When #1 goalie Martin Brodeur got injured, and Kevin Weekes took his place – I was about to throw in the towel. Brodeur was one of many backbone player the Devils had to leave the roster because of an injury.
This was going to be a nightmare season.
Now, what do we have? Surprising Scott Clemmensen has taken over as the Devils #1 goalie in net (sorry Weekes) and has been filling the rather large skates left behind by Brodeur.
In addition to Scott shining in his moment, the Devils injured have come back, one by one, to make one of the most solid rosters I have seen since the lockout.
Every year you say “this is going to be our year” and every year you know in the pit of your stomach that you are secretly lying to yourself. Okay, maybe I do that. But since the Devils came back in the “new era” of the NHL, not one time have I gone in to the playoffs feeling good about the team. Not once. You look at the playoff tree and you try and see “okay, what team could be beat?” “Oh I don’t want to play Carolina – they’re tough.” “Oh, does it have to be the Rangers? We can’t beat them to save our lives this season!”
Well now the Devils find themselves in a good position. They sit with one of the best records than any other team in the NHL this month (with the exception of San Jose…) and are continuing to score goals at a pace they haven’t seen since 2000. Furthermore, they are simply playing well.
Take, for example, Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. The game didn’t start out well for either team. The Devils were having difficulty penetrating the Flyers zone and getting scoring chances. After some time, however, the Devils were able to adapt and score two goals against the Flyers and keep the damage to a minimum. The game later went in to a shootout and Clemmensen was able to keep the Flyers from scoring too many to give the Devils a chance to win – and eventually got the win in extra innings.
It is one thing to score a lot of goals and hang on to games by trying to play keep-away. But the Devils are playing solid games and continuing to play well even after they stretch their lead. Although their special teams are slightly inconsistent, they are still scoring some goals on the Power Play and are holding off most chances from opponents on the penalty kill.
Fact is, the Devils are moving up in the NHL. They are separating themselves from the lower 7 teams and are inching closer and closer to the top. In addition, they are several games in hand from the teams above them and thus are gaining ground in every game they play.
Now Tuesday is a true test. The Devils will be playing the Boston Bruins, a team which has impressive talent at both ends of the ice. Looking over the standings, although they are “second” to the San Jose Sharks, they are first in “Goals For” and “Goals Against” – meaning they have scored more goals and given up the fewest than any other team in the NHL.
The trick for the Devils will be to adapt like they did to the Flyers and find the holes necessary to beat the Bruins.