Being that the Devils are at the half-way point of the season (OK, a couple games past it but cut us some slack), we decided to do some “grades” for this team. Originally, this was supposed to be one full post, but after compiling them, it seems better to break them up into different pieces today. Earlier, we gave you our grades for the forwards and the defensemen. Now, we get to the goalies.
(Disclaimer: All “grades” comments are usually entirely too general and tend to omit more detail than normal, so apologies in advance if we left a player out.)
Corey: Before Martin Brodeur got hurt, this was easily the high point of the Devils’ season. Brodeur somehow looked invigorated by the time off he got from the lockout. The 40-year-old netminder showed up to training camp in midseason form, something he jokingly credited to the amount of time he spent playing golf while locked out. Whatever the reason, Brodeur looked every bit the goalie he was during the Devils’ Stanley Cup playoff run last season, an impressive feat considering the numerous factors conspiring to prevent that. Johan Hedberg was even impressive as Brodeur’s caddy, a sometimes-fill-in who made sure the Devils didn’t miss a beat when the No. 1 needed a night off. And then, out of nowhere, Brodeur’s age caught up to him. The elder statesman was warming up for a Jan. 24 game against the Winnipeg Jets when he felt a twinge in his back. Bordeur pulled himself from the game, Hedberg entered and the rest, as they say, is a lengthy losing streak history.
With Hedberg as the only option in net (aside from a couple cameo appearances from prospects Keith Kinkaid and Jeff Frazee), the Devils fell from top of the Eastern Conference to the edge of the playoff picture. They did this also amidst a total breakdown of responsibility and coverage in the defensive zone, a cornucopia of poorly timed giveaways and a goal drought to make the trap-era Devils jealous. So how much of it was Hedberg and how much of it was his supporting cast? Well, that’s a tough equation to crack. For sure, Hedberg let in more than his fair share of savable goals, but how many times did Bryce Salvador and co. leave him hanging out to dry? More than likely, the answer lies somewhere in the middle, which is likely where Hedberg’s grade will end by the time Brodeur returns. We’ve already seen Moose start to right the ship in the past few games, which has raised the Devils’ intra-conference profile enough to take them out of the postseason hot water for the moment. In the end, I gave the Devils’ goalies the benefit on the doubt, based mostly on the strong play by Brodeur to start and Hedberg more recently. GRADE: C+
(Editor's note: Pat's grades were written prior to Wednesday's game.)
Pat: Like every other facet of New Jersey’s game, goaltending was great in the beginning but has been awful since. Brodeur is 8-2-3, has a .911 save percentage and a 2.27 goals-against average. Brodeur’s goals-against is 11th-best among all goalies who have played at least 11 games.
The problem is, Brodeur’s not played since Feb. 24, and Johan Hedberg is obviously incapable of playing as an every-day goalie. Hedberg allowed just one goal in his first three starts but has surrendered 36 in his subsequent 10— Pete DeBoer’s even had to pull him twice for Jeff Frazee and Keith Kinkaid.
Hedberg’s still a serviceable backup— when he’s playing every seven days— but he can’t be trusted to start if the creaky Brodeur breaks down. Hedberg’s allowed seven more goals in the same number of starts as Brodeur, and I’m personally wondering how Brodeur’s “soreness” could keep him out of eight straight games.
This is getting serious here, this season’s a sprint— not the marathon it typically is— and if New Jersey’s going to be a playoff team, it needs goaltending. ... GRADE: C+