The second Martin Brodeur went down, the media claimed the Devils were down and out. There was no way the team could survive and stay competitive with their Atlantic Division foes. Now, as the Devils stand atop the Atlantic Division, the depth can be credited for making the Devils thrive through all types of adversity thus far in the season.
For years a question surrounding the Devils has been whether or not they could survive once Brodeur's career was over. The answer has been found as the Devils got a sneak peak of their future without him, and it is by no means bleak.
While the Devils' depth at goaltending has been targeted for criticism in the past, Clemmensen's .922 save percentage, 2.29 Goals Against Average, and most importantly 19 wins proves that the Devils have goaltenders with the ability to win.
To put it into perspective, Clemmensen is seventh in the league for wins, only one behind All-Star Tim Thomas and five behind All-Star Henrik Lundqvist, both of whom had head starts on their seasons.
In 2003, the last time Brodeur won the cup, his save percentage was .914, less than Clemmensen's current save percentage. How's that for a seemingly "third-string" goalie at the beginning of the season?
The media's pet name for the Devils' defensive corp is the "no-name defense." Well, the defense might not include names such as Stevens or Niedermayer anymore, but they do boast all positive +/- ratings. Mike Mottau, a career minor-leaguer until receiving his opportunity last season, leads the defense with a +16 rating.
Not only does that give great tribute to his ability, but it also indicates the excellent coaching by Brent Sutter, as well as the great vision that he has in seeing the potential of players.
The defense is quite dynamic with hard-hitters such as Colin White and Bryce Salvador, but also has the finesse, smooth skating players in Johnny Oduya and Paul Martin.
The defense is fifth in the league in goals against, so much for lacking "big-names," this should be enough evidence that the Devils defense creates its name by playing a team game.
On to the offense, the one that has been criticized for being "boring" in the past. By averaging 3.00 goals a game, eighth in the league, I would think that the Devils can no longer be called boring anymore.
The Devils have the depth to put out four solid lines that can all contribute evenly. Zach Parise on the first line, Patrik Elias on the second line, Brian Rolston on the third line, and now Brendan Shanahan on the fourth line?
With those names on different lines and given support by excellent players such as Zajac, Langenbrunner, and Madden, you can't really give those lines numbers because they all have the ability to contribute evenly. In Parise and Elias, the Devils have players in the top 10 in scoring. If that's a boring team, I want to see an exciting one.
Part of the reason for success at all ends of the ice is the team game that the Devils play. They forecheck hard and don't give up on the play. When they're playing at their best, they are one of the best teams in the league.
As they continue to get more consistency, the Devils are a force to be reckoned with. With a healthy Martin Brodeur, and players that are well rested because all four lines are able to contribute somewhat evenly, they should be a force in the playoffs.
Of course, they still have to make the playoffs and continue to play the way they have thrived through adversity this season, but with the depth of the Devils, there is no reason they should not be able to continue their success or encounter any lengthy struggles.