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: 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.

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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.

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.

Final Score: Devils 2, Coyotes 3

New Jersey finished their four game road trip with a visit to Phoenix, and the Jobing.com Arena for a tough matchup with the Coyotes.  The Devils and goalie Martin Brodeur struggled early and couldn’t quite complete the comeback, as they fell 3-2.  This loss drops the Devils’ record to 20-19-11 on the season.

- The Coyotes struck first with a quick wrist shot from Jordan Szwarz at 2:35 into the first period.

- Another 4th liner found the back of the net for Phoenix.  Jeff Halpern beat Brodeur high to the glove side at 13:13 to give the Coyotes a 2-0 lead.

Ryan Clowe scored a power play goal off the rebound at 18:44.  The goal was Clowe’s second of the season, and his eighth point in his last seven games.

- Phoenix finally broke through the Devils’ PK on their third attempt as Martin Hanzal poked the puck free of Brodeur’s grasp and into the net at 14:22 in the second.

- With the goalie pulled, Jaromir Jagr redirected a Ryan Clowe pass past Mike Smith at 17:46 in the third to bring the Devils within one.

Ryan Jahnke

Tonight was an example of what happens when the vaunted Devils’ defensive game isn’t at the top of its game, and it’s not pretty.  Two soft goals let in by Martin Brodeur and some sloppy defense all-around lead to an easy 2-0 lead from which the Devils never really recovered.  The Devils were thoroughly outplayed and outright pushed around in the first, as they were outhit by Phoenix 17-4.  Had it not been for a couple big saves from Brodeur and a late PP goal from Ryan Clowe, this game could have gotten out of hand quickly.

The rest of the game was actually pretty solid for the Devils.  Brodeur found his game and stood on his head to keep the Devils in it, and the Devils offense, Clowe and Jagr in particular, was all over Mike Smith with 34 shots and some legitimate scoring chances.  The defense eventually found their game, holding the Coyotes to a mere two shots in the third period, but overall, it wasn’t enough to overcome the Coyotes who blocked 25 shots in front of Mike Smith and ensured that the Devils would not be able to complete yet another comeback.

This has to be particularly discouraging for the red and black, as their scoring woes continue.  After the game, Coach Pete DeBoer expressed some pleasure with his team’s late effort, but admitted that an early deficit like tonight’s is something that the Devils can’t afford, saying “we can’t spot anybody two goals. That’s the bottom line”.  Jaromir Jagr also showed great disappointment with tonight’s loss.  When asked why the Devils have had such trouble scoring five on five, a visibly frustrated Jagr said, “maybe we’re just not good enough”, and when asked for his opinion about the road trip as a whole, 1-1-2 in those four games, Jagr replied, “it was a lot better before tonight”.  With the Devils falling another two points behind Philly and the Rangers, both victorious earlier tonight, and the team having fewer goals scored than all but one other team in playoff contention, his frustrations are understandable.

On the brighter side for the Devils, there were two standout offensive performances, from Ryan Clowe and Jaromir Jagr, that the team can draw from going forward.  Clowe continues to impress since returning to the lineup.  His goal scoring drought seems to be a thing of the past, with two in  four games.  His overall point totals are even more impressive, as eight of his season total of 11 have come in his past seven games.  While Clowe’s play was encouraging, Jagr’s is inspirational.  #68, who now has 15 goals on the season, continues to lead by example on the ice, playing a strong and smart game that is just as deadly in the final seconds as it is in the first few minutes.

Final Score: Devils 4, Canadiens 1

The New Jersey Devils defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 from Bell Centre on Tuesday night. The win brings the Devils record to 20-18-10 on the season.

- Montreal scored the first goal of the night on a Max Pacioretty tally.

- The Devils answered back on a goal by Jaromir Jagr, which put him past Mark Messier for the 7th most goals in NHL history with 695 goals scored.

- From there, it was almost all Devils, as Eric Gelinas and Adam Henrique scored second period goals.

- That would be all the Devils would need, as Martin Brodeur rebounded from a poor start to stop 29 of the 30 Montreal shots.

Dave Turner

When Max Pacioretty ripped home an early first period goal high glove side on Martin Brodeur on a shot that should have been saved, it looked like it might be a long night for the New Jersey Devils.

How quickly things can change.

Timely goal scoring, stellar defense and an excellent performance by Brodeur paced the Devils to a 4-1 win in what was one of their best all-around road performances of the season.

Needing two goals to get back in it in the third period, the Devils defense suffocated the Canadiens to just six shots. The Devils haven’t had many multiple-goal leads this season, but they played with poise in the third to erase any chance of a comeback.

The defense playing up to par shouldn’t be a surprise, as they’ve done so throughout the season. With timely goal scoring, it makes the job of the defense and goaltending that much easier and there were more than enough goals tonight.

Jaromir Jagr, who scored his first goal in 10 games, bulldozed his way to the net en route to the their first goal of the night. It was the type of play that only someone like Jagr could make. With the game tied up heading into the second, New Jersey exploded for two goals in the second stanza to blow the game wide open.

Eric Gelinas reminded everyone of his offensive potential when he ripped a bomb of a shot past Carey Price to give the Devils the 2-1 lead. Despite his struggles in his own end, his presence alone makes the power play more dangerous. Sure, he’s going to have some moments where he’s in over his head defensively, but there is no one on this roster who can shoot the puck like he does.

Adam Henrique continued to impress, notching his 12th goal of the season. Any thoughts that Henrique was a product of Zach Parise, etc are no longer valid.Adam Henrique Henrique is carving a niche for himself in his third NHL season and playing with Ryane Clowe and Michael Ryder has allowed him to excel. The man who scored the most recent historic goal in Devils history might not ever be a 40-goal scorer, but he’s now showing that he has the ability to score 20-plus.

As for Clowe, he’s beginning to show some of the playmaking ability that led to his signing in the offseason.  In 10 games since returning from injury, the former Shark and Ranger has eight points (one goal, seven assists).   Together, the line of Henrique, Ryder and Clowe has been a welcomed source of offense for a team that has struggled to score.

Moving forward, this team has to be feeling good about where they are. With Patrik Elias and Damien Brunner still to return to the lineup, the Devils not only got to two games over NHL .500 for the first time this season, but reinserted themselves right back into the playoff mix.

As of Tuesday night, the Devils have 50 points and are just two points out of second place in the Metropolitan Division. They also sit just one point out of the wildcard spot, behind the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers who round out the top-eight with 51 points each.

Next up for the Devils is another tough road test, as the Devils take on the Colorado Avalanche from Denver on Thursday, looking to bring their points streak to five games.