On one hand, you have the New Jersey Devils in a slump, something that they haven't really seen this season. On the other hand, you have Martin Brodeur getting a shutout, something we've seen time and time again this season.
When you look at it like that, this game was a return to normal. New Jersey was able to keep the puck out of the net with solid defense, something that they haven't done well the last few games, and something that this team relies on to win.
Granted, they got pretty lucky on that shot from Rostislav Olesz where he missed a wide open net. But I don't think the Devils are going to complain about a little bit of good luck.
Offensively, they're still not generating the goals they need but tonight they didn't have to. Hopefully this win will give the offense a kick-start and cause them to play better in future games.
On the bright side, they did get 32 shots. If they can turn these shots into better scoring opportunities, they will see a lot more goals.
They need to do a better job of picking up rebounds and getting people in front of the net. Shooting the puck usually doesn't do anything—you have to be able to pick up a rebound or deflect a shot. Until this happens, they're not going to see the goals that they need to see.
However, the lack of offensive production doesn't change how important this game was. New Jersey desperately needed a win, just to get things going again. This win showed a return to the typical Devils' style of hockey where the focus was on defense.
The other thing that the Devils have is Marty Brodeur. You didn't need me to tell you that either.
I believe that the role of the goalie is to bail out the defense. That's exactly what Brodeur does well. I discuss this in another article that explains why emphasizing defense is important in the modern NHL, but it really has a lot to do with avoiding punishment for making mistakes.
The thing that the Devils have figured out is that a solid defense, backed up by a solid goalie, will win a lot of games. That's how they've been able to stay at the top of the standings, despite having the 17th best offense in the NHL.
They make sure that the defense rarely makes a mistake, and when it does, Brodeur is there to make sure they don't get punished for it. Other teams need to have a very talented offense to get past both the defense and the goalie, and that's where other teams have been having trouble.
If anything, this game is a huge example of that. Since the Devils were playing so well defensively and returning to their usual style of play, Florida had to convert on the few opportunities they were given. Olesz missing the net was the biggest missed opportunity for the Panthers and was their best chance of getting back into the game.
Florida, and any other team that plays the Devils, have to take advantage of opportunities like that in order to win. If they don't, they will see the same result as tonight.
Hopefully, this game isn't the eye of the storm. I would like to see the Devils continue to use their defense to win games and I'd like to see Brodeur get a few more shutouts. As long as the Devils keep playing the way they did today, they should be able to rise up in the standings and reclaim first in the Eastern Conference.
See more of Eric's NHL opinions at Tips for Hockey