A 2-1 shootout loss at home to the Buffalo Sabres — who sat last in the Eastern Conference and had lost 12 straight on the road — made Martin Brodeur realize something about his New Jersey Devils — they’re not among the league’s best.
“We’re not an elite team yet,” Brodeur told The Star-Ledger. “We’re in the middle of the pack. We’ve struggled to win games. We just have to get to that level.”
The Devils are currently in eighth spot in the East, tied on 55 points with Florida and Toronto, so they’re a playoff-caliber team at the least. But questions of “being elite” have dogged New Jersey throughout the season, thanks in large part to a string of unimpressive results against elite teams.
— An 0-3 record against Boston (Devils have been outscored 14-5.)
— A 4-1 loss to the Rangers on Dec. 20.
— One win in three tries against Philadelphia (outscored 10-5.)
Heading into the All-Star break, the Devils lost three straight (scoring just three goals in the three losses) and will finish January with a 5-4-2 record. Not bad, but not great — the kind of above-average performance that you’d expect from a good team, not a great one.
So, what does head coach Peter DeBoer think?
“Obviously you’re not happy,” he said. “You look at it and you see it as an opportunity to separate yourself a little bit (from the Eastern Conference pack). We did some good things this week but we didn’t get rewarded for it.
“You’ve got to keep moving forward in this league. If you drag that into next week, it’s counter-productive. We’ve got to keep moving forward. There are some things we have to get better at, obviously. We’ve scored one goal now three games in a row.”
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It’s going to be interesting to see if Hammond can replicate the success he had last season, when he came out of nowhere to go 20-1-2 with a 1.79 GAA and .941 save percentage, and finish seventh in Vezina voting.