Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Devil's in the details...

Apologies to regular readers, thank you for your e-mails - yes, I am alive...I had to take some necessary time off, hopefully for the last time, due to health issues... Another NHL season is underway - let's get right into it.

My well researched NHL preview is still sitting on a shelf somewhere, and not online; with the season already started - who needs a preview? However, just for the record - I have Dallas and Detroit meeting in the Western Final, Detroit wins... and, Montreal versus the New York Rangers in the Eastern Final, New York wins... Detroit takes the Stanley Cup for a second year in a row.

One of the biggest NHL stories this year has to be coming out of New Jersey. Martin Brodeur had successful surgery Thursday morning on his injured left elbow and will be sidelined for three to four months according to GM Lou Lamoriello and the Devils in a press release. With Brodeur close to becoming the all-time wins and shutout leader in the NHL, the timing of the injury could have sent New Jersey into a tailspin; they gave up twenty shots to Buffalo in their first period without the legendary goaltender, but now seem prepared for life without Marty, at least for a few months. Currently, the Devils are 6th in the Eastern Conference with 16 points after 12 games. Many wonder, where will they be in four months without Brodeur?

In my opinion, the Devils will be right were they are now, fighting for 5th or 6th place in the Conference. This is Lou Lamoriello's team after all, and although names such as Stevens and Neidermeyer have moved on from the defensive corps, is their a more frustrating team to watch then the Devils? Well, maybe Minnesota - but they have Gaborik - for now... This is also a team coached by Brent Sutter, and we all know the work ethic of the Sutter family and their teams - the grit and determination are unmatched. While having a weak penalty kill so far this season, Bryce Salvador is the only minus defensemen on the team, at -4; they are also near the top of the League in goals against, allowing only 30 goals this season.

Which brings us to Marty Brodeur's replacement, Kevin Weekes. The Toronto born Weekes, was drafted by Florida in the 2nd round of the 1993 NHL Draft and has made numerous stops around the NHL in Vancouver, New York, and Carolina to name a few. When Brodeur was first injured, several experts immediately had the Devils suddenly missing the playoffs. It has only been a few seasons, but it amazes me how quickly we forget - as fans and media. Prior to the "Lock-out", Weekes was the number one in Carolina, and he posted some very respectable numbers for the Hurricanes as their starter. In 2002-2003, Weekes played in 51 games with a 2.55 GAA and .912 save percentage. He played in 66 games during the 2003-2004 season, posting an identical .912% and lowering his goals against to 2.33. It would not be a surprise to see similar numbers in New Jersey for Weekes now that he has inherited the number one spot.

A familiar face will be sitting at the end of the bench as back-up goaltender to Weekes, as Scott Clemmenson returns to the NHL after starting the year on the New Jersey farm team in the AHL. After playing most of last season with the AHL's Toronto Marlies, posting a solid 2.44 GAA and a .910 save percentage, the 31 year old Clemmenson will be a dependable back-up for the Devils. One thing that is certain, both net minders bring years of experience to the team, and although not future Hall of Fame members as Brodeur will be one day, they will get the job done in New Jersey's defensive system.

It's great to be back - Have a great sports day everyone!

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