The Devils are off to a surprising start — 15-11-4, 34 points, holding the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference — and while the club’s had a number of key contributors this season, one’s stood out above the rest:
The 29-year-old netminder has been New Jersey’s best player through the first 30 games of the season, making 25 appearances for a 13-8-4 record, .924 save percentage, 2.14 GAA and one shutout.
(And one ugly outing in which he got pulled against the Isles last game out. But we won’t dwell on that.)
Recently, Devils GM Ray Shero spoke with PHT about Schneider’s contributions, suggesting team MVP isn’t the only hardware the goalie should be in contention for.
“Yeah, I’d say so,” Shero said when asked if Schneider was the team’s most valuable player. “Cory could be in the MVP voting for the league.”
By now, most know Schneider’s story.
But if you don’t….
Drafted 26th overall by Vancouver in 2004, Schneider — a former Boston College and U.S. World Junior standout — rose through the ranks with the Canucks, only to eventually find himself mired in a contentious goalie duel with the incumbent No. 1, Roberto Luongo.
After six years with the organization, one Stanley Cup final and more drama than an episode of Empire, Schneider was dealt to the Devils in a draft-day stunner.
The Devils, set to pick ninth overall in ’13, flipped the selection to Vancouver in front of the Prudential Center faithful. As the deal was consummated, those in attendance realized what was happening — Martin Brodeur’s eventual replacement had been acquired.
Brodeur two-point-oh is exactly what former GM Lou Lamoriello saw Schneider as — “that’s what he envisioned, [Schneider] one day taking over,” Shero explained — and now, in his third season in New Jersey, Schneider’s carrying the club, not unlike what No. 30 used to do back in the day.
“He’s a really good teammate,” Shero explained. “If he lets in a bad goal or mishandles a puck or there’s a screen, or a bad goal goes in or there’s a deflection, has he ever looked at a defenseman or throw his arms up? Never.
“That’s a part of leadership for him – not making excuses for the team, for himself. It’s a good leadership trait to have.”
This season, Schneider’s needed all the leadership qualities he can muster.
The Devils don’t often provide him with a ton of ammo — they sit dead last in the NHL in shots per game, with 25.8, and have the NHL’s 21st-ranked offense (2.40 goals per game). New Jersey’s also out-shot by three per game on average, and there was a stretch from Nov. 17 to Dec. 11 where they surrendered an average of over 30 per night.
Yet despite that, they kept churning along, grinding out results, largely thanks to Schneider’s play.
Shero won’t make excuses for his star goalie stealing some results.
“He’s part of the team,” Shero said of Schneider. “If Corey makes 36 saves and we get out-shot, you know what? That’s fantastic. Who’s going to apologize for that?
“If Carey Price stands on his head, he’s part of the team in Montreal. That’s part of the fabric they have.”
Looks like it’s part of the fabric in New Jersey, too.