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What a difference a month makes

Dave Turner

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.20120130-152120.jpg

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. Eric Gelinas

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.

Final Score: Devils 4, Ducks 3 OT

The New Jersey Devils rallied in the third period and beat the Anaheim Ducks in overtime by a 4-3 mark at Honda Center on Wednesday night.  The Devils are now 8-8-5 on the season.

The Least You Should Know:

- Jaromir Jagr scored with 1:09 to go in regulation to send the game into overtime.

- The man who helped create Jagr’s goal, Travis Zajac, scored the game winner in overtime at 1:58.

- The Devils are back to .500 on the season and moved into a playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division.

Jeff OConnor

Wow.  Who saw that coming?  The Devils trailed after 40 minutes by a 3-2 score.  They dominated and had the first nine or 10 shots of the third period.  It felt like a bad Ducks goal was coming, but it never did.Zajac worried

Zajac deserves a TON of credit for keeping the puck in the zone on that tying goal.  An errant drop pass was labeled to be cleared out to the neutral zone, and perhaps an empty netter to end the game.  Instead, the puck comes behind the net, the Devils grind it and a feed in front was buried by Jagr.

Then the team finally got a bounce in overtime.  Dainius Zubrus hustled up the right side in an odd-man rush with Zajac, who was trying to catch up with him and go to the net.  Zubrus threw it at Zajac who could only kick it towards net.  The Ducks, without caution, tried to whip it out of the zone quickly but it winded up going off Corey Perry’s leg into the vacated net.

It’s easy to forget about the job done by Martin Brodeur.  He was brilliant once again.  The first goal from Matt Beleskey I’m sure he would like to have back but the tallies from Nick Bonino and Ryan Getzlaf he had no prayer on.   The save on Matthieu Perreault in overtime before the Zajac winner won’t soon be forgotten by anyone who’s a fan of the sport.  That glove save by Marty will be replayed on highlight reels…well, forever.

This team is starting to find a more consistent rhythm in the goal-scoring department.  The goaltending has been as rock solid as was thought to be before the season and the team only gave up one goal at even strength.  They are brimming with confidence and that’s needed as they face some high-quality teams this week.  The next two contests will be a great barometer and litmus test for this club to see where they stack up against true Stanley Cup contenders.

The fun continues in less than 24 hours.  The Kings are next, coming up later on tonight at 10:30 p.m. EST.

Pregame Primer: Game Twenty One – Devils at Ducks

New Jersey Devils vs Anaheim Ducks – 10 pm

Honda Center – Anaheim, California

TV: MSG+  Radio: WFAN 101.9 fm, 660 am

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After a lengthy break in between games, the Devils are finally back in action against the Anaheim Ducks. This road trip is no easy task for New Jersey, as they’ll take on three of the best teams in not just the Western Conference, but in the entire league. Anaheim enters tonight tied for the most points (32) with Chicago. Los Angeles and San Jose aren’t far behind, as they’re both tied with 31 points.

Though this road trip will be a daunting task, this might be the perfect time for the Devils to take their game out west. In their last six games, the Devils are 4-1-1, with their only regulation loss coming at the hands of Ben Scrivens and the Kings, by way of a 2-0 decision at Prudential Center.

Some thoughts on tonight’s game:  

1. Contain Anaheim’s speed. Welcome to Western Conference hockey. The Ducks feature speed upon speed in their lineup and will pounce on any mistakes and turn it into a goal. They’re currently tied for third in the NHL in goals scored with 72. Corey Perry (12g, 12a) and Ryan Getzlaf (11g, 13a) have been virtually unstoppable. For the Devils to have any success, they’ll have to slow down their attack. If the Devils can establish the forecheck, it’ll go a long way towards doing that.

2. What else about the Ducks? Anaheim is 8-0-0 at home. That either spells disaster for the Devils, or something has to give at some point. Whatever the case may be, this is a steep task for the red and black. If there is one area where the Ducks falter, it’s on special teams. Their power play is surprisingly ineffective at just 11.5%, good for 26th in the league. Their penalty kill isn’t much better, as their 76.4% is 27th in the league. If there is a chink in the Ducks armor, (feathers?) it would be that they do give up power play goals. The Devils will need to use every man-advantage well tonight.

3. Defense, more vintage Marty, will be key. Down to only six healthy bodies, the defense for tonight will be Marek Zidlicky, Adam Larsson, Andy Greene, Mark Fayne, Eric Gelinas and Peter Harrold. This will be a tough assignment for that group. The Devils will need another strong performance from Martin Brodeur, in a game where he is going to face a lot of shots.

Prediction – Ducks 3, Devils 2 (SO)

Though the Devils have struggled some when they’ve had a few days in between games, they’ll come out hard in this one. The Ducks lost to the Penguins 3-1 in their last game against an Eastern Conference foe. For the Devils, it’s simple. They have to establish the forecheck and play a gritty game. If they find themselves in a wide-open up and down the ice sort of game, they’ll be in trouble. The game will go back and forth, with the Devils scoring a late goal to tie it, but ultimately falling in the shootout.

By the numbers: Goal support for Martin Brodeur and Cory Schneider

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There’s no doubt that the Devils have struggled to score when Cory Schneider is in the net. Just how much different is the scoring in front of Brodeur and Schneider?

Cory Schneider 

Games played: 9 (PIT – 0, VAN – 2, WPG – 0,  NYR – 4, CLB – 1, VAN – 2, MIN – 0, TOR – 1, LA – 0)

Average goals for: 1.11 goals per game

Record: 1-5-3

Current Stats: 1.98 gaa, .918 save %, one shutout


Martin Brodeur

Games played: 10 (NYI – 3, EDM – 4, CGY- 2, OTT – 2, BOS – 4, TB – 2, PHI – 0, PHI – 3, NSH – 5, NYR – 3)

Average goals for: 2.8 goals per game

Record: 5-3-2

Current Stats: 2.08 gaa, .915 save %, two shutouts


You can certainly chalk it up to the opponent more than anything else, but there is a stark difference between the amount of goals the Devils have scored with Brodeur in net as opposed to Schneider. The team has been shut out in four of Schneider’s nine starts. For Brodeur, the team has scored three or more goals in six of his ten starts.

Whatever the reason for the lack of production when No.35 is in net, if the Devils hope to find their way into the Metropolitan Division playoff picture, they’ll need to start scoring for Schneider.

Final Score: Devils 5 Predators 0

The New Jersey Devils closed out a strong weekend of play with a dominating 3-1 win over the Nashville Predators.  The win moves the Devils to 5-7-5 on the season.

- This one was all Devils from the outset, as they were fast, disciplined and controlled the play all night.

- Jaromir Jagr notched the 1,700th point of his career with his first period goal.

- Martin Brodeur turned in yet another stellar performance in net, stopping all fifteen Predator shots.

- Travis Zajac scored his first goal in seven games when he ripped a shot home in the third period to ice the game for New Jersey.

Dave Turner

It may have taken 17 games to do so, but we finally saw a complete 60-minute effort from the New Jersey Devils.

They came out flying and kept up the pressure en-route to the dominating 5-0 win over the Predators.

After a frustrating 2-1 shootout loss on Friday night, the Devils seemed to have found their legs against Nashville. Forechecking, defense, passing, it was all on display on Sunday night from Prudential Center.

The win caps a strong weekend for the Devils, who gained five of a possible six points in just three nights. They seem to be finding their stride at the right time, as they’ll travel to Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night before playing a back-to-back against the Penguins and Kings next weekend.

With his early struggles so far away in the rear-view mirror at this point, Martin Brodeur might be the hottest goaltender in the NHL right now.

It was the kind of night where everything seemed to go well. Cam Janssen scored his second goal in three games when he banged home a rebound off of an excellent shot by Ryan Carter and Mattias Tedenby got his first goal of the season as well.

There’s no doubt that their confidence is high after their best effort of the young season, but it’ll take more of the same effort next week if this team hopes to even up their record at .500.

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Pregame Primer: Game Seventeen – Devils vs. Predators

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New Jersey Devils vs. Nashville Predators, 7 pm

Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey

TV: MSG+  Radio: WFAN 101.9 fm, 660 am

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Dainius Zubrus – Andrei Loktionov – Jaromir Jagr
Steve Bernier – Travis Zajac – Damien Brunner
Mattias Tedenby – Adam Henrique – Michael Ryder
Ryan Carter – Jacob Josefson – Cam Janssen

Andy Greene – Peter Harrold
Anton Volchenkov – Marek Zidlicky 
Eric Gelinas – Adam Larsson

Goaltender: Martin Brodeur

Some thoughts on tonight’s game:

1) Prime opportunity to score some goals.  Top goaltender Pekka Rinne is out for the Predators.  Their other options have been really bad so far this season.  Carter Hutton has posted a 3.32 GAA and .898 save percentage in eight games.  That’s not good.  The Devils need to score at least two goals tonight and honestly, they need to score three or more.

2) Discipline needed.  The Devils can’t afford to take a lot of penalties tonight.  They’re facing a Top-5 power play.  Shea Weber has three power play blasts for goals while the crafty David Legwand has a pair as well.  The Devils fought off several power plays but did get burned once.  It’s frightening to take that many penalties on the road.  Hopefully, things will be cleaned up a bit since the team is back at home.  

3) Marty needs to stay hot.  While it does appear the Devils can rack up some goals tonight, this game will come down to Martin Brodeur.  If he’s sharp as the last few games, the Devils should win the game.  If he allows a bad goal or two, it could be too much to overcome.  If Brodeur gives up one goal or less, the Devils have to win this game.  It appears for the time being the goaltending will have to win them games.  At the very least, the Devils should put up two goals a game.  If they get the goaltending they expect going into the season, even mediocre offensive production every night will win them a good share of games.

Prediction:  Devils 3 Predators 1

I wouldn’t call this a “breakout” game, but three goals sure would feel like an offensive outburst for this team.  They won’t dominate this game but they’ll take advantage of enough opportunities to control and dictate the pace of play.  They’ve strung together two strong performances and the extra-session loss on Friday will only motivate this team to play better tonight.

Enjoy the game, everyone.

All of a sudden, we’re witnessing vinatage Brodeur again

Dave Turner

After he gave up four goals the Ottawa Senators, there was chatter that maybe Martin Brodeur might have finally hit the wall.

There was talk that the torch had been passed to Cory Schneider after Schneider was given three straight starts.

Fast forward into November and it’s a completely different story.

Brodeur over his last four games:

Goals allowed: 5

Goals Against Average: 1.26

Shots faced: 88

Saves made: 83

Save Percentage: .943%

Forget all of the talk about Brodeur being open for a trade. Forget everything else that the future hall-of-fame netminder has said and just let his play on the ice speak for itself.

Lately, he’s been carrying this team. The soft goals that plagued him at the onset of this season are gone and he’s seemingly back to his old ways. Five goals allowed in four games? That’s a recipe for success. With the return of Travis Zajac, and the eventual return of Patrik Elias, there will be goals, but not many. Good goaltending is going to be the key to this team getting to and staying above .500.

The question is, can Brodeur keep it up? Having Schneider splitting starts is a good thing. It’ll allow Brodeur to rest and the Devils wont ever need to play him in any of their back-to-backs, barring an injury.alg-brodeur-save-jpg

The preseason seemed to be the beginning of a change, where Brodeur struggled and Schneider was superb. The 2013-2014 regular season started as if it was Schneider’s job to run away with, because at first, it looked exactly like he would do so. Now, the situation is a complete 180, where the former Canuck has struggled, both on the ice and with injuries and Brodeur is making his sub-par preseason and start to the regular season look like nothing but a road bump.

This is what makes No. 30 so special. Just when it seemed people were willing to write him off and let Cory Schneider ascend to the role of the “starter,” Brodeur has shown the kind of mettle and determination that has helped him become the most winning goaltender in NHL history.

There’s no telling if he’ll keep this up throughout the season, but if he can, the Devils will be dangerous. It always starts from the net out and if Brodeur is giving the Devils a strong performance night-in and night-out, then this team will continue to creep back into contention.