Although Damien Brunner, Michael Ryder and Dainus Zubrus have all experienced slumps this season, each player has been involved in offensive production lately. In an extremely tight Metropolitan Division, the New Jersey Devils will need all the help they can get, especially with their inconsistent goaltending.
- Brunner, Ryder, Zubrus Increase Production
Damien Brunner (7-4-11) had a strong start to the season with 5 points (3 goals, 2 assists) in his first 5 games. Unfortunately, his next 17 contests limited him to just 2 points (1 goal, 1 assist), which came in the same game against the Boston Bruins in late October. In his last 8 games he has 4 points (3 goals, 1 assist) including the game-winner of Saturday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. These numbers are still not impressive, especially for Brunner, but they show signs of life and will serve to help him regain his confidence.
Michael Ryder‘s (9-5-14) production has been coming in short bursts throughout the season, but he too has yet to live up to his potential for the Devils. Despite his streakiness, however, he has yet to stay off the scoresheet for more than 5 games at a time. Ryder scored just his 8th point (5 goals, 3 assists) on November 21st – an assist against the Los Angeles Kings. Fortunately he has since picked up his pace, and has scored 6 points (4 goals, 2 assists) in his last 9 games. Again, not incredible, but a step in the right direction.
Since this is Dainus Zubrus‘ (7-10-17) sixth season as a Devil, he has avoided the type of scrutiny that Brunner, Ryder, and other newcomers have been under. However, he has also outperformed the aforementioned acquisitions. Although he has not been immune to scoring droughts, Zubrus’ production has been more or less on par with previous seasons. He has provided the struggling Devils with some hope lately, and he currently rides a 5-point, 5-game scoring streak (3 goals, 2 assists).
The Devils have also received help from stars Jaromir Jagr (11-17-28, 6 assists in his last 4 games) and Patrik Elias (7-13-20, 6 points in his last 6 games), who can both be counted on to keep production going when healthy.
- Goaltending Inconsistencies: Hot Seat or Cold Seat?
Martin Brodeur (9-8-2, 2.31 GAA, .905 SV%) earned shutout number 3 on the season and 124 on the career in a 3-0 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. Cory Schneider (4-7-4, 1.97 GAA, .917 SV%) has not won since November 30th when his squad hosted the Buffalo Sabres. Interestingly, each goalie has been held to 2 wins in his last 5 matchups, and each of the goalies’ last wins has been a shutout. Since Schneider’s shutout was weeks ago, Marty will likely get a chance to build upon his last blanking when it comes time to face the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday.
Brunner, Ryder and Zubrus’ increased production will be necessary for the Devils to cling to their playoff contention, and as long as Jagr and Elias stay healthy, they should contribute as well. Brodeur and Schneider have both had opportunities to take the reigns, but neither has been able to acquire a firm hold on the number one spot. Brodeur had a perfect outing on Saturday, and will look to build upon that in order to help his team avoid missing the playoffs for the third time in four years.