The Devils did not.
New Jersey ended its disappointing campaign with a flat, uninspired effort in a 4-0 loss to New York at Madison Square Garden.
The Devils did not.
New Jersey ended its disappointing campaign with a flat, uninspired effort in a 4-0 loss to New York at Madison Square Garden.
?It's been a long time since Martin Brodeur sat out a game at Madison Square Garden, but it looks like Sunday will be the battle of the backup goalies.
I think it's surprising if Brodeur doesn't start. But if DeBoer wants to do it, it's his prerogative.
Here are some leftovers from the Devils' 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
For whatever reason, the arena seemed exceedingly quiet until Travis Zajac's second-period goal.
Yet, somehow they still managed to claim the season series from the Eastern Conference's top team.
New Jersey came from 2-0 down to send its home crowd out with a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night at Prudential Center.
Johan Hedberg is starting in goal, the Devils don't have anything to play for, so why not give a guy like defenseman Eric Gelinas a shot Thursday when Pittsburgh comes calling? Alexander Urbom made his season debut on Tuesday night against Montreal and did OK.
If Gelinas -- who the Devils are awfully high on -- wants to see what the NHL is really like, why not play him against an injury-riddled Penguins team with nothing to play for.
A lifeless start, a couple of bad penalty calls and suddenly the Devils were frustrated, losing and on their way to playoff elimination. All in all, a sad but fitting end (as far as playoff chances go) to a season that was flawed from the get-go. Some thoughts...
Two things: When you combine a lack or energy with some questionable officiating, you usually get one of two results. Sometimes the team will take on an "us against the world" mentality, snap out of their funk and go on a tear the rest of the game. That didn't happen today. Instead, the Devils went further into their shell and seemingly quit on the game and essentially their season. Even Martin Brodeur admitted that he felt his teammates gave up when things didn't go their way. The Devils basically mailed in the first period, negating to forecheck or apply any sort of offensive pressure on the Rangers. It was almost like the Devils came out assuming they were already eliminated from the playoffs. While it was a mathematical eventuality, it's still disconcerting to hear players after the game talk about how they knew it was just a matter of time. When you hear stuff like that, you can understand why you get a first period like the Devils had today.
The latest additions to the injury report ledger were Adam Larsson and Johan Hedberg, who both missed Wednesday night's loss after being hurt in practice Tuesday. Larsson took a puck off his foot (from Anton Volchenkov, no less) and couldn't even put his foot in a skate yesterday. Thankfully, he's much better today.
The good news is this won't affect the lineup at all since it'll likely only be Martin Brodeur in net the rest of the way.
Like I said above -- this makes sense. Marty will have plenty of time to rest, but it got me wondering about whether we'll see Johan Hedberg in net again this season. Brodeur has started every game since he returned from the pinched nerve that cost him a? month's worth of starts (technically all but one since Hedberg started Brodeur's first game after being activated). That stretch has included two back-to-back sets (which he usually always splits with Moose) and a recent stretch of four starts in seven days. I personally thought Hedberg would get at least one start during that seven-day stretch, which included the second back-to-back set. But with the Devils having at least one day off in between every game the rest of the season and the Devils in an absolute dogfight for a playoff spot, I don't think DeBoer wants to have to trust anyone but Marty in net.
It was almost a storybook return, but history turned out to be too good to be true for Martin Brodeur. Still, after weathering a hectic first 10 minutes, the Devils responded with an excellent overall effort and have ended their most recent losing streak in impressive fashion. Some thoughts...
Marty: It may not have been history, but it was an excellent return for Brodeur, who single-handedly kept the Devils in the game long enough for them to find their sea legs. Brodeur's performance during the first 10 minutes of the first period was the shining example of what we wrote earlier this week. While Johan Hedberg was good enough, he wasn't Brodeur. He didn't have that extra level. Moose was likely to be beaten on the fifth shot of a rapid-fire barrage. Brodeur, on the other hand, was calm, cool, collected and his usual reliable self. Of course, he was blatantly exhausted at the end of that stretch, but thankfully the rest of the team took over from there, shutting the Hurricanes down so well even Drake would've been impressed. But it wasn't just those saves -- or his goal (yes, his goal) -- that stood out for me. It was all the little things that Brodeur does that make him such an excellent netminder even at the age of 40. One of those examples came during the first period when there was a turnover and Alexander Semin came rushing up the gut toward the puck. Moose might've dove at the puck and he might have disrupted Semin enough to be successful. It's a risky proposition we've seen Hedberg both win and lose this season. Instead, Brodeur stayed calm, stayed upright and came out just far enough that he forced Semin to shoot at one of several tiny windows. Semin, of course, nearly scored, rocketing a shot off the post just over Brodeur's shoulder, but that's a nearly impossible shot to make and it's the only one Brodeur gave him. Marty also made at least two or three excellent decision with the puck on his stick, deftly moving the play away from the net and helping the Devils get out of the zone. Brodeur's return will likely be remembered for his incredibly bizarre goal and those frantic first minutes, but it was the things that went unnoticed, things not seen in the box score that impressed me the most.
I won't say the Devils "didn't deserve" to win that one, because that's not what happened tonight. Yes, the Devils allowed too many odd-man rushes and the offensive pressure and possession pretty much died in the third period. But the Devils also ran into a hot goaltender and were also the victim of some unfortunate bounces. All in all, it was a very good hockey game between two rivals fighting for the same land in the playoff landscape. Some thoughts...
Goalie class: First off, let me say that Johan Hedberg didn't play poorly at all. He played well, in fact. Hedberg was victimized by a bad bounce on one of the second goal and some
sloppy nonexistent coverage of the trailer on the first goal. Moose managed to keep the Devils in the game on several occasions and his glove work (particularly on Nash in the third) was just phenomenal. The problem with Hedberg is that he's not on Henrik Lundqvist's level and when a goalie not on Lundqvist's level runs into an elite goalie that's playing well, it usually doesn't end well. Right before the third and deciding goal for the Rangers, Lundqvist made about four or five strong saves that only a select group of goalies can make. Devils fans witnessed it for almost two decades with Martin Brodeur, so they know what elite goaltending looks like. There's no denying that Lundqvist was maybe the main reason tonight's game ended the way it did. The good news for the Devils is they're finally getting Brodeur back, possibly as early as Thursday. That will help the Devils even the playing field a bit when they match up with the Rangers, Canadiens and Bruins later on this season and potentially in the playoffs.
Brodeur also told reporters that he woke up "feeling fine" and is "100 percent." He is ready to start any time, he added.
Johan Hedberg will start again for the last time in probably a little while.
The Devils will need to remove Brodeur from injured reserve before he can dress Tuesday, but they already cleared a roster spot Sunday by returning Stefan Matteau to his junior club. Both Pete DeBoer and Johan Hedberg said it sounds like Brodeur will be on the bench and in uniform as Moose's back up Tuesday night against the Rangers. The happiest man to hear the news? Probably a combination of Hedberg and DeBoer, who both probably couldn't wait to get their top goalie back in the lineup. The only reason Marty won't start Tuesday likely has to do with conditioning, but the fact remains that Brodeur is returning to a team that seriously needs him. For as well as Hedberg has played over the past 10 days or so, he has to be exhausted, for one. Also, the return of Brodeur will provide a mental boost throughout the locker room, even if he's only a backup Tuesday. I'll be interested to see how the team responds, but I wouldn't be shocked at all if we saw the Devils start a stretch of some really strong overall hockey Tuesday night.
OK, so does that mean the 39-year-old Johan Hedberg will look to extend his streak of 10 straight starts in net to 12? Yup.
Oh. Well, OK, that's not too surprising, but Zubrus skating has to be a good sign, right?
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.
There's not much more you can ask for in a game than what you got from the Devils tonight. The effort was there in all phases, the stars delivered and Johan Hedberg was strong for the third time in the last four games (coincidentally, all Devils wins). It certainly set up an interesting game Friday in the second half of this home-and-home series with Philly. Some thoughts...
Stars deliver: For the past two weeks, everyone's been asking for the Devils' key players to step up, including Pete DeBoer. Well, tonight everyone and DeBoer got their wish. Adam Henrique, Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias all lit the lamp, with a little extra help from a beautiful Andrei Loktionov toe drag. With all due respect to Loktionov, Ryan Carter and the supporting cast, the Devils need their top players to step up in order to make a serious run at and eventually through the playoffs. Kovy is going to be Kovy aka he's going to score, going to dazzle and apparently, going to score a lot of short-handed goals. Elias is leading the team in points and outside a brief stretch has been the Devils' most consistent player all season. The difference maker tonight was clearly Henrique, who has been an absentee figure (along with Travis Zajac) for large chunks of this season. It wasn't just than Henrique had two goals and an assist tonight. It was that he was all over the ice, particularly in the offensive end. He was constantly putting the puck on net and was a nightmare for the Flyers all night. With the way Loktionov is playing on the top line alongside Kovy, an energized and dangerous Henrique would make the Devils a dangerous two-line team that has the potential to play offensive hockey three lines deep once Zajac awakens from his slumber. Up until tonight, the Devils had been mostly playing one line deep or maybe two lines when the third line or CBGB line was rolling. Tonight you saw why New Jersey so desperately depends on their top players and what happens when those top players deliver.
Second, on tonight's goalie:
Wins don't get much bigger than that. The Devils desperately needed a "W" before tonight's game and it became even more crucial considering the sterling effort they got from Johan Hedberg. As bad as last night was, tonight was a strong, strong effort across the board. Some thoughts...
Moose call: Honestly, that game shouldn't have even gone to overtime. While the Evander Kane goal (Holy shit, what a shot) was unavoidable and basically unstoppable, the Mark Stuart score only happened because Andy Greene had brain fart and tried to play a bouncing puck about a foot in front of Hedberg. If you look on the replay, Hedberg was in perfect position to stop Stuart's shot and likely would have. Now, does that mean the Jets wouldn't have scored another time and forced OT regardless? No, but I use it to point out that Hedberg was about as iron-clad as goalies get, especially backup goalies. Moose had probably his second-best game since taking over the full-time gig and it couldn't have come at a better time. The Devils needed this game in every sense of the word and their goalie delivered. Hedberg doesn't need to play this well every night, but the Devils do need his play to be close to what they've gotten in two of the last three games. The most impressive thing I saw from Moose tonight was how he stayed calm and didn't get overwhelmed or downtrodden after the Stuart goal. We've seen him in past games (Saturday night in particular) give up goals in bunches after the defense lets him down or a bad bounce leads to a goal. Tonight, however, he bounced right back and got better as the game went on. He was the absolute reason the game didn't end before OT and he was the reason they won in a shootout. This was very much a goaltender duel and in the end, Hedberg made a couple more saves when it was necessary. Impressive, indeed. Necessary -- absolutely. Now, let's see if he can do it two games in a row.
When you're guilty of multiple defensive breakdowns in the first period and no-show the entire second, it's highly unlikely that any sense of urgency in the third is going to save you. That was pretty much the story for the Devils as they went back into the losing side of the ledger Saturday. Some thoughts...
What are you waiting for: Remember when bad starts were the problem? Well, that's not exactly the case now -- the Devils' starts have actually been OK, but they haven't shown any urgency over the past three games until their backs are up against the wall in the third period. Thursday night the Devils did just enough to force OT, but tonight and the time before came up short. And it's not even just about the offensive side of their game. The Devils basically allowed the Hurricanes to walk into their zone time after time and showed absolutely no fight in clearing the crease. Two of the goals tonight were the direct result of Devils defenders allowing a Hurricane forward to stand right in front of Johan Hedberg and play the puck. That's simply unacceptable and has to change, because it doesn't look like the Devils are going to be able to score more than two or three goals on a regular basis. I'm starting to worry this is more than just a bad habit. I'm starting to worry this "is what it is." The defense is slow and sloppy, the offense is pressing and gripping their sticks too tight and Pete DeBoer showed at least four different versions of the "You gotta be kidding me" face tonight. I can only imagine what he said to them between the second and the third period that had them jumping out of their skates to start the period, but it's probably not along the lines of "Good job, good effort." Will things change tomorrow night against Winnipeg? Maybe, but I'm not holding my breath.
Bounce after bounce after bounce didn't go the Devils' way for two-plus periods Thursday night ... until they did. A rebound ended up right back on Adam Henrique's stick, same with Patrik Elias and then Elias had what might have been the biggest goal of the season (albeit a shootout score). Finally, the streak is over, hopefully for the Devils the pressure is off and? they can get back to playing a complete hockey game. Hopefully. Some thoughts...
Best player on the ice: The Devils aren't anywhere close to being in position to win that game if not for Johan Hedberg. Moose has taken a lot of heat during this losing streak -- and deservedly so. But tonight he was everything the Devils needed him to be. Hedberg was calm in the face of pressure, excellent with his positioning and made a couple saves he probably had no right making. He also got a few breaks (and caught a few posts, particularly in OT), but you tend to get those breaks when you're playing well. One of the more impressive aspects of his game tonight was his puck movement. After a couple early snafus, including one that led to him committing a penalty in the first period, Hedberg settled down with the puck on his stick and directly set up at least two legitimate scoring chances for the Devils. It's a small thing that Martin Brodeur usually excels at and it helps the Devils' defensemen move the puck up the ice without asking guys like Bryce Salvador to carry it end to end. Pete DeBoer had no doubt that Hedberg would eventually settle down and reward his patience in the veteran and tonight, DeBoer's faith paid off. The question now is whether this is a blip in the radar against a team that's OK at best or whether it's a sign of things to come. The Devils need it to be the latter because it doesn't appear that Brodeur is coming back from his back injury anytime soon. Hedberg doesn't have to win games like he did tonight, but he has to play well enough and not give up bad goals so the Devils are at least in games and have a chance to win.
Predictably, DeBoer was less than forthcoming with answers on Wednesday, saying Brodeur was "feeling better" but also not close to a return. When asked to explain, he confused the public further.
The slide continues for the Devils in what was possibly their worst overall effort of the slide. Far too little pressure and attacking between the first five minutes and the last five minutes, lackluster defensive play and obvious frustration were the main highlights to take away from tonight's game. Some thoughts...
Rock bottom: Did the Devils hit rock bottom during the second period tonight? Pete DeBoer certainly hopes they did. He said as much after the game and about halfway through the second period, it was hard to disagree with him. There were brutal defensive breakdowns -- repeatedly. There was an offense that failed to get more than two meaningful shots on Anders Lindback from the halfway point of the first period to the final seven minutes of the third period. There was mediocre goaltending, albeit by a goalie who was hung out to dry on multiple occasions (including the second and third goals) by the players in front of him. So what now? The Devils have to realize that this is about as bad as it can get. They Devils were beaten 5-2 by a team that's not better than them, but definitely outplayed them. They've lost six straight and eight out of their last nine. Perhaps most disturbing is that six of those eight losses were to teams that are currently outside of the playoff picture, which means the Devils aren't only losing ground among the middle-class teams in the East, they're also dropping future tiebreakers against the team they could end up battling for playoff spots. Tonight was the first of six home games in eight contests. It's where the Devils need to get back into playing their style of hockey or else this won't be rock bottom -- and that's a really, really bad thing.
I won't go into this too much -- I have a lot of thoughts for tonight's postgame recap -- but I'm not surprised by this at all. I thought Hedberg just needed a night off and he got half of that tonight. With a full day off to rest between now and Thursday, you've got to go back to the guy who will be your backup for the rest of the season. No matter how long Kinkaid sticks around for, the No. 2 job is still Hedberg's until he absolutely forces DeBoer's hand. The question now is how long will Kinkaid be here? It's been more than a few days since Marty Brodeur was sidelined and this is starting to look and feel exactly like the Zubrus and Carter injuries. First, it wasn't serious. Then, it dragged on a little longer than the Devils made it seem before the player eventually landed on IR. Is Brodeur's back injury worse than the Devils originally let on? Or is his back in worse shape than the doctors originally thought? He was at the game tonight and looked to be in fine spirits, so I still don't think it's serious in nature, but we're starting to get to the point where it's fair to wonder just how serious it is.
I imagine DeBoer's lineup decision led to a scene similar to this in the home locker room of the Prudential Center:
Maybe that's what makes the Devils' 4-2 loss -- their fifth consecutive defeat-- on Monday night at Air Canada
Who:? New Jersey Devils at Toronto Maple Leafs
When: 7:00 p.m. ET; Pregame show at 6:30 p.m. ET
?I?m trying not to look at it,? DeBoer said of the team?s schedule. ?I am aware of that. I?ve never put a calendar up on my office Sunday to Sunday and seen five games on it, so this is a first.?
Johan Hedberg will start in net tonight. With Martin Brodeur out at least through Tuesday?s game, I asked DeBoer if there was any chance he would give rookie Keith Kinkaid his first NHL start Tuesday against the Lightning.
The Devils' five overtime-losses are tied for the most in the NHL.
In fact, since claiming their first OT win-- 3-2 over Washington on Jan. 25-- New Jersey's lost five straight overtime contests. Their most recent OT loss, a 4-3 shootout defeat at the Eastern Conference's No. 12 seeded Buffalo Sabres, gained New Jersey its 25th point but left the Devils searching for answers.
Minus-4 - Marek Zidlicky's plus/minus rating for February. Zidlicky is minus-2 overall this year.
3 -?The number of 5-1 losses New Jersey suffered in February -- an inordinate number for a "defensive-minded" team.
DeBoer said prior to Thursday's game that he was leaning toward starting Hedberg as long as Martin Brodeur was on IR, which could end Monday in Toronto. Although I wasn't as optimistic as DeBoer about Hedberg's play in his first three losses, I thought he played well enough last night for the Devils to win. He made some good saves -- some difficult saves -- and generally kept his head about him except for an overly aggressive play on the second goal. I think it's pretty clear DeBoer doesn't want to start Keith Kinkaid with the Devils in serious need of a win. Even if Marty can't play Monday, he'd had to miss Tuesday's game as well for Kinkaid to likely even get a look. As for Hedberg, the key tomorrow will be not allowing the Sabres' top line to beat them. Buffalo's won two straight and could be gaining some momentum under new coach Ron Rolston, but they're still a one-line team. If Hedberg (and the players in front 0f him) can keep a lid on that Vanek-Hodgson-Pominville line, the Devils will have a good chance to win.
Brodeur is eligible to return in time for Monday's game against the Maple Leafs and DeBoer said Thursday it's possible Brodeur could meet up with the team in Toronto.
Then, just before 5 p.m. ET, Brodeur became the third Devil to be place on injured reserve in the last two weeks. After a couple hours to think it over, I've come up with a few thoughts on the injury, the roster move and how this affects the Devils going forward...
This means Brodeur will miss at least two games (Thursday and Saturday), three if you include Sunday's late scratch. Should we worry that all the miles have finally caught up to Marty or are the Devils just being cautious with their 40-year-old netminder? Maybe a little of both. Outside of Ilya Kovalchuk, Brodeur is the most indispensable player on the roster and you could argue he's more important than Kovy. Expect Johan Hedberg to start one if not both of the games Brodeur has missed with Keith
Kincaid Kinkaid being added to the active roster as a backup. We'll have more on this later, but I wanted to get the news up for now.
Well, that got out of hand quickly. After a strong first period, the Devils seemed completely overwhelmed by the tempo of the game and just never got it going. All of the textbook problems were there and you have to wonder if Marty's late scratch may have played a factor. Some thoughts...
Funky: I delved into it briefly during the pregame post, but the Devils have been less than stellar over the past two weeks. During that stretch, they've failed to put together an overall game as strong and complete as some of their early season efforts. Is it the injuries and lack of depth catching up to them or is this the Devils team we should get used to seeing? I tend to think it's a bit of both. The Devils probably aren't as good as they showed in the first couple weeks, but they're certainly better than the team that lost 9-3 over the past two days. They're in a funk, which Pete DeBoer has been aware of for a few games now. DeBoer has tried to find a way to spark the Devils out of their funk, specifically using line changes to try to get players out of their comfort zones and force them back into doing some of the fundamentals of the Devils' gameplan. It's worked for some players (Travis Zajac's goal from Patrik Elias tonight), but for the most part the alterations have been unsuccessful in getting the Devils back to playing their basic game of forechecking, taking away the other team's best player and being responsible with the puck in their own zone. Is it time to panic? Not by a longshot, but the time to be concerned has definitely arrived.
Big sigh of relief from Devils fans and from Pete DeBoer, I'm sure. First of all, it was the smart move by Brodeur to pull himself out of a late February game against the Jets rather than risk seriously aggravating his back and missing an elongated period of time. In this shortened season, injuries like that can get much worse very fast if the players/teams aren't vigilant. Also, a sore back is much better than say lingering pain in his shoulder from that ridiculous shot he was hit with a few days back. With the Devils off (game-wise) until Thursday, there was no reason to rush or push anything involving a sore back for a 40-year-old goalie. Brodeur also said afterwards that he's not worried about any lingering issues and my guess is they'll give him a light workload in practice this week before starting him Thursday in Winnipeg.
The Devils simply do not give Johan Hedberg help.
Hedberg fell to 2-2-1 this season, as New Jersey surrendered four third-period goals in its 5-1 loss to the Caps on Saturday afternoon at Verizon Center.
It's not a gameday morning skate, so it's not 100 percent solid, but I'd expect Marty back in net tomorrow with Johan Hedberg taking his usual second half of the back-to-back Sunday night.
UPDATE: Check that, looks like it'll be Hedberg tomorrow.