The Devils’ legendary goaltender Martin Brodeur was at Prudential Center Tuesday night, as his St. Louis Blues, whom he serves as Assistant General Manager, beat the Devils 2-0.
Brodeur received a very nice ovation from the crowd when he was shown on the screen. He will be having his number retired this February, an honor to possibly the best goalie in NHL history and the leader of their 20-year run, in which they won three Stanley Cups.
Cory Schneider was brought in two years ago to be the successor to Brodeur and he is proving to be up to the task in his second year as the starting goalie.
Schneider has a lot of the same qualities Brodeur had, as he has great leadership skills, anchors the defense, and makes unbelievable saves. Above all, he has a confidence that carries over to the rest of the team.
Devils defenseman John Moore said of how much strength they get from having a guy like Schneider in the net, “Tremendous amount, he makes a lot of saves that other guys wouldn’t be able to make, so as a defenseman, it gives you a lot more confidence in making plays and holding onto pucks a little bit longer. Also, as a group, you know, when other teams press and Cory’s able to keep the puck out of the net, it allows us to regroup and keeps us in games at times.”
On it being like there’s another defenseman back there with Schneider in net, Moore said, “For sure, he’s one of the elite goaltenders in the league and he sees a lot. As a young defensive corps, we’re picking his brain, we’re always asking what he’s seeing and he’s a great leader in this room…It’s a really deep and skilled ‘D’ corps, and Cory, he definitely makes it easy to defend in front of him.”
Last season, Schneider won 26 games and ranked fifth in the NHL with a .925 save percentage, and had a goals-against-average of 2.26, which was tied for ninth in the league.
This season, the Devils are off a great start, and a big part of that is because of Schneider. He is 7-4-1 with a sterling 2.14 GAA.
On Tuesday night, St. Louis got goals from Martin Havlat, on a set up from Scott Gomez, 4:57 into the second period, and Magnus Paajarvi 3:28 into the third.
Schneider said of two ex-Devils, Gomez and Havlat, working together to get the first goal for the Blues, “Well, you know, they’re good players. Marty can shoot the puck, and he got some time and space there, and Gomer (nickname for Gomez) made a good look. We saw Gomer still had a lot in him and could make plays and is a dangerous player when he’s got the puck on his stick. That’s just part of the game and we have to do a better job checking them.”
The Devils put a lot of pressure on early, as they outshot St. Louis 11-6 in the first period. The Blues returned the favor, taking 14 shots to four for the Devils in the second. The Devils dominated the third, with nine shots to St. Louis’ eight.
Schenider said afterwards, “Kind of two different games there, thought the first, we were great, we did pretty much everything we wanted to, didn’t get rewarded. They’re a real good team, give them credit, they regrouped, they came out real hard there in the second and start of the third, not sure what happened, but we just weren’t able to match it.”
Schneider said of the Blues, “They’re a team that, when they go up two, they’re a pretty structured team and they’re hard to come back against. We got some pretty good looks late to get on the board. Hopefully, something we can learn from, learn from watching them. They’re a team we want to play like, structure hard to play against, hopefully just use it as a learning experience, and try to figure out that first period and kind of bottle it up…Sometimes after a good period, you might have a little come-down, and that’s what it was, again, they’re a team that will take advantage of that. There’s some teams that, you can get away with it, but they’re a contending team for a reason, and, like I said, we have to sort of take a page out of their book and keep the intensity up for the whole game.”
Adam Henrique said of what makes the Blues hard to play against, “We came out in the first, played well, we were skating well, we were executing our game plan and then we got away from it in the second a bit, and we just gotta find a way to raise our game. They came back with a pushback and we didn’t.”
Moore said of takeaways from the game, “We move on. We learn from this. That’s a very good hockey team and there’s no reason we can’t be right there with them. We’re one push away from being right there with them.”
Devils center Travis Zajac said of writing this off, “I don’t think we can do that, I think it was an important game. Obviously, we weren’t good enough for 60 minutes, so you can’t just sweep it under the rug. We have to look towards Chicago now (on Thursday night).”
Devils Head Coach John Hynes said of the odds simply being against his team, “Not necessarily. If you look at how the schedule is set up, we had plenty of rest and we didn’t have a lot of travel. This was just a game where, as the game wore on, we just got outplayed. We have to do a better job. Even though it was a tight game, we didn’t play to the level we needed to in the last 40 minutes of the game. Therefore, we didn’t get a chance to win.”
Brodeur left a legacy with his team in New Jersey, and is giving them the model to follow with his new team in St. Louis.