Jaromir Jagr sure isn’t bad for a 41-year-old. Never mind the fact that he also leads the New Jersey Devils in scoring.
Without No. 68, there's definitely no way they'd be just a point out of a possible playoff position.
At a time when most professional hockey players of his era have retired from active service, or moved into a coaching/management position, or joined their local beer league just to keep strapping the skates on, the Czech native and 1990 first-round draft choice has shown he still has something left in the tank to play at hockey’s highest level.
Jagr leads the Devils (12-13-6 overall) with 11 goals and 13 assists for 24 points through 31 games, is among the top players on the team with a plus-9 plus-minus ranking and has even recorded 18 penalty minutes.
Most recently the 6'3", 230-pound winger picked up two assists in Saturday night's 4-3 overtime win over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, including the secondary helper on Eric Gelinas' power-play game-winner. Jagr passed cross-ice to Patrik Elias at the left point, and Elias then fed Gelinas for the blast that ended it.
In the third period, Jagr showed his strength behind the Ranger net where he held off a defender before circling to the left. He then got off a backhander that was stopped, but caromed to Travis Zajac for the tying goal. Game highlights can be found here on Devils TV.
A two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins at the start of his career, Jagr is not only still putting up points, he’s been doing it at key times while seeing a lot of ice time against some young players whose dads he may have played against earlier in his career.
“The minutes have just been a little high. He’s earned them," said Devils head coach Pete DeBoer to Rich Chere at NJ.com prior to a home game with Montreal on Dec. 4. "He’s been key getting some of the wins in some games. For me, the bigger issue (is) I shouldn’t have to play him that much. We have to find other guys to take some of those minutes and right now we’re looking for people to seize some of those opportunities.”
Since then, many still haven't.
Look at Jagr's heroics in overtime at Los Angeles on Nov. 21. After taking a holding penalty against Dustin Brown, who was sent off himself for embellishment, New Jersey’s No. 68 ultimately stepped out of the penalty box, went to the front of the net, and pushed the puck past Kings goaltender Ben Scrivens to give the Devils a 2-1 sudden-death victory.
The night before in Anaheim, he notched the game-tying goal with a minute remaining in regulation as the Devils went on to beat the Ducks, 4-3, in OT. Skating into the slot, he slammed Elias' goal-line feed over Jonas Hiller's right shoulder to help New Jersey pick up at least one point for the fifth time in six games.
“I don’t get tired. I work too hard to get tired,” said Jagr to NJ.com the day after the Devils dumped Pittsburgh, 4-1, in Newark as Jagr scored two third-period goals.
“My practices are harder than the games, so I shouldn’t get tired during the games," he continued. "Once my practices aren’t that hard, probably I’m going to get tired during the games. I just work too hard in practices."
Including his two-assist effort Saturday against the Rangers, which snapped a personal three-game scoreless string, Jagr has had seven multiple-point games so far this season for the Devils. He's picked up points in 20 of the 31 games he's played, and has also added to his storied career totals by scoring his 692nd goal (tying him for ninth all-time with Steve Yzerman) and his league-record 121st game-winning goal, according to statshockey.net and quanthockey.com, respectively.
Heading into tonight's game at Columbus, he has posted 692 goals and 1,020 assists for 1,712 points in 1,422 NHL regular-season contests, according to the Devils web site.
Perhaps the most telling statement about Jagr's impact this season came from DeBoer, or rather, where he thought his team would be without the long-time star's contributions.
“You don’t even want to think about it,” said DeBoer to NJ.com last month while the Devils were out west. “His contributions have been that important, especially with the injuries we’ve dealt with early in the year to Elias, (Ryan) Clowe and some of the guys. He’s been key for us.”
Old? Maybe. Good? Definitely. And not done quite just yet.
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