See Ya, Niclas.

Niclas Havelid, we hardly knew ya.  This may not be a bad thing.

As reported by Mr. Gulitti over on Fire & Ice, Havelid has signed on to play with Linkoping of the Swedish Elite League.  So basically, we traded away Anssi Salmela for a couple of weeks of a meh defenseman and a low-level goon who may never make it out of Trenton.

And so, Niclas Havelid joins the esteemed ranks of the Ken Klees and Deron Quints of Devils lore.  Fare thee well, Niclas.  I guess.  Whatever.

Captain-brunner out at least two games

Contrary to reports, the sky is not falling.

It is true, however, that Jamie Langenbrunner will miss at least the next two games with what the team is calling a “lower body injury.”

Ah, in Lou speak, that means Captain-brunner has suffered the unthinkable — decapitation.

Sorry Jamie.

Well now, this kind of sucks a little bit. The boys really need to get ahead in this series and it’s going to be quite difficult without the immediate services of Mr. Langenbrunner. With the series tied at one-all, Black ‘n Red heads to the land of NASCAR and, uh…crap, I got nothin’. I asked my roommate what she thought of when I said “Carolina” and she said “ocean.”

She fails.

Alas, that’s neither here nor there.

Game Three on Sunday in Raleigh. Expect a Motivation Club post before then. If not, then, well…doesn’t that suck?

…go Devils?

Your first round playoff schedule

So the Devils officially have a first round date with Cam Ward and the Carolina Hurricanes.  I’m not sure how I feel about this, ask me again in two weeks.

Here’s the first-round schedule.  Note the wonky 7:30 PM start times.  I approve, unless a game were to turn into a multi-overtime crazyfest on a work/school night.  Then 7:30 start times could be brutal.

Wednesday, April 15th – Prudential Center – 7:30 PM

Friday, April 17th – Prudential Center – 7:30 PM

Sunday, April 19th – RBC Center – 7:30 PM

Tuesday, April 21st – RBC Center – 7:30 PM

Thursday, April 23rd – Prudential Center – 7:30 PM (if necessary)

Sunday, April 26th – RBC Center – TBD (if necessary)

Tuesday, April 28th – Prudential Center – 7:30 PM (if necessary)

This will probably make your brain hurt.

So here we sit, on the brink of the 2009 playoffs.  Y’know,  the playoffs the Devils had no business being in after the events of November 1st, 2008 – the awkward-looking elbow injury heard ’round the world.

With one more game left in the regular season, the Devils are locked into the number three seed, having clinched the Atlantic Division championship by way of the Flyers loss to the Rangers (or the win over the Senators if you refuse to believe that any Rangers win could help us).  The only mystery left is who will be shipping up to Newark come Wednesday or Thursday.

There’s only three possibilities – The Carolina Hurricanes (whom the Devils face in the regular season finale at The Rock tomorrow), the Philadelphia Flyers (who travel to Long Island then finish off their season at home against the Rangers), or the Penguins (in Montreal Saturday night for their final game).

All three teams sit at 97 points, and will finish fourth, fifth, and sixth in the division when all is said and done.  Obviously, we get the team finishing sixth while the other two get each other in the first round.

So, here comes the fun part:  How can this all break down?  Who will the Devils get in the first round?  Let’s have a look-see (make sure you’ve got some coffee handy, this is gonna be a doozy):

We’ll start out slow and easy.  If the Devils cannot beat the Hurricanes tomorrow, they cannot face the Hurricanes in the playoffs, regardless of what happens with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. And let’s face it, if we lose to the Hurricanes tomorrow, they’ll have swept the season series, and it’s probably a good thing we’d be avoiding them in the first round.

Philly needs to gain three of four points to guarantee themselves the number four seed and home ice in the first round, guaranteeing the Devils a first round date with either the ‘Canes or the, uh, ‘Guins.

Now to make things slightly more interesting:  If the Flyers manage to lose in regulation both to the Islanders and the Rangers, we get Philly in the first round. We also get Philly in the first if all three teams finish with the same number of points OR if Philly earns only one point while Carolina and Pittsburgh earn at least one each.  Unlikely, yes, but stranger things have happened.

If all three teams win all of their remaining games, we’d get Pittsburgh in the first round (as previously mentioned, this would also happen if the Penguins and Hurricanes win and the Flyers gain three of four points as well).

Now we get to fun part:

If Philly wins out, we beat Carolina Saturday (regulation or otherwise), and Pittsburgh beats Montreal, we get the Hurricanes.  Other ways the Devils can play the Hurricanes in round one: Flyers gain two of four, Pittsburgh gains two, and the Hurricanes lose to the Devils (regulation or otherwise); Philly gains two, Pittsburgh gains one, Carolina loses to NJ in regulation.

The Devils will catch a first round date with Sidney Crosby and all the NBC cameras money can buy IF: All three teams earn the maximum number of points; Philly earns a minimum of three, Carolina earns at least a point, and the Penguins earn exactly one point; Philly earns two, Carolina earns a minimum of one point, and the Penguins earn exactly one point; Philly and Carolina earn exactly one point and the Penguins earn exactly zero points; Philly earns exactly one point, Carolina earns a maximum of one point, and Pittsburgh earns zilch.

Got it?  Good, there’s a test tomorrow.

So who should we be rooting for, and to do what?  I wish it was that simple.  All three teams scare me a little, honestly:  Carolina because we have yet to solve them this season, Philly because it would be an intense, hard-hitting rivalry series, and Pittsburgh because they have scary-good talent and the black-and-white stripes on their side.

For purely selfish reasons, I will say that I personally hope the Devils avoid Pittsburgh in the first round, because I like MSG+’s coverage more than NBC and Versus, and there’s no chance in hell a series featuring Sidney Crosby doesn’t get at least two nationally televised games.

Beyond that, it doesn’t really matter who the Devils get in the first round, it’s going to be a tough series no matter what.  The way the boys in red n’ black have been playing lately, there are no cupcake opponents from here on out.  Ultimately, it’s up to the Devils to take care of Carolina at The Rock on Saturday, head into the playoffs having won four of five games, and let the rest of the chips fall where they may.

Oh, and if there really is a possibility of the Devils opening the postseason with home games on Thursday AND Friday as has been rumored (rather than Wednesday/Friday or Thursday/Saturday), well then, I hope we face whatever team prevents that.  Yeah.

And this is why Scott Clemmensen is better than you

He may be floating around in obscurity somewhere in Massachusetts today, but without Scott Clemmensen, it’s safe to say the New Jersey Devils may not be where they are today…which is, like, the best team in the history of ALL SPORTS.

Oh, too far?

Sorry.

Alas, 2MA would like to extend its most sincere congratulations to the netminder as he has been nominated for the Bill Masteron trophy for for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

If you ask me, there is no one more deserving than the Clem-meister, but I may be a bit biased.

Eh, screw it. SCOTT CLEMMENSEN IS AWESOME.
He's more awesome than you.

TRADE!

I kind of had a feeling something might happen today, rather than Trade Deadline Wednesday.  And it has.

The Devils have picked up Niclas Havelid from the Thrashers.  On the way to Hotlanta, Mr. Anssi Salmela.  We hardly knew ya’, Salmela.

So, who is Niclas Havelid?  Well, he’s Swedish, 35 years of age, with two goals and thirteen assists for the Thrashers so far this year.  He’s an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.  He’s also a  +4 on a team like Atlanta, so I guess that’s gotta say something.

I dunno, seems kind of…well…old.  And we’re already an old team.  Niclas has gotta feel like he’s hit the lottery this evening, though, going from dead last in the Southeast to first in the Atlantic with the swift move of a pen stroke.  Lucky bastard.

I can’t help but wonder if this is the beginning of something else to come.  But on the other hand, I think I know better.  Picking up Shanahan halfway through the year and getting Marty back last week may have been the Devils “big moves” for the trade deadline.  Niclas Havelid may be it this week. 

Also, Andy Greene’s gotta be looking over his shoulder now.  Which is a shame, because, as Scott pointed out, he’s actually been pretty good lately.  And dammit, I like Andy.  But I get the feeling Mr. Greene is headed for the press box, and Jay Leach is headed for Lowell.  Or vice-versa.  Sucks to be both of them right now, though.

Brookbank Mountain moves west

Late breaking news via TG of Fire & Ice – the Sheldon Brookbank era is officially over.  Bad-Ass Brookbank, no longer here to serve:

The Devils dealt the oft-scratched Brookbank to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for the rights to center David McIntyre, a former Dallas draft pick who’s currently playing at Colgate University.

McIntyre has 13 goals and 30 points in 26 games with Colgate.  Essentially, the move brings the Devils a prospect and frees up a roster space.  Roster space is always nice.

Best of luck in Anaheim, Sheldon.  You will be missed, I guess.  Maybe.

Life is good.

So here we sit, the NHL All Star Game coming up in less than 48 hours, the first half of the season complete (okay, a little more than half, but this is convienant, so bear with me, eh?).  As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, the Devils hit the break at the top of the Atlantic Division, despite hardships such as LOSING THE GREATEST GOALIE IN THE HISTORY OF GOALTENDING to injury less than a month into the season.

I could get used to this first place thing.  I’m hoping the team feels the same.  I’ve been thinking quite a bit about what we can expect as we hit the point in the season traditionally marked with obsessive watching of the standings and Tums overdoses.  And so I present to you, loyal 2MA reader:

Devils Storylines to watch, Spring 2009
Story the first: March 1st is only 36 days away!

March 1st, of course, being the date Lou has referenced as being the day they hope Marty call go “full-out” in practice.  Now, being the obsessive schedule-watcher that I am, I feel the need to bring up at least one point:  Marty won’t be going “full-out” in practice March 1st – The Devils host the Flyers in an afternoon tilt at The Rock that day.  Unimportant semantics?  Yep.  But I feel the need to mention it anyway.

So it’s pretty likely that we see Marty early in March (I’m predicting March 7th on Long Island, for what it’s worth).  This gives Brodeur about five weeks to shake off the cobwebs, play through the rust, and get himself ready playoff time.  I, for one, cannot wait.  The shape that Marty was in to begin training camp this season suggests to me that he’ll be in mid-season form when the playoffs start – which is exactly what we’d want out of our franchise goaltender.

Also, that pesky all-times wins record is still entirely within reach this season – he only needs seven to tie and eight to break Patrick Roy’s record of 551 wins – and the shutout record, while unlikely to be reached this season, also looms on the horizon.

Story the second – The battle for the best seat in the house.

Marty’s return means at least one thing:  someone gets to reclaim the role of “Cushiest gig in NHL”, being the Devils backup goaltender.  Based on current results, it seems a given that that job should without a doubt go to Mr. Scott Clemmensen.  However,  it might be wise to not jump to conclusions quite so quickly (because naturally, if we did, this would be one short article).

Both Kevin Weekes and Scott Clemmensen are free agents at the end of the season.  Both would have to clear waivers to be sent to Lowell – and presumably, neither would make it through the waiver wire, though I imagine at this point that Clemmensen would be more likely to be claimed than Weekes, based on his performance in usurping what was presumed to be #1′s duty when Marty went down in November.

So we’ve got one Hall of Fame-bound goalie, two good goalies who will both likely be gone next season, and a trade deadline right in the middle of Marty’s expected return.   The question then becomes, who does Lou jettison?  On one hand, there’s something to be said for keeping the guy that more than kept us afloat in the three months without Brodeur.  On the other hand, Clemmensen probably gets a better return based on recent performance, and Weekes has playoff experience (2002, anyone?) that will come in handy if – god forbid – Marty is not 100% by then.

It’s a difficult decision, though a pretty good one to have.  I have a feeling Clemmer, however, is the odd man out and gets shipped somewhere – anywhere – for a draft pick, unless a potentionally playoff-bound team finds themselves suddenly without a starting goaltender (say, perhaps, Columbus, who have to be at least a little worried about Steve Mason’s back), in which case Weekes gets moved.  I wouldn’t expect much back for either player, but Lou turned Cam Janssen into Bryce Salvador, so anything’s possible.

Story the third: Zach Parise is so awesome. (Patrik Elias too.)

WE’VE been saying it for years now.  The rest of the NHL, however, is just noticing now.  The boy wonder sits at third in the NHL with 28 goals, making Brian Gionta’s single-season Devils record of 48 a definite possibility for number nine.  He also has 55 points, good for seventh overall.  Patrik Elias has tallied 54 points, leaving him in ninth at the break.  Two Devils in the top ten in SCORING.  What a world.

Parise has too small a body of work to really draw on in this case – there’s not much that suggests he’ll slow down or pick it up even further, so I expect he’ll maintain his current pace and flirt with the 48 goal Devils record and maybe even a 50 goal/100 point season.  Elias, however, has made a habit over his career of picking up the pace after the All Star Break – and when the pace right now is 90+ points, it’s fun to think of what it could be if he follows his typical post-break trajectory.

Story the rest: Quick hits OR other things to think about.

  • Will Lou pull a big deadline deal for a defenseman?
  • Will Brendan Shanahan prove to be brilliant or a bust?
  • Will the line of Holik/Rupp/Shanahan earn the nickname The Hanson Line before the year is out? (You figure it out.)
  • Will Jay Pandolfo make his way into the lineup before the trade deadline?  After it?  Has he seen his last day in a Devils sweater?

And last, but by no means least:

  • Will Marty ditch the ill-fated MB30 mask?

Shanahan’s a Devil again!

TSN is reporting that Brendan Shanahan is set to start skating in New Jersey today, in anticipation of signing a contract with the team in the coming days.

I think I speak for most Devils fans when I say…huh?

I’m conflicted at best, personally.  I can only assume he’ll get a one-year deal, so it won’t be a terrible move if it doesn’t work out.  It’ll definitely add some depth for a good playoff run, and boosts the power play immediately.

That said, where does he fit?  The top two lines are pretty much set in stone for the time being – they’ve both been too good.  The third and fourth are both solid lines, and while some shakeups were expected for tonight, I’m not sure who gets dropped to fit Shanny in.  Mike Rupp?  Jay Pandolfo?  David Clarkson?  Methinks Lou may be working on another move…

I’ll be gathering more information as the day wears on, and hopefully there’s some more to report come gametime tonight.

——————————————

Boys, girls, and marsupials…

Tonight, the Devils embark on a season-high six game roadtrip, including three games on the left coast.  Tonight’s tilt with the LA Kings starts at the incredibly painful hour of 10:30 PM Eastern Standard Time.  No one would be stupid enough to attempt LiveCappery of such a game…

…except me.

I implore all readers, throw on a pot of coffee and join me tonight as the Devils take on the Kings, live from the Staples Center in beautiful Los Angeles, California.  While I sit here in my bedroom, live from not-as-beautiful snowy central New Jersey.

See y’all at 10:30.

Injury bugs are the worst kinda bugs…

So, there is a silver lining in the Marty injury saga. It’s a very very small silver lining, barely registering on whatever one uses to measure silver linings. But it’s there, and I’ve found it. The very very small silver lining to Marty’s injury is thus:

We can use the Weekeser Beam picture again!

Okay, so in all seriousness now, it’s still rather unclear what Brodeur’s injury is, but the Devils said “elbow bruise” when it happened. And in Devils speak, “elbow bruise” probably means his arm fell off. Or possibly a pulled hamstring. I’m out of practice with my Devils injury speak.

Either way, it’s becoming (PAINFULLY) clear that Marty’s chase of Patrick Roy’s wins record is probably on hold for at least a few games. Kevin Weekes definitely has the nod in between the pipes this evening at the Rock against the Sabres, and my guess would be we’ll be seeing him on Wednesday as well. I have little fear with Weekes in net, the man was a starter for many years and is nearing his own milestone – two wins gives him 100 on his NHL career.

Backing up Weekes will be former 2MA icon Scott Clemmenson, who was recently recalled from Lowell for the assignment. The Devils also recalled rookie defenseman Anssi Salmela, for reasons unknown. I don’t think it’s to play goal, though. Edit: According to Gulitti, Paul Martin’s not on the ice for practice today. Crap.

Tonight’s Buffalo/New Jersey matchup provides one other interesting storyline that I never would have expected out of this game before the season started: The NHL’s top two goal scorers will be in the house. Thomas Vanek leads all scorers with 11 goals in as many games, while Zach Parise comes in at second with nine goals in ten games. Who woulda thunk it, a Devil amongst the league leaders in goal scoring? If Parise pots a puck (yay alliteration) tonight, he’ll also set a Devils record for most consecutive games scoring a goal – he sits tied with Valeri Zelepukin, Bobby Holik, Kirk Muller, and Pat Verbeek for the club record with six consecutive goal-scoring games.

I won’t be watching this evening’s game (lousy classes need to stop occuring on game nights), but I’m sure you can expect a typical Scott Mackie rant afterwards! And for those fearing that we’ve forgotten about LiveCaps – fret not, they’re coming. It’s been a rough go of things schedule-wise for most of the crew here, but after this week, things should be relatively back to normal. Thanks for sticking with us!