The Devils can’t keep wasting Cory Schneider’s prime years

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This is part of New Jersey Devils day at PHT…

The bright spot for the New Jersey Devils over the past three years has without a doubt been the play of their starting goaltender, Cory Schneider.

He has not only been their best and most impactful player on a consistent basis, but he has also been one of the best goaltenders in the league.

Since joining the Devils Schneider’s .924 save percentage is second only to Carey Price (.931) among goalies that have appeared in at least 130 games over that stretch. Because goaltending is such an important spot and can play a huge role in the success (or failure) of a team, that level of goaltending is usually good enough to get a team into the playoffs, or at the very least, keep them in serious playoff contention.

Not only have the Devils failed to make the playoffs in each of the past three seasons with Schneider playing at a dominant level, but the closest they came to earning a spot was five points back in 2013-14. They missed by 20 points in 2014-15 and were 12 points back this season. That is almost unbelievable when you consider the level of goaltending that Schneider has provided them, especially over the past two years when he received the bulk of the playing time (he shared the net with Martin Brodeur in 2013-14 … a decision that probably ended up costing the team a playoff spot).

Look at it this way: Over the past three years there have been 10 goalies in the NHL that have played in at least 130 games and had a save percentage better than .920. Schneider is the only goalie on that list that has not played in at least one playoff game over that stretch.

The goalies, in order of save percentage

  1. Carey Price (.931): 24 playoff games
  2. Cory Schneider (.924): 0 playoff games
  3. Tuukka Rask (.922): 12 playoff games
  4. Ben Bishop (.922): 36 playoff games
  5. Corey Crawford (.922): 46 playoff games
  6. Roberto Luongo (.921): 6 playoff games
  7. Semyon Varlamov (.921): 7 playoff games
  8. Henrik Lundqvist (.921): 49 playoff games
  9. Steve Mason (.921): 8 playoff games
  10. Braden Holtby (.920): 25 playoff games

Marc-Andre Fleury is just behind that group with a .919 mark over the past three years and he has appeared in 20 playoff games, while Jonathan Quick is right behind him (.918) and played in 31 playoff games.

Even worse, if you look at the 25 goalies that have played at least 130 games over the past three years (with any level of performance from those goalies) Schneider is one of only four that has not played on a playoff team during that stretch, joining Jonathan Bernier (Toronto), Mike Smith (Arizona) and Cam Ward (Carolina).

Again, it is almost unheard of to get the type of goaltending the Devils have received from Schneider over a three-year stretch and not get a single playoff game out of it. It is also incredible that he has only finished in the top-10 in Vezina voting one time (6th place this season).

The issue obviously has not been the play of Schneider. He has been fantastic and helped the Devils be one of the toughest teams in the league to score against (606 goals against since 2013-14 is 9th best in the NHL. It should be enough to win.

The issue has been all about the offense. And it takes a special kind of powerless offense to not take advantage of that type of goaltending.

Over the past three years the Devils’ 555 goals (only 2.25 per game) are the third worst mark in the NHL (ahead of only Arizona and Buffalo), while their 25.6 shots on goal per game are 30th. And for as much as the offense has struggled overall, it seems to get even worse when Schneider is in net as opposed to his backups, as he receives just 2.00 goals (all situations) per game of offensive support from his teammates. When it comes to 5-on-5 play, the Devils have scored just 1.57 goals per 60 minutes for him, by far the lowest mark in the NHL.

The Devils haven’t had a lot of elite talent on their roster over the past few years, but they do have an elite talent at the one position (goalie) that could make a significant difference if they just give him a little bit of support offensively.

Adding Taylor Hall, as well as the potential arrival of 2015 first-round pick Pavel Zacha, should prove to be a boost to the offense, and after signing him to a five-year contract extension this summer they are clearly hoping Kyle Palmieri can come close to duplicating his 30 goal performance from 2015-16.

Whether or not it is enough offense remains to be seen.

Having just turned 30 years old Schneider should still have a couple of more years of high level play in him before he starts to slow down, but the clock is ticking when it comes to the Devils taking advantage of having one of the best goalies in hockey and being able to do something with it.

Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

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Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports
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LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced.

The Knights termed the procedure as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.

Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette charged with DUI

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DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart, authorities said.

Brunette, 49, was pulled over just blocks from the ocean in the Deerfield Beach area, north of Fort Lauderdale, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report. He was charged with one count of driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released on $500 bond.

The Devils said in a statement that the team was aware of Brunette’s arrest and gathering additional information.

According to the arrest report, a deputy was in the process of giving Brunette’s illegally parked golf cart a ticket around midnight when Brunette walked out of a nearby bar and told the deputy he was about to leave. The deputy said Brunette seemed unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech, and when he was joined by his wife, the deputy said he overheard the wife tell Brunette not to drive while the deputy was there.

The deputy remained in the area and reported watching the couple drive away about 17 minutes later, according to the report. The deputy said he watched the golf cart run two stop signs before pulling Brunette over on a residential street about a mile away from his home. According to the report, Brunette had difficulty following instructions during a field sobriety test before eventually quitting and asking for an attorney. He also declined to take a breathe test to measure his blood-alcohol level, officials said.

Online jail and court records didn’t list an attorney for Brunette.

Brunette is in his first season as associate coach of the Devils. He was interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season after taking over when Joel Quenneville resigned for his connection to a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.

The Panthers fired Brunette after they lost in the second round of the playoffs last spring despite him leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team during the regular season.

The Sudbury, Ontario, native played 1,159 NHL games for Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago from 1995-2012. He was a Wild assistant in 2015-16 and worked on Florida’s staff from 2019-2022.

Stars aligned with new coach DeBoer, Nill-constructed roster

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DALLAS — General manager Jim Nill sensed things were coming together for the Dallas Stars even before the season started with new coach Pete DeBoer and a roster mixed with proven veterans, up-and-coming young players, and even a teenaged center.

At the NHL’s All-Star break, after 51 games together, these Stars are leading the Western Conference.

“Every year you start, you put a team together, and there’s always going to be question marks,” said Nill, in his 10th season as the Stars GM. “You have ideas how you think you’re going to come together, but there’s always the unknown. . This year has been one of those years where right from the start, you could just see everything was kind of jelling.”

The Stars (28-13-10, 66 points) have their trio of 2017 draft picks that just keep getting better: All-Star winger Jason Robertson, goaltender Jake Oettinger and defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The seemingly ageless Joe Pavelski, at 38 and already re-signed for next season, is on the high-scoring top line with Robertson and point-a-game winger Roope Hintz. Wyatt Johnston, their first-round pick in 2021 and half Pavelski’s age, has 13 goals.

There is also the resurgence of six-time All-Star forward Tyler Seguin two years after hip surgery and 33-year-old captain Jamie Benn, who already has more goals (19) than he did playing all 82 games last season.

The Stars have a plus-40 goal differential, which is second-best in the NHL. They are averaging 3.37 goals per game, more than a half-goal better than last season when they were the only team to make the playoffs after being outscored in the regular season. They are also allowing fewer goals, and have improved on power plays and penalty kills.

“Where we sit at this break, I think guys are happy with that,” Seguin said, before being asked the keys to the Stars leading the West and on pace for a 100-point season with their new coach.

“Our style, our team speed, our puck speed, being predictable. All the clichés, knowing where the puck’s going. Really how we play the five-man unit,” he said. “Our pace this year, it’s been a lot quicker. There’s been some solid depth scoring this year while we’ve got one of the best lines in hockey.”

The Stars went into the break on their only three-game losing streak of the season, all 3-2 overtime losses at home.

“Those aren’t real losses,” said DeBoer, who twice has gone to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with a new team. “I’m happy where we’re at. I like how we’re playing.”

Plus, Dallas won’t have to worry in the playoffs about 3-on-3 hockey, which has been the only real stain on their season so far. Only one team has more than its 10 losses after regulation.

“We’ve played a lot of good hockey. We’ve made a lot of good strides in our game,” DeBoer said. “We still have another level we have to get to when we get back, but there are a lot of good things that have happened. They’ve worked to have us where we are right now in the standings. Good spot to be in.”

The Stars have 31 games left in the regular season. The first four after the break at home, like the last four before their week-long hiatus.

Robertson’s 33 goals rank sixth in the NHL, and the 23-year-old has the same number of assists while averaging 1.29 points a game even after he missed most of training camp before signing a four-year, $31 million contract. Pavelski has 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists) while playing every game, and Hintz 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in only 43 games.

Oettinger, who is 21-7 in regulation, has a .923 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average since signing his three-year, $12 million contract. That deal came after 223 saves in a seven-game playoff series against Calgary last May, capped by 64 in the series finale that went to overtime.

Nill said Robertson’s production has improved even with the league adjusting to the high-scoring forward, and that Oettinger is proving to be one of the league’s best goalies. But they are just part of what has been a tremendous team effort.

“They kind of had that mojo right from the start, and it was kind of this team’s got the right mix,” Nill said. “It’s come together well, and it’s shown in the standings. It’s been good to watch.”

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.