The New Jersey Devils finally won their first game of the 2013-14 season on Saturday, pounding the also-slumping New York Rangers 4-0. In the process, New Jersey leapfrogged some of the other grim-looking East teams with five points, including those Rangers (four points) and maybe the bleakest of all: the Buffalo Sabres (three points).
Buffalo hosted a team that’s going in a very different direction – the Colorado Avalanche – and lost a game that was arguably more lopsided than the 4-2 score indicates. The Avalanche collected a 4-1 score and 22-14 shot advantage through two periods, then took their feet off the accelerator in the third (Buffalo fired 16 shots to Colorado’s four and brought it to 4-2).
While the Sabres have so little to look forward to that the best news of the night seemed to be that Thomas Vanek probably avoided an injury, the Devils might be able to build some momentum.
Devils see some light
It might be faint praise to say that the Devils are middle-of-the-pack in certain fancy stats, but when you narrow things down to the lowly East, they may be one of the better puck possession teams in the conference. That 4-0 win came against a morbid Rangers squad, but it could also be a sign that the bounces are starting to go in New Jersey’s favor (instead of against the Devils).
Passing the torch
If New Jersey wants to make the playoffs, they might need to make a painful decision to give the majority of the starts to Cory Schneider instead of Martin Brodeur, though.
The numbers are dramatically different so far this season (.927 save percentage for Schneider, .865 save percentage for Brodeur), but most importantly, Schneider has drastically outplayed his colleague the past three seasons:
2010-11: 16-4-2, .929 save percentage
2011-12: 20-8-1, .937 save percentage
2012-13: 17-9-4, .927 save percentage
2010-11: 23-26-3, .903 save percentage
2011-12: 32-21-4, .908 save percentage
2012-13: 13-9-7, .901 save percentage
There are plenty excuses you can roll out to explain that away, yet the magnitude of the disparity is pretty tough to deny.
The clock’s ticking
There’s no doubt the Devils owe Brodeur, 41, a lot of gratitude, but are they really going to choose loyalty over what seems to be a better chance at making the playoffs? The plan is clearly to pass the torch to the 27-year-old battling with Brodeur, so why not bite the bullet and do it now?
Making that choice sooner rather than later might just mean the difference between New Jersey making or missing the postseason in a laughably bad division and a weak conference.
Hey, even the Sabres are going with the right guy in net (unless they trade him) …