New Jersey Devils first half report card: Goaltending

The second half of the New Jersey Devils’ season is underway, and the race for the playoffs is starting to heat up.  The Devils currently sit in sixth place in the Metropolitan division, and are just three points out of the third place, as well as two points back of Carolina for the final wild card spot. I have evaluated the three major components of the team as a whole, and given out grades on how I feel they have performed up to this point in the season.  Here is my grade for the New Jersey Devils’ goaltenders.

Final Grade: B+

For the past two decades New Jersey has not had to worry about their goaltending situation at all.  Future hall of famer Martin Brodeur has always been the unquestioned number one goalie.  That’s why when New Jersey traded their 9th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft for Cory Schneider, it brought immediate questions and speculation regarding both players.  How would Brodeur, who is notorious for having a heavy workload year after year, handle sharing the net for the first time in his illustrious career? Would Cory Schneider be able to handle being a number one goalie for the first time in the NHL?  And could this situation potentially erupt into a full blown controversy and become a distraction to the team?  Up to this point in the season it has worked out very well.  New Jersey ranks sixth in the NHL in goals against per game at 2.38, and each goalie ranks in the top 15 in goals against average for goaltenders who have started at least 19 games.

martin-brodeur

Martin Brodeur (The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld)

Martin Brodeur has started 25 games this season and has a record of 12-9-4.  His goal against average of 2.38 has him ranked 15th in the NHL among goalies who have started 19 or more games.  His season started out slowly, as he allowed 3 or more goals in each of his first five starts.  But as the calendar flipped to November, Brodeur began to look like the goaltender Devils fans have been used to watching for the past 20 years.  He went on a stretch from October 29th to November 16th where he started six of the team’s nine games, had a 5-1 record (the loss was a 1-0 defeat to the Flyers), and recorded 2 shutouts.  Brodeur’s hot streak also came when the team was struggling to score goals and needed Brodeur to be in vintage form.  He answered the challenge, and allowed a total of just five goals in those six games.  Also, the most underrated benefit to having Brodeur in net is his puck handling skills.  His ability to play the puck behind the net and send breakout passed to the defensemen is such a crucial element to this Devils team.  It helps to put the rookie defensemen into much easier situations to clear the zone, and I believe it has been a huge factor in their development and strong play this season.

Cory Schneider has had a lot of hard luck this season.  For whatever reason the Devils fail to score goals in games that he starts.  In Schneider’s 20 games this season, the Devils have scored two goals or less in 17 of those games, and have been shutout four times.

Cory Schneider (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Cory Schneider (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

The lack of goal scoring is the main reason that Schneider’s  personal record sits at 6-9-5.  Despite the tough luck from the offense, Schneider has been consistently playing very good hockey all year long.  He has allowed three goals or less in every game he’s played in this season, with the exception of the game against the Chicago Blackhawks when he allowed five.  Schneider would be getting a lot more recognition around the league for his 2.02 goals against average this season if the team’s offense could produce more goals, leading to more wins.

Overall I feel that the New Jersey Devils have received above average goaltending up to this point in the season.  Pete DeBoer has done a fine job of balancing the playing time between the two goaltenders, and for the most part has had a good feel for which goalie is playing well and continues to start him.  The thing that concerns me is that neither Brodeur nor Schneider has really grabbed hold of the number one starter label.  Each goalie will go on a hot stretch for a while, but then soon after have a game where they let in a few stoppable shots that lead to losses.  Whichever goaltender really comes to play in the second half of the season certainly will have the opportunity to play a majority of the games, including being the number one starter if the Devils make the playoffs.  The Devils desperately need one of these two goalies to step up and play his way into being the undisputed starting goaltender for the final month’s most important games.