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
- Carey Price (.931): 24 playoff games
- Cory Schneider (.924): 0 playoff games
- Tuukka Rask (.922): 12 playoff games
- Ben Bishop (.922): 36 playoff games
- Corey Crawford (.922): 46 playoff games
- Roberto Luongo (.921): 6 playoff games
- Semyon Varlamov (.921): 7 playoff games
- Henrik Lundqvist (.921): 49 playoff games
- Steve Mason (.921): 8 playoff games
- 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.