The last time the Dallas Stars were in Prudential Center, Martin Brodeur had a pest problem on the ice. That pest was none other than “HIM” Sean Avery. [It is well known in the Devils press box that Brodeur has refused to call Avery by his name. Nicknames have included: “HIM” or “The Intern.”]
Believe it or not, Avery’s demise begun to catch fire that night which would turn into a wildfire that would take the NHL corporate office to put out themselves. That landed Avery an indefinite suspension followed by a trade back to the team he was the perfect fit for…the New York Rangers.
Before the Stars revisit an old wound (that players such as Mike Modano and Marty Turco spoke so adamantly against keeping in Dallas territory) at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night, they stopped over in Prudential Center where the Devils took over the game from start to finish. The Devils blanked the Stars 4-0.
This game ended a 12-game scoring drought for Travis Zajac.
“I don’t know if you guys saw what he did,” Jacques Lemaire said of Zajac’s game. “He was strong on the puck. He won a lot of battles, 1-on-2, 1-on-1 for loose pucks along the boards. He made some great plays and scored a goal just by shooting.”
The game marked the third shutout for Martin Brodeur in seven games – the first of which was #104 on December 21st against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the magic number that officially made him the shutout king, taking over the record once held by Terry Sawchuk. The second shutout was against the Penguins again on December 30th.
Patrik Elias scored two more goals as he has finally started to hit a fast track to catch up with the other team leaders after sitting out the first couple of months this season.
“I think we have to put this one with the best that we played, if not the best,” Lemaire said of the win over Dallas. “If you look at the speed we had, puck control, plays…we didn’t last a long time in our end. As soon as we got the puck, we were going into the other zone. I thought the guys were skating really well.”
It’s not to say that the coach did not have some moments where he was disappointed. Elias’ cross-checking penalty early in the second period brought a nod of disapproval behind the Devils’ bench. But Elias broke out of the penalty box to tally his second goal sixteen seconds back on the ice after serving his minor penalty.
Does that goal X out that bad penalty? No, according to the coach. Why? Because the bad penalty still happened.
The shutout win over Dallas was a bit of a surprise to coach Lemaire. He wasn’t happy with the last two practices. What he saw on the ice was a complete turnaround as compared to the last couple of days.
“It’s strange, because I didn’t like the last two practices,” Lemaire said. “I thought the guys were a little tired.
“They came out and played tonight. They didn’t skate like they did [in practice]. I was surprised…very surprised.”
On a night where the Devils were celebrating their 2000 Stanley Cup win over the Dallas Stars, it seems a bit ironic that Jamie Langenbrunner, who was playing for Dallas in 2000, would be playing for the Devils a whole decade later.
Langenbrunner has been a hot streak as of late. In Minnesota on January 2nd, he tallied his first career hat trick against the Wild. Fortunate for Jamie, he scored three goals before his Minnesota family members sitting in the crowd. In the last five games (4-1), he has tallied five goals and three assists for eight points, as well as collecting the NHL’s First Star Of The Week ending January 3rd, 2010.
It would seem like the secret to everyone’s success beyond the goal producing Elias-Brian Rolston line is the return of the ZZPop line. With Zajac, Langenbrunner and Parise scoring goals again on the same line, it still remains to be seen if the coach will continue to keep the three together.
Lemaire makes no promises or indications that he will allow the three to remain on the same line together. If it works, it works. But Lemaire is known to separate the lines in a moment’s notice if he does not like what he sees, or if he thinks another player (such as Niclas Bergfors) could stand to use a boost.
A good indicator as to how well the team is doing at the official halfway mark of the season, they are 30-10-1 in the first 41 games of the season. Not bad for the Devils who are still struggling with injuries from some key players: David Clarkson, Paul Martin and Dainius Zubrus.
The thirty wins also place the Devils in the #1 spot in the Eastern Conference, separating the #1 from the #2 spot by five points. In the Atlantic Division, the Devils lead by six points over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Next month, there will be a two-week Olympic break for the NHL as select NHLers head to Vancouver, British Columbia to represent their respective countries.
Devils players that were selected to represent their home countries are: Martin Brodeur (Canada); Zach Parise, Jamie Langenbrunner and Paul Martin (USA); Johnny Oduya (Sweden); and Patrik Elias (Czech Republic).
Jacques Lemaire will serve as an associate coach for Team Canada. Tommy Albelin will be the assistant coach for Team Sweden.
Elias was named captain for Team Czesky. This has been a bit of a shock to most followers of the Czech Republic team. Jaromir Jagr (Omsk Avangarde), who has been the Czech hockey hero for over a decade, was selected to be part of Team Czesky, but was given the “A” instead of the captaincy.
This diminished role speaks loudly of the Czech Republic’s churning thoughts on Jagr’s decision to remain in the KHL (Russian and Czech relations have been sour since the Russians invaded in 1968). Jagr should understand this, since he wears the number 68 for a reason. It was the year his grandfather died during the Russian invasion.
In the 2006 Winter Olympics, the Czechs made sure to have Jagr up front talking to the world about the plights of the Russians vs. Czechs. It was important that the world understand why he wore the number 68 and the significance behind it. Jagr’s decision to stay in Russia has not been seen favorable by his country.
This year, Elias received the Golden Hockey Stick Award (Best Czech Hockey Player in the World), an award that Jagr had won consecutively for the four years prior. Now, Elias has been given the captaincy for Team Czesky. Jagr is no longer the Czech Republic’s hockey hero. The torch has been passed on to a worthier candidate…Patrik Elias.