With a slim lead over the New York Islanders to avoid being the worst team in the Eastern Conference, it’s a little early for the New Jersey Devils to commence back patting and self congratulations.
Still, considering how dismal the 2010-11 season has been, it’s important to acknowledge any sign of life. Signing backup Johan Hedberg was a move that was praised in some circles and now it looks like at least one move GM Lou Lamoriello made last summer might actually pay some dividends.
“The Moose” and the Devils are now 3-1-0 in their last four games, with two shootout wins, one shutout and only four games allowed by Hedberg in that span.
This afternoon’s game ranks as possibly Hedberg’s best performance of this brief run, as he made 40 out of 41 stops before Travis Zajac won it for New Jersey in the shootout.
Hedberg made the biggest difference in the second and third period, allowing only one power-play goal despite the fact that the Flyers out-shot the Devils 28 to 11 in those two periods.
Brian Boucher played a strong game too, although he wasn’t nearly as busy (he stopped 24 out of 25 shots). Adam Mair scored for the Devils while Daniel Briere scored for Philly.
While the Devils are a stride or two ahead of the Islanders for the second to worst spot in the East, the Flyers might feel like their Atlantic Division lead over the Penguins is slipping away. They have a two point lead over Pittsburgh (same amount of wins, but the Flyers lost two more games after regulation), but they’ve lost two straight shootout games while the Penguins are on a six game tear.
It should be an interesting race to watch – and you never know – the Devils might at least be able to inch their way back into playoff contention if they keep this up.