In the most unlikeliest of places, the Devils found someone that could score a goal when they needed it. For the last few years, this Devil was just a guy that got by in the National Hockey League by being able to skate and throw a few punches. He couldn’t play hockey.
But something was very different about Cam Janssen when he appeared in training camp this season. He was a new and very different player. He wasn’t just a goon on skates. He was playing hockey like he could play hockey. He was showing that he was more than just a goon on skates. This was a new and improved Janssen.
After spending some time in the minors, coming back to the NHL meant he had to change his game. That change has been evident in his camp and first three games of the season. He has had no penalty minutes and two goals…something that is completely unheard of for Janssen.
The last time Janssen was on the team, Martin Brodeur beat him in goal scoring and points that season. Considering it is very rare for a goaltender to score a goal, that should say something about Janssen’s hockey. He was just a goon on skates that couldn’t play hockey.
This season, that’s all changed (so far).
“We think alike, me and Gretzky,” Janssen said of going to where the puck is going to be.
“Actually, I blacked out, so I don’t know really what happened,” he said of his goal. “I watched the replay of it.”
He gives Ryan Carter the credit for helping him get these last two goals. “He did all the work. I was just there for the taking.”
“Don’t jinx me on that,” he said of scoring goals and not generating penalties. “Because the penalties are going to come. Don’t get me wrong. I mean, you can’t avoid that. It’s pretty hard not to get penalties these days. If you’re bumping and grinding like that you’re going to get your stick up or you’re going to hit somebody wrong and they’re going to go into the boards. It’s going to happen. You’ve got to watch how you’re going to hit guys. I like to skate as hard as I can. I like to hit with a lot of force. You’ve just got to watch it, especially depending on the score of the game and what’s going on. You’ve got to watch it ‘cause you hit a guy wrong, he goes into the boards and gets hurt, not only is he hurt, but you’re putting your team down for who knows how long. You’ve got to be careful. It’s tough. You want to get those hits in, especially if you’re home, especially if you’re down. You’ve got to watch it. Also, you can’t pass up hits either. You just got to be careful.”
This is a new Janssen…a smarter version of that guy who only two years ago bragged about how he would go through the opponent’s roster to determine who he was going to fight that night. If the guy was sick or injured, he got a pass. If he was capable of throwing the gloves down, that was the guy he was going to fight.
Now, he’s not talking about fighting. He’s talking about playing a smarter hockey game.
“It’s pretty fun,” he said of the game now. “It’s a different kind of fun put it that way…this whole goal scoring thing. I just have to keep it simple. Stay out of the box. Get my hits in. Get it in. Get it out. If the puck’s there, I’m going to knock it home.”
Who is this guy and what has he done with the old Cam Janssen? Either way, the Devils need to keep this version of Janssen around. The fans were so impressed with his two goals in three games, they started chanting “CAM JANSSEN” after his goal on Sunday night.
Speaking of scoring, Jaromir Jagr is on track to set new records this season. On Sunday night, after he scored his fifth goal of the season, he hit the 1,700 points milestone. With his assist late in the third period on Travis Zajac’s goal, he reached 1,701. He needs 23 more points to bypass his old mentor, Mario Lemieux for sole possession of the #7 spot of all-time NHL points leaders. The “Great One” Wayne Gretzky holds the title with 2,857 career points.
“Yeah, he’s going to have to worry here soon,” Janssen said of taking over Jagr’s contribution to the team.
Jagr, whose locker is next to Janssen, started laughing.
“I don’t think anybody could take the job of what he’s done in his career,” Janssen said. “That’s why we sit next to each other, because I give him tips.”
“It’s a cool feeling, cool to see that milestone like that. Having him and Marty in the same room is unbelievable,” Janssen said of Jagr.
Last Tuesday, the Devils practiced on working on different plays to help increase their scoring opportunities. Some players have been a little slow to jump in on the changes, while others have jumped on the opportunities and found success.
In the prior week, the Devils were horrible on the faceoff. Andrei Loktionov was 0-7 (0%). Overall the Devils had a 39% success rate on the faceoff in the Flyers contest on November 2nd. The centers spent some time during practice winning faceoffs. This extra work paid off. In Sunday’s contest against the Nashville Predators, the Devils increased their faceoff wins to 56%. Loktionov was 5-1 (83%). The other centers were averaging a success rate of around 50%.
By seeing how the Devils are improving on the little things, you can see how they are improving for the long haul. Even with injured players coming and going, they are still able to find success.
“What a cool feeling,” Janssen said of the week’s success. “Winning a game and being on top like that and everybody being in a good mood, feeling good afterwards just makes everything that much better. The boys are happy. We’re playing good hockey. We’re going to stick with this.”
The Devils were 3-0 against the Flyers on 11/7, 1-2 O against Toronto on 11/8 and 5-0 against Nashville on 11/10.