They are, respectively, the second-oldest player and the oldest goaltender in the NHL today. Both are first-ballot Hall of Famers with nothing left to prove in hockey. But Jaromir Jagr and Martin Brodeur keep playing, and of late they have been playing very well indeed.
For Brodeur in particular, his strong play is a much-needed revitalization. When he stumbled through his first five games this season (1-2-2, 0.871 save percentage) an observer could be forgiven for thinking that the veteran goalie was finished.
After all, Brodeur had just put in three below-average seasons, something pointed to at this site when the goalie publicly contemplated waiving his no-trade clause for a deadline move. Included in that piece was this save percentage chart, with the red line showing Brodeur’s numbers and the blue line representing NHL average:
That gap over the last three seasons, as was pointed out at the time, means that Brodeur had allowed 29 more goals than an NHL-average goalie playing the same minutes.
In his last seven games, though, Brodeur has been lights out. He has a 6-1-0 record and 0.951 save percentage in that span and in five of those games has surrendered one or fewer goals.
Given recent history, it seems unlikely that Brodeur can keep that performance up. Even so, his timing could not have been better. The floundering Devils sat in a three-way tie for fourth in the woeful Metropolitan Division at the end of October and were four points back of the final Wild Card spot; today they aren’t exactly safe but those wins propelled the team to third in the ‘Met.’
Jaromir Jagr too has played a vital role for a team already fighting for its playoff life. In net, the Devils always had the option of sticking with the capable Cory Schneider (stuck at 2-5-3 despite a brilliant 0.925 save percentage), but the team simply doesn’t have another scorer up front like Jagr.
A look at the even-strength scoring of Devils forwards this year is instructive. The following are the totals for the team’s top five scorers:
The old man trend continues here; aside from Jagr, the only other players of any note are 35-year-old Dainius Zubrus and 37-year-old Patrik Elias. But there are caveats in both cases. Elias only has four even-strength points, having missed significant time to injury. Zubrus has mostly played with Jagr this season, and more than half his points come on scoring plays involving Jagr.
One might summarize the Devils’ even-strength scoring this year as Jagr, Jagr’s most common line-mate, and guys with one-third as many points as Jagr.
The funny thing is that Jagr isn’t really doing anything in New Jersey that he didn’t do elsewhere. At the moment, his shooting percentage is a little higher than his career average, but not ridiculously so. He’s averaging 1.95 points per hour of five-on-five play this year; last year that total was 1.99 and the year before it was 2.04.
Jagr was already one of the all-time greats, putting up more than 1,700 points in a career during the heart of the dead puck era and despite missing time to three lockouts and spending three productive years overseas. Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise that he’s capable of being the lone dominant scorer on a playoff team at the age of 41.
Right now, it’s the over-40 brigade that has the Devils in the playoff hunt. If New Jersey does hold on to qualify for the postseason 60 games from now, it’s likely that they will owe a lot along the way to their two 41-year-olds.