No start could be as bad as the 9-22-2 record that the New Jersey Devils posted on December 23, 2010.
However, the start to the Devils' 2011 season was alarmingly similar to their start to the 2010 season. Granted, the record is much different. Following a dominant victory in Buffalo on Wednesday night and another pivotal win tonight against the Florida Panthers, the Devils find themselves at 10-7-1. Needless to say, the record has improved significantly. But, prior to the game in Buffalo, their season statistics were very similar to last year's.
Before the win in Buffalo, the Devils offense had been dormant. They had put up four goals in just two games, three goals in the games and in the remaining five games, they were held to under two goals. It all added up to a goals per game average of about 2.50 heading into Buffalo. A very similar GPG was the reason why the Devils had such a horrendous start last year.
But, after scoring five goals in Buffalo, the Devils offense may have finally begun the click. The goaltender for the Sabres had a 6-0 record, a 1.76 Goals Against Average and a .942 Save Percentage. All of those statistics are very hard to beat. And, on Wednesday night, the Devils scored five goals in a rout. The Devils had a power-play goal and a shorthanded goal in the contest.
Tonight, the Devils scored four goals. Against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Devils had a two power-play goals and nearly had a short-handed goal, as Dainius Zubrus scored literally right after the Lightning power-play expired. The puck crossed the goal line about a half of a second after the power-play ended.
Can the Devils go for three straight? It is possible. They will face a good Florida Panthers team in Miami on Monday. But, the Devils have the momentum, scoring nine goals over two games - none of which came empty-netted. They are getting great team play from several players including the 35 year old, Patrick Elias, the longtime Devil, David Clarkson and the 21 year old rookie, Adam Henrique who has ten points over his last nine games.
The Devils have gotten this far based on one aspect of the game - defense. In order to win games, the defense must remain consistent. They kill off an unprecedented 95% of their powerplays including all six against the Lightning tonight. After a rocky start, the 39 year old future hall of famer, Martin Brodeur has been very solid over the past several games. Not to mention, his backup, Johan Hedberg is putting up very solid numbers himself.
To summarize, New Jersey cannot expect to win if they do not maintain a consistent offense. Martin Brodeur is still a good starting goaltender but the is no longer the top goaltender or even a top ten goaltender in the league anymore. He is maybe a top eleven or twelve option. Also, he does not start nearly as much as he used to and the backup goaltender, Hedberg will continue to have a somewhat big role on the team. They Devils may have finally turned the page on the lackluster offense that has plagued them for the past thirteen months. The Devils are currently tied for the eighth playoff seed. Stay tuned to see the New Jersey Devils can continue to score goals and win games.