Let’s play the numbers game:
14-2. The number of goals by which New Jersey has outscored Pittsburgh in those games.
2. The number of shutouts Martin Brodeur has recorded against the Penguins.
New Jersey simply owns their Atlantic Division counterpart this year. There is no other way to put it. In every facet of every game between the two, the Devils have been better. After three straight drubbings of 4-1, 4-1, and 4-0 in Mellon Arena, the Penguins at least bothered to show up last night at The Rock for a 2-0 loss.
A Devils defensive corps without two of its top-4 defensemen in Paul Martin and Bryce Salvador performed brilliantly against the explosive Penguins. Quick, smart, and decisive decisions from New Jersey’s blueliners kept Pittsburgh at bay all night. It didn’t hurt that Brodeur was on top of his game.
Coach Jaques Lemaire told Tom Gulitti of The Record that it may have been his team’s best performance of the season. That is a scary proposition for a team that seems to win on a routine basis anyway.
“I think we skated well,” Lemaire said. “We were aggressive. We were good with the puck. Great in our end. Even though we feel they had around 11, 12 chances, they will get some chances. It’s a good team. They’ve got good shooters and good passers. So, we felt that we did a tremendous game against them.”
Consider this: Since New Jersey’s 0-2 start, the Devils have won 28 of 36 games. After starting the season 0-4 inside the friendly confines of Newark’s Prudential Center, they have gone 15-2. I don’t have to mention their tremendous 13-3-1 road record that was spurred by a 9-game win streak to begin the season, but I will anyway.
Lemaire’s boys rack up “W’s” at a machine-like pace. They are now 7-1 against Pittsburgh and the Washington Capitals this season. Is there really any doubt as to who the best team in the East is right now? Not from this writer.