New Jersey Devils: Positives to Take Away from a 4-Game Slump

Peter MillsContributor IIIMarch 2, 2012

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 17:  Martin Brodeur #30 of the New Jersey Devils gets turned around while making a save against the Anaheim Ducks at the Prudential Center on February 17, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Ducks 3-2 in the shootout.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The New Jersey Devils have lost their last four games. It's been a disappointing slump after an impressive post-All-Star break streak. From a fan's point of view, it's really sucked.

But there have been silver linings on the clouds that are currently casting the Devils in darkness. So rather than dwelling on the negatives (like Brodeur's .845 save percentage), let's take a look at what's been going right.


Stars Still Producing

The Devils' lack of depth this season has been concerning at times, but the players that have been leaned on the most continue to produce in the slump.

The Devils' became the NHL's first team with three players to hit the 50-point plateau when Zach Parise hit the mark two weeks ago. Tonight, they became the first team with four 20-goal scorers, after Elias notched buried a shot.

In the past four games, each of those 20-goal scorers has continued to produce. No one's put up staggering numbers, but Elias had a goal and two assists, Parise had two goals, Ilya Kovalchuk had two assists and David Clarkson had two goals.

Again, those numbers are not particularly impressive, but the consistency these players are showing is key, nine points combined in a span when the team only has seven goals isn't horrible.

And while Devils fans may have come to expect reliability from Elias and Parise, and even from Kovy (to some extent), Clarkson seems capable of slowing down at any moment. His resilience is very promising.

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 24:  Patrik Elias #26 of the New Jersey Devils skates by the goal during an NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres at Prudential Center on January 24, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

Unimportant Competition

One of the hardest parts of a losing streak for a team in the Devils' position is that they're giving points away to other teams. Luckily, that hasn't really been an issue this slump.

The four teams the Devils have lost to on this slump are the Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Vancouver Canucks.

The Canucks are in the Western Conference. The Bruins and Rangers are both above them in the standings, and the Lightning are far enough back—11 points as of today—that any points surrendered there seem inconsequential.

The Devils' next game is against Washington, and that's far more important than any of the past four, as the Caps currently sit at ninth in the conference. After that—and a week that sees four games against New York teams—the Devils have a series of games to end the season that includes the Flyers, Penguins and Senators twice and Maple Leafs once.

Those games will be far more important than a measuring-stick game against one of the league's best teams.


Hedberg's Well-Rested

As stated above, Brodeur's numbers during this streak have just been abysmal. Painful to look at, even. But while Brodeur continues to get starts, there's also more-than-competent backup Johan Hedberg waiting in the wings.

Brodeur is making some nice saves right now, and perhaps coach Pete DeBoer wants him in there against the best teams. As the season comes to a close and Brodeur needs rest, Hedberg will be fresh and ready to lead the team in the last games of the regular season.

In short, while it's been awful seeing the team lose four straight at this point in the year, there are few four-game stretches that carry less importance than the ones the Devils completed yesterday. If they continue to slide, it's probably time to worry. For now, it's just a bump in the road.