It’s official. The slump has reached critical mass. For the first time all season the New Jersey Devils are outside of the playoff picture looking in.
A Wednesday night loss to the Rangers was the most recent episode in a series that began in mid-February. Since goaltender Martin Brodeur came up limp with a sore back in pregame warm ups prior to a February 23 contest in Washington New Jersey has gone 3-8-2. They wake up today in ninth place, losers of three straight.
The penalty kill is not in 2012 form, when the Devils led the league. The offense in increasingly inept and the wound from Zach Parise’s departure to Minnesota has become infected. After starting the season on fire, David Clarkson has three points in the last 15 games.
The good news? Martin Brodeur is off injured reserve. He dressed as the back up last night and a return to the starting lineup has to be imminent. Coach Pete DeBoer has to hope his presence boosts the rest of the club.
Also, despite the loss last night New Jersey really did play well. They outshot the Rangers 31-22 and won the faceoff battle convincingly. Hockey is a sport where sometimes you need to tip your cap to the other guy, in this case it was Henrik Lundqvist, who has played great against the cross river rivals his entire career.
It is imperative that they carry this level of play to the next game and beyond. Despite being in ninth they have the same amount of points as the Carolina Hurricanes in the jumbled bottom half of the Eastern Conference standings. Opportunity knocks: the Devils are in Carolina Thursday night, hopefully with Martin Brodeur between the pipes.