaromir Jagr. Playing with those two should bring out the best in almost any player’s game and the Devils are hoping that Josefson can slide in easily. He’s a strong two-way player, which should allow him to log the kind of minutes needed to be on the top line, but he’ll have to show some promise to stay with that line throughout the game.
As for the rest, the Henrique-Ryder-Clowe line has been excellent lately. This line brings a lot to the table due to the diversity of their skill sets. In Michael Ryder, there’s a pure goal scorer, someone who can shoot the puck with accuracy from almost anywhere on the ice. Henrique has found a niche playing in front of the net and is making plays. Ryane Clowe has done a nice job of using his size and toughness to win pucks in the corner and create havoc in front of the net.
Not to be forgotten is the line of Stephen Gionta, Steve Bernier and Ryan Carter. This line has a penchant for scoring clutch goals and they certainly know how to score against the Rangers. If the fourth line is able to produce, it’ll make for a much more well-rounded attack.
The Blueshirts have been paced by Rick Nash, who is on fire lately. Mats Zuccarello, who was resigned last season after leaving the club has been a strong addition to the club. Brad Richards and Derek Stepan give the Rangers a great one-two punch down the middle.
The Rangers have five players with double-digit goal totals, but have been a team that has relied on scoring from it’s entire roster. Ryan Callahan is settling in after injuries early in the season and Benoit Pouliot is dangerous as well.
With the ice expected to be slower than the “normal” ice found in a hockey arena, winning battles in the corners and creating traffic in front to bang home a rebound will be crucial for both clubs.
Don’t look now…but all of the sudden the new jersey devils have a top-10 power play, checking in at ninth in the league with a conversion rate just under 20 percent. That’s truly working wonders to go along with leading the league in fewest penalty minutes. For what the Devils lack in consistent finish, they certainly make up here.
The PK has stayed sharp really the whole season as they rank 2nd in the circuit. DeBoers ability to trust a majority of his forwards to take care of business on the PK keeps his offensive guns rested with enough energy to play a strong third period.
The Rangers aren’t shabby on the specials either…they are 7th on the PP and 9th in PK. Especially regading the PK…Alain Vigneault should be given a lot of credit in keeping some of the success John Toroltorella had during his tenure in NY.
Ryan Jahnke – 3-2 Devils
Dave Turner – 2-1 Rangers
Jeff O’Connor – 3-2 Devils (SO)
Our picks vary, but perhaps the most interesting is Jeff’s pick of the Devils winning in a shootout. Considering how bad they’ve been in the skills competition this season, why not break through on the big stage. While Ryan believes that the Devils will do just enough to skate away with a tough one goal lead, Dave picks the Rangers in a low-scoring affair.
Enjoy the game everyone and stay warm!
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.
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.
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. He’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.
New Jersey Devils vs. Philadelphia Flyers – 7:30 pm
Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey
TV: NBCSN Radio: WFAN 101.9-FM, 660-AM
Dainius Zubrus – Travis Zajac – Jaromir Jagr
Ryane Clowe – Adam Henrique – Michael Ryder
Ryan Carter – Stephen Gionta – Steve Bernier
Reid Boucher – Andrei Loktionov – Mike Sislo
Andy Greene – Mark Fayne
Jon Merrill – Marek Zidlicky
Bryce Salvador – Anton Volchenkov
Goaltender: Martin Brodeur
Some thoughts on tonight’s game:
1. Watch out for Giroux. The last time Devils fans saw Claude Giroux, they were making fun of his goal total because, well, Cam Janssen had more goals than him. He’s turned the corner, though, and now has eight goals and 20 points in his last 16 games. As Devils broadcaster Sherry Ross astutely noted, let’s hope Giroux doesn’t “Okposo” the Devils tonight. That refers to Islanders forward Kyle Okposo scoring an OT goal against Chicago, a day after he was snubbed from the U.S. Olympics men’s hockey team. Giroux received a similar fate earlier today when he was left off Team Canada’s roster. Tread lightly, Devils fans.
2. Pretty darn close to a must-win. As much of a must-win as you can have early in January. The Devils have sunk to sixth in the Metro Division. Although they are only four points out of third, Columbus has the same point total as them and the red-hot Isles are only five points behind NJ. If the Devils fall into a funk, they may find themselves snowballing down the mountain. A win tonight and they are two points behind the Flyers. A regulation loss and they’ll be seventh in the division and potentially five points back before they are back on the ice on Thursday.
3. Marty bounce back? For two periods against Chicago, Martin Brodeur was in vintage form. He looked as though he could steal a win from the defending champs on home ice. Then the third period happened, as he got rung up for four goals. Now he’ll face a team that he’s dominated in two matchups this season. He’s stopped nearly 98 percent of pucks sent at him by Flyers skaters. He’s allowed one goal in two games. This is certainly a different Flyer team than we saw in October but the Devils know their style and should be negate some of the momentum they come in on, having won seven of their last 10.
Prediction – Devils 3 Flyers 2 OT
The Devils really need this game in the worst way and I think they’ll get it done. It won’t be pretty and they won’t gain full ground on the Flyers, but it’ll be enough for a victory and for the team to feel good about themselves again.
We called Reid Boucher’s first goal a few games ago. It’s time for another prediction: I think Ryane Clowe gets his first marker as a Devil tonight.
Enjoy the game, everyone.
The New Jersey Devils defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 3-0. The two teams skated in front of a sparse crowd at Prudential Center due to the snowstorm that has been dumping snow across the tri-state area. The win brings New Jersey’s record to 13-15-6 on the season, good for 32 points.
- Martin Brodeur notched his third shutout of the season by stopping all 33 Tampa Bay shots. The shutout is the 124th of Brodeur’s career.
- Damien Brunner stayed hot by opening the scoring the second period. Unlike last night, when Marc-Andre Fleury stoned him on a breakaway, on Saturday, Brunner was able to beat Anders Lindback for the goal.
- Dainius Zubrus had a fantastic third period, scoring twice to help seal the deal for the Devils.
- Jaromir Jagr assisted on both third period goals.
For a while, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before the Lightning scored a goal.
That goal never came.
Martin Brodeur stopped 33 shots en-route to a shutout, in what may be his finest performance of the season. With the Lightning buzzing in the second period, Brodeur shut the door to keep New Jersey in the game.
Enter Damien Brunner.
Brunner, who hadn’t scored in ages, prior to his two-goal game against Columbus, stayed hot, as he beat Anders Lindback for a goal, which turned out to be all they needed.
The resurgence of the young Swiss forward is a huge lift for the Devils. He started the season with three goals in his first three games, but after a lengthy slump, he found himself as a healthy scratch for a few games.
For Brunner, consistency seems to be the issue. There’s no doubt that he has the skating and shooting ability to be a 20-plus goal scorer in the NHL, but month-long slumps can’t happen. Perhaps the benching, coupled by his strong play of late will keep him focused. If he’s able to be a more reliable contributor, it makes the Devils a much more dangerous team.
Not to be lost in the fray is the play of the first line of Travis Zajac, Jaromir Jagr and Dainius Zubrus. With two goals tonight, after scoring against Pittsburgh on Friday, Zubrus now has seven tallies on the season. For Jagr, his two assists give him 11 goals and 17 helpers on the season, a team leading 28 points.
“I don’t think it was our best game, but we’ll take it. Of course Marty played great, so we’ll take a few days off and go back at it,” said Zubrus.
With the first line clicking, along with Brunner and Michael Ryder finding the back of the net again, it’s a good sign.
Considering the effort that they had during the second and third periods against Pittsburgh, this was almost a must-win. Despite their recent struggles, they’re now just five points behind second place Washington.
As they forge on into the middle-portion of the 2013-2014 season, it’s all about finding a way to be on the positive end of that deciding goal. The Devils have played 19 one-goal games this season, with five of those being shootout losses.
With a close game almost to to be expected, it’s all about finding a way to keep teams off the board late, or get that big late-game goal. The Devils have displayed all of those lately. They surrendered late leads to Montreal and New York, failed to score when in control against Pittsburgh and scored a big goal in overtime like they did against the Rangers.
The win over Tampa Bay was a strong response to last night’s loss, but they have to build on this performance heading into next week. The Devils will take on Ottawa on Wednesday and Anaheim on Friday from Prudential Center before heading to Washington on Saturday for the second half of a back-to-back.
New Jersey Devils vs. Carolina Hurricanes – 7:00 pm
Prudential Center – Newark, New Jersey
TV: MSG+ Radio: WCBS 880-AM
The New Jersey Devils were outplayed quite a bit during the Western Conference road trip but came away with four of a possible six points. On Monday night, they outplayed the Winnipeg Jets at home. However, a slow start doomed them for a 3-1 defeat.
So it seems things have evened out a bit for NJ. Now the Carolina Hurricanes are in town before the Thanksgiving holiday. The Hurricanes got off to a hot start but have lost four of their last five games. This is a stretch of games where the Devils are not facing a high quality of competition. Over the next four days, they see these Hurricanes twice and get the Buffalo Sabres at home. It sure would be a nice to have a holiday feast on a weaker schedule.
Some thoughts on tonight’s game:
1. Offenses just about even. Imagine this…there are three teams with worse offenses than the New Jersey Devils. The Hurricanes are on of them. They average two goals a game on the button, compared to the Devils’ mark of 2.08. That needs to stay that way. If the Devils defense and goaltending are on top of their game, a goal or two could win the game tonight.
2. Several ways to solve Ward. Devils fans are very familiar with Canes goaltender Cam Ward. However, he’s been hit-or-miss of late. In three of his last five games, he’s allowed three goals. Also in those three games, opponents have pumped in a total of four power play goals. Carolina has the fifth-worst penalty kill on the road this year. The Devils need to get back to outworking their opponent and drawing a few more penalties.
3. Brodeur again? Yup, he’s back in the net again tonight. I thought this was a good spot to give Cory Schneider a start. Brodeur has been red hot, no doubt, but Schneider’s numbers have been even better minus the win column. There’s no point in overworking Brodeur this early. Hopefully, he stays hot but an off-game could be looming soon.
Prediction – Devils 2, Hurricanes 1
Both teams are inept offensively and it will show tonight. It’s by no means a must-win, but it would be nice to avoid a three-game losing streak before they head into a back-to-back against mediocre teams. I think the Devils will dominate the play and leave a lot of scoring chances on the table, but they’ll do just enough to win. In November, doesn’t matter how you get them.
Enjoy the game, everyone.
Not long ago, the New Jersey Devils were toiling at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division, trying to do anything to stay afloat.
Now, the Devils find themselves in a playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division if the season were to end today. There’s a long way to go, but we’re finally seeing some cohesion from this team, as they’ve gone 5-1-1 in their last seven games.
The turnaround is especially impressive considering some of the injuries that this team has suffered. Captain Bryce Salvador has been out for an extended period of time with a stress fracture in his foot, yet the defense hasn’t missed a beat. Patrik Elias missed time and Ryane Clowe has been out with a concussion and there’s no clear timetable as to when his return will be.
Yet, somehow this team is finding ways to win games. The once cliche I use often is that good teams will find ways to win and bad teams will find ways to lose. For every bad loss, or “moral victory” the Devils went through in October, now, their getting those bounces. Whether its Dainus Zubrus’s goal out of a scramble in front against the Rangers, or Wednesday night’s flukey game-winning goal in overtime that was credited to Travis Zajac, the red and black are beginning to create their own luck.
It’s almost poetic justice that Zajac got credited with the goal last night. No. 19 has been spectacular of late, doing so many of the unnoticed things that don’t necessarily show up on a score sheet. He’s winning face-offs, killing penalties, moving the puck and pushing play forward in the offensive zone. His play to keep the puck in the zone on Jaromir Jagr’s game tying goal last nightwas a subtle, yet crucial play. Zajac certainly took his share of criticism for his play in the wake of signing his big contract extension, but he’s living up to that large number with his all-around play.
Another perennial whipping boy, Marek Zidlicky, has been a catalyst all season. During the offseason, I actually predicted that the Devils power play would be better without the “retired” No.17 and that Zidlicky would be a big part of it. What we’re seeing from the Czech defenseman is an excellent ability to create offense out of the back end. As the power play quarterback, Zidlicky has excelled not only passing the puck, but shooting as well. His 12 points (3g, 9a) are second only to Jagr.
As for the defense, the depth that they built has paid off in a big way. Say what you’d like about Peter Harrold and Mark Fayne, but they’ve both been pressed into service with the injuries to Salvador and more recently, Anton Volchenkov and they’ve both held their own.
One of the biggest questions that is facing this team in the coming days will be what to do with Eric Gelinas. Though he’s had some “rookie moments” that are to be expected with a young defenseman, overall, he’s been a shot in the arm for this team. He shoots the puck well, to the point where he’s dangerous any time he winds up to fire the puck. His seven points (2g, 5a) in 12 games equates to roughly 48 points in an 82 game season. Yeah, that.
It hasn’t all been pretty. The team continues to struggle to score in front of Cory Schneider. I don’t really buy the whole idea that Brodeur’s playing of the puck makes THAT much of a difference in the team’s ability to score. A goal here and there? Sure, but not to the extent that the team has failed to score when No. 35 is in net. Despite that, both goaltenders have been excellent. Though it was shaky at first, the tandem has turned into exactly what they were hoped to be: a 1-2 punch that gives the Devils a strong goaltending performance every night.
Damien Brunner, who might have been the hottest Devil to start the season, has been struggling. He seems very much like the type of player that needs speed and space to make plays, something that isn’t exactly the norm in the Devils offense. He had a similar slump last season, as he started and finished hot, but struggled in the middle of the 48-game season.
Despite the deficiencies that still linger with this team, we’re beginning to see this squad come together. With so many games yet to play and a tough test on Thursday night in Los Angeles, it’s going to be a grind. This team is not built to blow people out. Every win is going to have to come by way of outworking the opponent and scoring some opportunistic goals. If the defense can continue to hold its own and if the offense begins to find it’s stride, then this team will begin to cement itself in the middle of the Metropolitan Division playoff picture.