The New Jersey Devils are fighting for playoff seeding as the season is eclipsing the three quarter mark. As always, there are questions heading down the stretch that are bugging fans. The Devils just got Adam Larsson back from injury and are waiting to get the services of Travis Zajac abd Henrik Tallinder back. Assuming the Devils stay healthy, the third and fourth lines should see the same skaters and hopefully a more consistent quality and effort from those lines. Then there is the question of how Marek Zidlicky will play with the Devils versus his subpar season in Minnesota.
The question that nags me heading into the critical games of the regular season is the Devils goaltending duo. I'm not going to analyze Martin Brodeur and whether he is past his prime, but I am going to compare which goalie is doing better at what and how I believe DeBoer should utilize the goaltenders down the stretch. After the stretch I'll serenade your eyeballs with statistics and my opinions, enjoy.
The Devils have played 62 games, and Marty has played in roughly two thirds of them. Johan Hedberg has played in the other third of the games. I was comfortable with this split for most of the season. Now that the playoffs are looming, if I was DeBoer, I would split the starts 50/50 in order to keep Marty fresh for the playoff run. However good you think Marty is he will be 40 years old during the playoffs. If you believe he can continue playing at a high level while playing night after night, you are misled. Marty usually plays well over 70 games when he is healthy. This season he will finish between 55 and 60 starts this season. I think DeBoer was smart in this aspect because Marty started 56 games last season and looked sharp in the great second half run the Devils had last season. It stands to reason that Marty should be in similar shape this postseason, given his workload.
Now, onto how the Devils goalies have performed this season.
I pulled these stats after the New York Rangers game, so they're up to date. If you prefer the goals against average metric, then these goalies are playing at the same level. Both goaltenders are sporting a 2.53 GAA. Using GAA, they are tied for 22nd best in the NHL. If the Devils are going to win, they are going to need to maintain this GAA, if they want to go deep into the postseason; they desperately need to allow fewer goals per game. If we measure the goalies by save percentage, Hedberg has a .908 save percentage while Brodeur only has a .902%. From this perspective, Hedberg is the better goalie this season. He has played fewer games and has played very well for a "backup" goaltender. Hedberg has won 68 percent of the games he has started whereas Marty has only won 51 percent of the games he has started. You could argue that Marty plays against tougher competition, but I couldn't find a stat that proves he played against tougher competition.
Another note from the table above, Marty contributed four assists to the offense and Hedberg has not contributed on offense... I guess he's not paid to do that.
Next I took a look at just even strength stats to see if one goalie stood out from the other.
5v5 Goalie Stats
At even strength, Marty has a slightly lower GAA than Moose. I believe this measure is more important because it takes the play of the special teams out of the equation. One goalie may have faced more penalty kill situations than the other and that could skew the GAA in all situations. Being that the Devils are generally a not very penalized team, this number shows that Marty is in fact still better than Hedberg. (Stating the obvious)
4v5 Goalie Stats
Hedberg has a slightly higher GAA on the penalty kill, significantly higher than when Marty is playing during the penalty kill. When the Devils go on the PK, it's always nice to see the greatest goaltender to ever play hockey in net.
Finally, even thought it won't matter in the playoff, I looked at the shootout stats to see if either goalie stands above the other in the skills competition.
(You will have to click the chart if you can't read it, I re-sized it several times but it was unreadable)
Going down the stretch it would be nice if the Devils win in regulation in order to stop handing out a third point to all of the Eastern Conference teams. However, the Devils have played in the most shootouts in the NHL and it has contributed to their record significantly. Both goalies have won five shootouts and have been great in the shootout. I'll also point out that Brodeur is clearly the better goalie in the skills competition. That should not surprise anyone.
Hope you enjoyed this look at the Devils goaltending this season and thanks for reading.