February is the shortest month of the year, but it was one of the busiest for the Devils with 12 games in 28 days. As far as a month goes, it's pretty complete. It featured some highs, some lows, all kinds of wins and losses, and some big news. Ultimately, the Devils came out of the month very well with an 8-4 record and retaining first place in the Atlantic Division.
It started off a little rocky, as the Washington Capitals decisvely defeated the Devils to snap an eight-game winning streak for the Devils. The Devils bounced back in their next game, extracting revenge in Atlanta to the tune of 5-1. Not bad. Not bad at all. But the Devils faltered the next night against Los Angeles by just playing poor hockey in general. Two home losses in a row! Whatever the Devils will do?
Easy. They go out and beat on some rivals. The Devils just smacked the Rangers in the mouth, outworked them all night, and gave them absolutely nothing. After 3 months of getting starts, Scott Clemmensen earned his first shutout of the season. The Devils would continue to roll at home by earning 2 points over the Islanders. Then New Jersey upped their game to another level against the top teams in the league: Boston and San Jose. Against Boston, it was a struggle, but Clemmensen held it down and the Devils just eked by the Bruins 1-0. That would be Scott Clemmensen's second shutout of the season, within the same week! Against San Jose, it was like a different game, where the offense ruled the day for both squads. In a game I'm sure NBC wish they broadcasted nationally, the Devils out-capitalized and out-scored the Sharks 6-5.
Four straight home wins! Four straight wins in general! Things are looking good for the Devils! Exciting stuff, but those two wins were flawed in their own right. And the following week would be filled the Devils looking pretty bad. The Devils have had trouble with tight-checking teams and when they lose the puck, they can be prone to counter-attacks. The Florida Panthers exploited both in a 4-0 win. The Devils would face similar struggles, but not as bad against Tampa Bay. New Jersey did get a shootout win, but allowed a ton of shots on Kevin Weekes. The Islanders then embarrassed the Devils 4-0 on Saturday to end a short three game road trip. Guess what, they did it nearly the same way the Panthers did it! That game was almost as bad as the Atlanta 4-0 loss back in January, which I still consider to be the worst Devils game all season! It was a pretty awful week, with awful first period performances following poor games by the Devils overall. Thankfully, the Devils had a 4 day break before Thursday against Colorado!
In the break that followed, the Devils got healthier, got some serious practice time, and a massive boost: the return of Martin Brodeur. At this time, I recounted how well the Devils had done without Brodeur. Scott Clemmensen was sent down to Lowell, Weekes stayed on, and we all should be thankful for what both did (Clemmensen moreso, since he started more games) in relief for Brodeur. He did quite well. The questions loomed: when will Marty return? How will he do?
Well, in his first game back, he shutout the Colorado Avalanche 4-0. That should have answered the concerns about Marty's return! The Devils looked fantastic at both ends of the rink in that game - tons of shots on offense and very few good ones against Brodeur. The perfect antidote for the prior week! Just an overall, dominant performance. It was no fluke, either. The final game of the month was another dominant game by the Devils, routing the Panthers 7-2. A six game home winning streak, two great games, nearly guaranteed the playoffs already (according to Sports Club Stats they already have!) and in first place with a 7 point lead in the division.
This really was a complete month!
As far as who the Devil of the Month is, I would like to give an honorable mention to Paul Martin. The top defenseman for the Devils was proven to be important to the team's defense. He missed the San Jose, Florida, Tampa Bay, and Islanders games with upper body soreness, and it showed. The defense in each of those games was definitely not you'd call good, as the other defenders struggled to fill in Martin's minutes. Basically, he is the leader of the defense and we'd like him to be healthy for sure!
That said, Zach Parise was clearly the best Devil in this month. He scored 9 goals and 9 assists in 12 games; and he was held pointless in 4 games (2 shutouts, 2 games where the Devils only scored once). He was the most productive Devil in this past month by a good margin. Parise has been absolutely masive for the New Jersey Devils and is one of the league's top scorers. The last time someone was this high in the NHL in scoring was Patrik Elias in 2000-01. He's a shot machine, a playmaker, a hustler, an incredibly hard worker, and a goal scoring machine. He's truly one of a kind So were some of his goals this month!
And so I name Zach Parise, the In Lou We Trust Devil of the Month of February 2009!
#9 / Left Wing / New Jersey Devils
Jul 28, 1984
February 2009 Devil of the Month
GP: 12 G: 9 A: 9 PIM: 2 SOG: 59