Thoughts on the loss to the Flyers
Marty said it all after the game five loss to the Flyers, "I just can't believe it, it's tough to digest. We had a hell of a team here, but for whatever reason we could never play to the level we needed to play in the playoffs. Just real disappointed, that's for sure. Bigger expectations for this club here than to fold in five games."
Devils coach Jacques Lemaire summed up the Devils playoff effort and reason why they lost to the Flyers perfectly in saying, "There's not 10 ways to play in the playoffs. There's one way to play, and we didn't play that way. Philly did a better job in that department."
I agree with the coach, the Devils just did not look willing to pay the price to win in these playoffs. Also, their star players did not play like their star players. In fact, the Devils were 35-18-2 prior to the Kovalchuk trade and after they were just 13-9-5.
Their record was still above .500 but nowhere near the pace they set prior to then. In hindsight, general manager Lou Lamoriello likely would not make that trade again as it seemed to upset the chemistry of his team.
Is Martin Brodeur no longer an elite goaltender?
After 16 NHL seasons the NHL's all-time leader in regular season wins, shutouts, games played, and the only goalie in NHL history with eight 40-plus win seasons is showing that he might be human after all.
The 38-year-old has relied heavily on his tremendous reflexes and is a throwback to the days before the butterfly style dominated the goaltending landscape. Perhaps his age and the mileage on his body as begun to take its toll on likely the greatest goalie ever to put on the pads. He has won three Stanley Cups, two Olympic gold medals, four Vezina Trophies, and has played in the NHL All-Star game 10 times.
Out of 16 NHL seasons, in only four times has he played fewer than 70 games. Two of those four seasons were prior to the 1995-96 season. He has also played in 15 NHL playoff tournaments in that time, averaging 11 games per playoff.
In total he has played 1,257 NHL games regular season and playoffs included. If you also include the games he has played internationally for Canada and games played at the American Hockey League level, that's 1,320 games since the 1992-93 season.
He has been remarkably durable during this time at the NHL level as well. Since 2000, he only missed more than one game twice. The first time being six games in November 2005 with a right knee injury. The second time being February 2009 when he missed 50 games with a left elbow injury and then back-up goaltender Scott Clemmensen kept the Devils in the playoff hunt.
Although in recent seasons Brodeur has not been quite as successful as he has made us used to him being. Since the Devils last won the Stanley Cup in the 2002-03 playoffs his playoff record is 16 wins and 26 losses in games. He has also not led the Devils past the first round of the playoffs since the 2006-07 season.
His regular season numbers were solid with 45 wins, 2.24 goals against average, 0.916 save percentage and nine shutouts during the 2009-10 NHL season. Although at 38 years of age, he definitely seems to be slowing down and may be a solid No. 1 goaltender instead of an elite goaltender at his current age.
Who takes over in the Devils crease once Brodeur retires?
Current journeyman backup Yann Danis is most certainly not the answer in goal for the Devils. Currently the only prospect goaltender in their possession is the soon to be 23-year-old Jeff Frazee.
Jeff Frazee is a 6'0" 184 lb goaltender from Edina, MN. He was drafted by the Devils in the second round (38th overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. After he was drafted he spent three seasons, from 2005-06 to 2007-08, playing for the University of Minnesota.
He spent his first full professional season in 2008-09 playing for the Devils' AHL affiliate in Lowell. There he posted great numbers for a rookie with 28 wins in 58 games, 2.62 goals against average, four shutouts, and a .920 save percentage.
His second professional season with the AHL's Lowell Devils saw him struggle a little more putting up 14 wins in 30 games, with a 2.80 goals against average, one shutout, and a 9.10 save percentage.
Frazee is known to be an athletic goalie with good flexibility that shows tremendous poise under fire and communicates well with him defensemen. The areas he has improved upon have been his aggressiveness and his rebound control. With more work on the mental side of the game he could become a solid number one goaltender in the NHL.
He will never be an elite NHL goaltender, but he should become a solid middle of the pack goalie that can help a team win a Stanley Cup.
2010 NHL Entry Draft: What goalies should be available when the Devils pick eighth in the second round?
In the Kovalchuk trade New Jersey traded away their 2010 first round draft pick so they will likely miss out on the best goaltenders in this year's draft (American Jack Campbell and Canadian Chet Pickard).
Although they did swap second round picks with the Altanta Thrashers in the trade, and this will see the Devils have the eighth pick of the second round. Here are a few goaltenders who could be available at that time.
Kent Simpson is a big goaltender at 6'3" and 182 lbs who played for the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League this past season. He showed well in 34 games with a 2.26 goals against average and a 0.925 save percentage.
Here are Al Jensen's (Central Scouting) thoughts on Simpson: "When you first look at Kent Simpson, his frame is very noticable. He's a blocking-style goalie, not flashy, but gets his body in proper position to get square to the shots. He plays the top of the crease and rarely leaves any holes for shooters, making it very difficult on them. I really like his quickness, but most of all, I really like his positional play."
Mark Visentin is a 6'1" 186 lb goaltender from Waterdown, Ontario. He played in 55 games for the Niagara IceDogs of the Ontario Hockey League this past season. In those 55 games he had a 2.99 goals against average and a 0.911 save percentage.
Here are Al Jensen's (Central Scouting) thoughts on Visentin: "Mark has really come a long way from last year as an underager to now. His play has increased immensely. He technically very sound, maybe one of the most technically-sound goalies in this draft. He works really hard, has great leg strength and plays very determined. His glove hand is exceptional and he's very good at handling the puck."
Louis Domingue is a 6'3" 183 lb netminder from Mont-St-Hilaire, Quebec. He spent this past season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League where he split the season playing for the Moncton Wildcats and the Quebec Remparts.
In Moncton he payed 22 games with 11 wins, 2.81 goals against average, one shutout, and 0.902 save percentage. He seemed to find his game better with the Remparts playing in 19 games with 9 wins, 2.54 goals against average, two shutouts, and 0.910 save percentage.
Here are Al Jensen's (Central Scouting) thoughts on Domingue: "Louis has got excellent quickness in his feet. He might give away too many rebounds at this point in his career with his feet and his pads, but he's able to make the save and he's quick enough to get over there and recover and get set for the rebound. He challenges very well, his angle play is very good and he has good lateral movement."
For a little international flavor the top ranked European goaltender is 6'1" 174 lb Sami Aittokallio from the goalie factory of Finland. This season he played in the Finnish Junior League for Ilves Jr. for 23 games with a 3.20 goals against average, two shutouts, and a 0.899 save percentage.
A darkhorse international pick could be Benjamin Conz of Switzerland. The small 5'11" 194 lb goaltender who played for the SCL Tigers in the top-tier professional hockey league of Swizterland. In 15 games he posted one shutout, a 2.93 goals against average, and a 0.920 save percentage.
He was compared former Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup winner Jean-Sebastien Giguere by Pierre Maguire and Gord Miller at the 2010 IIHF World under 20 Championships. There he led team Switzerland to an impressive fourth place finish, while also being named the best goaltender in the tournament.
What will the 2010-11 season bring for the Devils in goal?
Do not be surprised to see Jeff Frazee get some starts at the NHL level as currently he is the only hope this team has for it's future between the pipes. The Devils will draft a goaltender in the second or third round at this year's NHL Entry draft. My choice between those listed would be Mark Visentin.
Also, expect much of the same from Brodeur next season with a solid regular season. As for the playoffs, perhaps this loss to the Flyers is the kick in the pants that both Marty and the Devils needed to get the eye of the tiger back. Marty may only have a couple years left in the league and I am sure he would like to go out on top of his game.