Since sweeping a home and home with the Pittsburgh Penguins two weeks ago the New Jersey Devils have gone 2-4-1–a less than satisfactory performance that has dulled early season expectations that saw this team among the Stanley Cup favorites.
The team’s goal differential during this stretch is an odorous minus-9, and their season total, despite being five games over .500, is minus-1.
Early on, the Devils were winning the tight contests, the same games they are losing now.
After handling the Penguins, New Jersey sat atop the conference and looked like a complete team with the depth that got them all the way to the finals last year. But in this recent stretch they have scored more than two goals just once. Now just two points separates them from seventh place. Ryan Carter is concussed, Dainius Zubrus has been lost to wrist surgery and most recently, 40-year-old netminder Martin Brodeur’s back has been protesting.
Prior to Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets, Brodeur took himself out of the lineup during pregame warm ups. According to Tom Gulitti’s Fire and Ice blog, it is minor soreness that has been bothering the future hall of famer lately, and there will be further examination on Monday.
The last thing Coach Pete DeBoer needs during a short season is to lose his starting goaltender, even for just a few games. Especially when backup Johan Hedberg has given up nine goals in the past two games.
By no means is it time to panic, no matter how short the season may be. The Devils remain in striking distance of the conference-leading Canadiens. But the East is quite parity-stricken, and New Jersey can’t expect the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers, two sleeping dogs, to remain on the outside of the playoff picture much longer.
Fans want another trade for scoring depth. There isn’t exactly a guy being dangled out there right now, however. A lot of teams are in the playoff race and will be reluctant to mail it in.
Bobby Ryan was born in Cherry Hill, NJ and is a popular subject of trade rumors, but I don’t see that happening at this point. Anaheim is off to a torrid start and isn’t even in remote salary cap trouble. Why they would trade a 25-year-old scorer with size and speed, you’ll have to fill me in.
And I don’t see Jarome Iginla, a career Calgary Flame, packing for Newark airport.
The Devil’s have to hope Carter and Brodeur are okay, and Zubrus can heal promptly. In reality, all they need to do is stay in the thick of the playoff race and hope that, like last year, they get hot at the right time.
The Devils head out on a three game road trip with stops in Winnipeg, Buffalo and Toronto. All winnable games that they can use to get back on track. This is a good time for Ilya Kovalchuk to channel his freakish ability and win a game on his own.