The New Jersey Devils have a goalie problem.
Since returning from a right elbow injury, Martin Brodeur hasn’t played like a future Hall of Fame goalie. In 10 starts, Brodeur is 1-9-0 and has been pulled early in three of those games. He’s allowed four-plus goals in four of those games as well. Brodeur misses routine shots and looks slow in the crease.
The Devils rode Brodeur for many years, and it’s been a successful formula. But with his recent struggles – and a hot Johan Hedberg on the bench – the Devils need to turn to a goalie rotation.
It’s clear that Brodeur is struggling with a confidence issue. It’s compounded several of the already present issues the Devils’ goalie has dealt with this season. Need proof? Watch any highlight of the recent goals against Brodeur. As soon as the other team scores, the goalie throws his head back and rolls his eyes. He gives the same defeated look after each and every goal. We’re used to watching Brodeur shake off goals, but it hasn’t been that simple this season.
That lack of confidence directly correlates with his poor play. We all know Brodeur has lost a step as he’s gotten older. Despite his increased age, the goalie still had good positioning and confidence in net. This recent stretch has eroded those abilities. Brodeur is allowing great rebound opportunities, and his ability to make the second save hasn’t been there. His positioning isn’t great, and his glove has slowed tremendously.
The Devils, however, aren’t in a dire situation. Lou Lamoriello, in maybe his smartest signing of the summer, brought in Hedberg to provide a veteran backup for Brodeur. And so far, the signing has paid off. Yes, he only has five wins. But he’s shown the ability to keep the Devils in the game. His numbers aren’t great (2.93 goals-against average, .899 save percentage), but he provides a boost to the team. The defense plays better around him, and he’s shown the ability to win games.
While Brodeur struggles, the Devils shouldn’t let Hedberg rot on the bench. Eventually, Brodeur
will find his groove. But, right now, Hedberg provides the best chance to win. That’s ultimately what the Devils need – wins. There’s no way Brodeur should be benched. But cutting his workload down by a game or two per week would be beneficial. If the Devils’ goalie can re-discover his confidence, then slowly phase out the rotation. But with Brodeur struggling and Hedberg succeeding, the best solution is a rotation.
Don’t think it can work? Look at other teams around the NHL. Marc-Andre Fleury is the unquestioned number one in Pittsburgh. Yet Brent Johnson will get around 20 starts. Ditto for Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Biron. Both of those teams are fighting for playoff positions and will have fresh goalies for a late season push.
With Brodeur struggling, only one solution makes sense – turn to a goalie rotation. With only 10 wins on the season, it won’t hurt the Devils to give it a try.
The Matchup: The Buffalo Sabres (4-9-2) face off against the New Jersey Devils (4-10-1) at the Prudential Center. This is the third of four meetings between the two teams this season. The teams have split the season series so far, 1-1-0.
The Last Sabres Game: Buffalo defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-2, in a shootout Saturday. Trailing, 2-0, in the second period, Buffalo began their comeback. Derek Roy scored his seventh goal of the season at 18:56 of the period to cut the deficit in half. Jochen Hecht scored his first goal of the year with 14 seconds left in regulation to tie the game, 2-2. After a scoreless overtime, the teams moved to a shootout. Thomas Vanek scored in the second round, but John Mitchell answered right away in the third. Tyler Ennis would play hero, scoring the game-winning shootout goal in the fifth round. Jhonas Enroth finished with 23 saves for his first win of the season.
The Last Devils Game: The Devils were blanked by the Rangers, 3-0, Friday night at the Prudential Center. Brandon Dubinsky began the scoring, giving the Rangers a lead, 1-0, at 7:35 of the first period. Brian Boyle extended the lead, putting the Rangers ahead by two with a powerplay goal at 19:24 of the second period. Dubinsky would strike again, netting his second goal of the game with a shorthanded tally at 3:41 of the period. That put the Rangers ahead, 3-0, and ended any hope of a Devils win. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 33 shots for the shutout.
The Last Sabres – Devils Game: The Sabres blew out the Devils, 6-1, at the Prudential Center on October 23. Drew Stafford and Tyler Meyers staked the Sabres to a lead, 2-0, after the first period. The Sabres blew it open in the second period, scoring three goals and chasing starter Johan Hedberg from the game at the 8:17 mark of the period. Vanek recorded two goals in the win.
A Battle of Backups: When the Sabres and Devils square off, it’s usually a battle of the great goaltenders. That’s the matchup we watched in the first meeting, when Martin Brodeur out-dueled Ryan Miller. With both goalies ailing, the teams will rely on their backups to bring them a win.
Tonight’s Matchup: The Devils did what we asked from them in their last game. They thoroughly outplayed the Rangers, but a few mistakes and bad bounces cost them the game. They need to replicate that same effort tonight. It should be a welcome sight that Ryan Miller won’t be between the pipes Buffalo, giving the shooters more confidence, something this team desperately needs.
One of the Devils beat writers spoke at length about the power of positive thinking, especially within the Devils locker room. The team needs to keep a positive attitude throughout this entire ordeal. We’ve all been stuck in a rut or, in my case, played on terrible sports teams. It’s difficult to not let frustration creep in and dictate the style of play, etc. If the Devils continue to create opportunities, it should pay off. But, then again, how many times have we said that this season…
I would like to see another strong start by the team today. Put shots on net, generate turnovers, and keep the pressure on Buffalo. This is a team just as fragile as the Devils right now. If the Devils can get to them early, they may cause Buffalo to let frustration set in first. That could lead to more chances, and, God willing, more goals.
Gametime is 7 p.m., and you can catch all the action on MSG Plus. Also, join us for a live game blog tonight, beginning at 6:45 p.m.! Here’s tonight’s potential line combinations:
FORWARDS: Ilya Kovalchuk – Travis Zajac – Jamie Langenbrunner; Patrik Elias – Jason Arnott – Mattias Tedenby; Dainius Zubrus – Rod Pelley – David Clarkson; Alexander Vasuynov – Adam Mair – Stephen Gionta
DEFENSEMAN: Henrik Tallinder – Andy Greene; Alexander Urbom – Olivier Magnan; Matt Taormina – Anton Volchenkov
GOALIES: Johan Hedberg, Martin Brodeur
The Matchup: The New York Rangers (6-5-1) face off against the New Jersey Devils (4-9-1) tonight at the Prudential Center. This is the second of six meetings between the two teams this season. The Rangers currently lead the season series, 1-0-0.
The Last Rangers Game: The Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Rangers, 4-1, last night in Philadelphia. Brandon Dubinsky broke a scoreless tie in the second period, giving the Rangers a 1-0 lead with a powerplay goal at 1:53 of the period. Then the Flyers took control, scoring four straight goals to take the 4-1 lead.
The Last Devils Game: The Devils defeated the Chicago Blackhawks, 5-3, Wednesday night at the United Center in Chicago. The Devils jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but the wheels came off. Martin Brodeur left with an elbow injury after being hit by a shot. Colin White deflected a Brian Campbell shot into his own net, cutting the Devils lead in half. Fernando Pisani tied the game in the third period, scoring a powerplay goal at 3:42 of the period. The Devils pulled ahead on a Brad Mills goal, the first of his career. Two empty-net goals sealed the win for New Jersey.
The Last Rangers – Devils Game: The Rangers defeated the Devils, 3-1, on October 24 at MSG. Michael Rosival broke a scoreless tie in the second, putting the Rangers ahead, 1-0, at 1:26 of the period. Ryan Callahan extended the lead to 2-0 with a powerplay tally at 12:22 of the period. Ilya Kovalchuk cut the deficit in half, putting the Devils on the board at 14:08 of the third period. Dubinsky put home an empty-netter at 19:59 to clinch the victory.
For the full recap of the last game, read our game recap.
The A-Train Returns: Anton Volchenkov, who hasn’t played since October 9, will return to the lineup tonight. Volchenkov left during the Devils 7-2 loss to the Washington Capitals after taking a shot in the face. He broke his nose, but a stiff neck kept him out for the extended period of time. Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello believes it’ll help to settle the Devils defense.
“Whenever you get a veteran back whose size and strength is one of the reasons we acquired him, it certainly helps take the pressure off the other veteran players who are playing with young players and perhaps trying to do too much,” Lamoriello said to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record.
Tonight’s Matchup: The Devils played one of their most complete games of the season Wednesday night. But that’s in the past. The Devils haven’t strung together two wins in a row this season, so it’s not something that will come easy. The Rangers, especially with Henrik Lundqvist in net, play well against the Devils. And with the unfortunate influx of Rangers fans to Prudential Center, these games always feel like neutral site matchups.
Without Brodeur in net, the Devils need to play better defensively tonight. They played pretty well against the Blackhawks in their own zone, but the second period brought great chances and, of course, goals. Johan Hedberg played well in relief, but he’s going to need help. The defensemen need to make an intelligent first pass and limit the turnovers. With Volchenkov back, the Devils have that big, physical presence in front of the net, so I’d expect the shots to drop and the hits to rise.
The Devils need to pressure the Rangers defense from the opening faceoff to the end of the game. If New Jersey lets Lundqvist get comfortable, he’s going to dominate them. Keep the pressure on, and put shots toward the net. The offense doesn’t have to be fancy or Top-10 play worthy. Just do enough to put the puck in the back of the net.
Gametime is 7 p.m., and you can catch all the action on MSG Plus.
The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (2-6-1) face off against the San Jose Sharks (3-3-1) tonight in San Jose. This is the first of two meetings between the teams this season.
The Last Devils Game: The New York Rangers defeated the Devils, 3-1, Sunday night at Madison Square Garden. After a scoreless first period in which the Devils were outshot, 17-10, the Blueshirts capitalized first, with Michael Rozsival tallying his second goal of the season at 1:26 of the second period to put the Rangers ahead, 1-0. Ryan Callahan doubled the lead, connecting on the powerplay to put the Rangers ahead, 2-0, at 12:22 of the second period. Ilya Kovalchuk closed the gap to one goal, cutting the Blueshirts lead to 2-1 with 5:02 left in the third period. But the Rangers held on, and Brandon Dubinsky put home an empty-net shot to clinch the 3-1 victory.
The Last Sharks Game: The Calgary Flames blanked the Sharks, 4-0, Sunday night in Calgary. The Flames chased Sharks goalie Antti Niemi after the Stanley Cup champion allowed three goals to Rene Bourque, Jarome Iginla and Craig Conroy on five shots in the first period. Antero Niittymaki stopped 24 shots in relief. Miikka Kiprusoff made 27 saves for the shutout win.
The Last Devils – Sharks Game: The Devils defeated the Sharks, 4-3, in their only meeting on March 2 in San Jose. Dainius Zubrus scored the game’s first goal, giving the Devils a 1-0 lead at 11:13 of the second period. Mark Fraser scored 35 seconds later to increase the lead to two. The Devils continued to pound the Sharks, with Kovalchuk extending the Devils lead to three with a powerplay tally at 19:42.
The Devils completed an unanswered four-goal streak at 5:44 of the third period, when Travis Zajac scored his then-20th goal of the season. The Sharks, however, wouldn’t go quietly. They broke the shutout at 8:46 of the period on a Devin Setoguchi goal. Less than two minutes later, Setoguchi struck again, tallying a powerplay goal and cutting the Devils lead to 4-2. Joe Pavelski scored the third straight goal for San Jose to bring the score to 4-3. But the Devils were able to hold on for the victory.
For a look at the full historical matchup, take a look at our season preview post detailing the matchup with the San Jose Sharks.
Tonight’s Matchup: It’s a pretty simple gameplan for the Devils – play a complete, 60-minute game with the effort needed to win a hockey game. Martin Brodeur kept the Devils in the game against the Rangers Sunday night, keeping them afloat throughout the first period. While the Rangers brought relentless pressure, the Devils failed to make Henrik Lundqvist work. They put little to no pressure on the Rangers defense. The second period brought much of the same, but this time Brodeur couldn’t save New Jersey.
The third period – the best since the 3-0 shutout win over Montreal on October 15 – showed what the Devils need to do in tonight’s matchup. In the third, the Devils controlled the puck and pressured the Rangers defense. They worked hard on the forecheck and created opportunities throughout the period. The result? A dirty goal and some great play.
But the play in the third period can’t be a one-time thing. This team needs to bring that hunger and aggressive play to the ice during every shift. We’ve already seen the byproduct of that type of play, with two shutout wins on the road. That hasn’t been a consistent effort, and it’s become one of the many driving forces behind the teams 2-6-1 start. An aggressive start, especially during an away game, will help silence the crowd and give the Devils an early advantage.
As I detailed in an earlier post, this game begins an important five game stretch for the Devils. New Jersey needs to put together a consistent effort and get some wins. Hopefully tonight’s game against the Sharks will be the first step in the right direction.
Remember to check in with The Devils’ Den at 10:15 p.m. for a live game blog of all the action!
The Devils began a six-game road trip with a game against their hated rivals, the New York Rangers, at Madison Square Garden. New Jersey had a chance to get their road trip started right, with the opportunity to beat their rivals on their home ice and give them a good feeling heading out to the West Coast. The Devils, however, couldn’t capitalize on their opportunities, losing to their rivals, 3-1. Now the team goes out west with a two-game losing streak and several questions left to be answered.
Second period struggles continue
The Devils second period woes began last season, and it’s carried over into this season. Through the first nine games of the season, the Devils have allowed 17 goals in the middle period. That’s two more than the Devils’ scored this entire season. Those problems continued tonight, as the Devils once again left the second period in with a two goal deficit. Out of the many problems the Devils have, the biggest is their play in the middle period.
Coach John MacLean said the lack of consistency contributes to the Devils’ second period woes.
“We haven’t been consistent,” the Devils’ coach told the media after the game. “We need to have consistency night in and night out.”
Zach Parise echoed those same concerns.
“We’re a pretty talented team, but we’re missing something right now” the left-winger said. “At times, we’re not playing together out there. The effort was there tonight, but it’s not the result that we needed.”
Ryan Callahan kills the Devils (Again)
Callahan loves playing against the Devils. In 16 games against the Devils, Callahan has ten points (five goals, five assists) and seems to always come up with a big play at key moments in the game. And when that moment came, Callahan was there to bury the Devils.
With the Rangers already ahead, 1-0, Ilya Kovalchuk gave the Devils a powerplay opportunity with a questionable interference call. The Rangers controlled the puck, with Michael Rosival holding the puck at the point. The defenseman passed the puck to Brandon Dubinsky along the side boards, and the forward drifted into the right circle. He put a shot on net as Callahan crashed the crease. The forward tipped the puck through Martin Brodeur‘s pads for his first goal of the season.
Rosival gets a great bounce
There’s a lot of things contributing to the Devils 2-6-1 start to the season, and some of it is bad luck. For the Rangers, a bounce went their way in the second period, and it gave them a 1-0 lead.
The scoring drive began on a shot from Ruslan Fedentko from the right circle. The puck went off of Brodeur’s shoulder and stunned the Devils’ goalie. The rebound rolled up to Rosival at the point, who one-timed the puck to the net. The puck grazed off the leg of Andy Greene and went around Brodeur for his second goal of the season.
Henrik Lundqvist stands tall
Like so many Devils – Rangers game before tonight, a win hinged on the play of the goalies. And as he’s done 18 times before, Lundqvist stood tall and backstopped the Rangers to a victory. The Swedish goalie stopped several opportunities in the third period as the Devils tried desperately to come back and tie the game. The Devils took 12 shots in the third period, and only beat Lundqvist on a beautiful feed from Dainius Zubrus to Kovalchuk, who had a wide open net to shoot into. There’s a reason why the Rangers’ goalie has 19 wins against the Devils. He single-handidly helped the Rangers hold on to their win tonight.
For the rest of the recap, continue reading after the jump.
Ilya Kovalchuk’s goal at 14:08 of the period cut the Rangers lead to one, 2-1, over the Devils in the third period of tonight’s game at Madison Square Garden.
The play started at the point, where Matt Corrente collected a loose puck. The rookie defenseman put a shot on net, and Henrik Lundqvist blocked it away with a pad. Dainius Zubrus, who crashed the crease, collected a loose puck. He sent a no-look pass between his legs to Kovalchuk, who whipped the puck into the wide-open net for his third goal of the season.
Michael Rosival and Ryan Callahan scored second period goals to put the Rangers ahead, 2-0.
Callahan’s powerplay goal at 12:22 put the Rangers ahead, 2-0.
With Ilya Kovalchuk in the box for a questionable interference call, Dubinsky controlled the puck along the side boards. The forward drifted to the circle and put a shot on net, where Callahan redirected the shot through Brodeur’s pads for his first goal of the season.
The Devils had killed off the first three Rangers powerplays of the game before that goal.
Michael Rosival’s goal at 1:26 of the period gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
The play started off a rebound shot from Ruslan Fedentko down on the goal line. The shot hit Brodeur high and stung Brodeur. Michael Rosival fired a shot from the point, and the puck deflected off of Devils’ defenseman Andy Greene and into the back of the net.
The scorers originally credited Fedetenko with the goal, but changed the goal to Rosival. It is Rosival’s second of the year.
The Rangers led the second period shots, 12-6, and hold the overall lead in shots, 29-16.
Marc Staal almost made this a three-goal lead with 3:49 left in the second period. His shot ricocheted off the post, and it came out of the crease. The Devils, for what seems like the first time all season, catch a break.
The Rangers led in shots, 17-10. The Devils will have 1:10 of powerplay time left on the minor to Sean Avery. New Jersey is 0-for-1 tonight on the powerplay.
Brodeur one again came up huge at 3:45 of the first period. With the Rangers on the powerplay, the Devils coughed up the puck in their own zone, and Callahan took the puck at the doorstep. The Devil-killer tried to deke and beat Brodeur low, and the Devils goalie laid out in his crease. The puck slid under him, but went wide and missed the net.
The Devils broke out on two 2-on-1 opportunities in the period, but both times tried to force a pass instead of shooting the puck. Down in shots, 13-5, the Devils need shots, not cute passing.
Brodeur once again made a great save at 8:37 of the period. Brandon Dubinsky controlled the puck behind the net with the Blueshirts on the man advantage. The forward found Michael Del Zotto, who pinched down into the circle. He snapped a one-timer on net, but Brodeur was there to make the save.
Both teams have had good scoring chances tonight, but Martin Brodeur has been the busier of the two netminders. He’s had to make some good saves, including a denial of a wraparound try by Alex Frolov.
Here are tonight’s starters:
Ilya Kovalchuk – Rod Pelley – Jamie Langenbrunner; Colin White – Matt Taormina; Martin Brodeur
Sean Avery – Derek Stepan – Ruslan Fedentenko; Michael Del Zotto – Dan Girardi; Henrik Lundqvist
The Devils are 0-3-1 at home this season, but is 2-1-0 on the road. Those two victories have been shutouts.
Devils coach John MacLean made some line changes during pre-game warmups. Ilya Kovalchuk has shifted to the left wing on a line with Jacob Josefson and Jamie Langenbrunner. David Clarkson and Patrik Elias will be centered by Jason Arnott.
The Devils are coming off a 6-1 thrashing at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres last night. Johan Hedberg, making his first start of the season, was pulled after allowing four goals on nine shots. The team played terribly in front of him and couldn’t generate anything against Ryan Miller and the Sabres defense.
It was the second time in eight games New Jersey allowed five or more goals this season. Last season, the team only allowed five or more goals seven times.
Martin Brodeur will start for the Devils. Henrik Lundqvist gets the start for the Rangers.
The Devils have already lost one Atlantic Division game this season. The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated New Jersey, 3-1, on October 10.
The Rangers lost their only division game as well, losing to the New York Islanders, 6-1, on October 11.
Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will preview the Devils 2010-2011 schedule, giving you an in-depth preview of the 29 other teams the Devils will face next season. Last season, the Devils took first place in the Atlantic Division and second in the Eastern Conference. This season, the team will look to improve on their abysmal playoff performance. Earlier today, I previewed the Devils’ matchup with the Montreal Canadiens. For today’s second preview, we take a look at the Devils’ cross-river rival- the New York Rangers.
Rangers vs. Devils – Historical Data
In 206 all-time regular season meetings, the Devils are 85-87-27-7 against the Rangers. The Devils average 3.10 goals against their rival, but allow the Rangers to score 3.36 goals per game. In six regular season meetings, the Devils went 3-2-1 against the Rangers.
The Rangers won the first meeting of last season, 3-2, on October 5. Rob Niedermayer scored the game’s first goal 1:10 into the first period, giving the Devils the early lead. It wouldn’t last long, as Michael Del Zotto scored a powerplay goal at 6:31 to tie the game. The Devils responded with their own powerplay tally, as Travis Zajac restored the one-goal lead at the 10:52 mark. The seesaw battle continued, with the Rangers tying the score at two with an Ales Kotalik powerplay goal. Matt Gilroy put the Rangers ahead for good with an even-strength goal at 17:50 of the second period.
The Devils exacted revenge 17 days later, when they defeated the Rangers, 4-2, at Madison Square Garden. Zach Parise gave the Devils a 1-0 lead at 6:11 of the first period, and Niclas Bergfors doubled the lead at 15:10 of the period. The Rangers came roaring back in the second period, using goals from Marian Gaborik and Kotalik to tie the game at two. The Devils took control in the third period, with Dainius Zubrus scoring the game-winning goal at 7:51 of the period. Parise added an empty-net goal to seal the victory. Martin Brodeur stopped 29 shots in the win.
The Devils won the third game of the series, 1-0, in a shootout on January 12. The game was a goalie duel, with Brodeur and Henrik Lundqvist going save for save. The teams remained scoreless into the shootout, with the Rangers electing to shoot first. Erik Christensen, the Rangers first shooter, lost control of the puck and couldn’t get a shot on net. Parise was up first for the Devils, and had his blocker-side shot denied. Brodeur stopped Kotalik, Gaborik and Brandon Dubinsky to keep the Rangers off the board. Lundqvist stopped Jamie Langenbrunner and Zajac, but couldn’t stop Patrik Elias. The Devils left-winger put the puck over Lundqvist’s catching glove, giving the Devils the win.
With that win, Brodeur recorded his first career regular season shutout at Madison Square Garden. The Devils’ goalie stopped 51 shots for the win. Lundqvist recorded 44 saves in the loss.
The Rangers won the fourth meeting of the season, 3-1, to even the season series. The Rangers scored three unanswered goals in the second period to take the lead. Zubrus scored a third period goal, but it wouldn’t rally the Devils. Lundqvist made 41 saves for the win.
Continue after the jump for the rest of the preview!