When we last looked at the New Jersey Devils' back-up goaltender Johan Hedberg, it was in February 2013. He came off getting shelled in a bad game by the Devils in Washington but suddenly had to become the default starter when Martin Brodeur suffered back problems prior to a game against Winnipeg on the next night. Hedberg was very poor in that game and made one early and bizarre decision that led to the game winning goal in the game after that. A heavy March schedule loomed and concerns would mount about Hedberg's ability to be the go-to guy as Brodeur remained hurt.
|March 2013 - Johan Hedberg||10||567||3||5||2||17||2.86||216||189||.875||0|
They mounted very quickly. And for good reason. The Devils would drop their first three games of the month before finally snapping a six game winless streak. Then the Devils promptly lost again, won via another shootout, finally got a regulation win, and then go winless until Brodeur returned on March 20. In that time frame, Hedberg allowed 27 goals in ten games. It's that kind of performance that leads fans to understandably criticize the goaltending. The coaching staff must have agreed as the next time Hedberg got back in the crease was in the final week of the season after the team was mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. No matter how you cut it, March was an ugly month for Moose.
But how much of it was ugly by his own failings and how much of it was by others? A 87.5% save percentage definitely means the goalie is at least partially to blame. Let's not forget that the Devils didn't exactly light the lamp frequently and they weren't always so strong in their own end too. In order to better understand what happened we must look at what actually happened, let's revisit the 27 goals allowed by Hedberg in March.
About the Review
Before we get into this large list of goals allowed, let me restate what I'm doing here. The main thing I'm looking for in this review are "soft goals," those goals against that should have been stopped by the goaltender. Here's how I am defining a soft goal: The goalie must have seen the shot coming; the shot was not deflected or change otherwise in motion; the goalie was in position to actually make the stop; and/or the goaltender made an uncharacteristic mistake that led to the goal. If the goal allowed qualifies, then I deemed the goal as "soft." In fact, the very last bit alone can make the difference in what is and is not a soft goal. Breakaways are done on a case-by-case basis; there I usually look to see whether the goalie has at least made an effort. I do expect the most disagreement with them.
In addition, there are other traits I've recorded I have denoted skater errors by player and scoring chance. I assign a skater error by name under "Errors" if the player did something significantly wrong that led to the goal such as a turnover or not covering their man. It's arguable that all goals allowed have an error or some kind; these are for the egregious mistakes made. If it's something like a bad line change, I'll use "Bench." As for scoring chances, that's dependent on where the shot was fired. Anything between the two faceoff dots towards the top of the crease would count. Anything outside of that has not. I've erred against counting a chance if it's borderline, for what it's worth. I also denote the general position of where the shot beats the goaltender relative to the goaltender's position.
Lastly, I have provided links to the video I looked at for each goal from NHL.com. These links will auto-play the video, so be forewarned when you click on them.
The 27 Goals Allowed by Johan Hedberg in March 2013: A Chart
|Date||GA#||Where Beaten?||GA Description||Soft?||Video||S.E.||SC?|
|3/2||19||Past the right pad||Hodgson feeds Pominville inside left circle. Pominville scores with one-timer.||No||Link||Butler||Yes|
|3/2||20||Between the legs||Hodgson feeds Pominville cross-ice off rush to Pominville. Pominville slides the one-timer through.||No||Link||-||Yes|
|3/2||21||Off Hedberg's right side||Hedberg stops Hecht's shot at left post, Girgorenko gets it to go behind net and find Hecht on other side. Hecht puts on off Hedberg's right and in.||No||Link||Salvador||No|
|3/4||22||Between the legs||Kadri attempted a pass to Komarov across the slot. Hedberg stopped the pass - only to deflect the puck in between his legs.||Yes||Link||-||No|
|3/4||23||Off the blocker and in||McClement blocks Elias' pass for a quick one-on-one with Hedberg. McClement chips it up, off Moose, and in.||Yes||Link||Elias||Yes|
|3/4||24||Between the legs||MacArthur all alone in front of Hedberg gets the puck. He goes backhand to forehand and slid it in between Hedberg's legs.||Yes||Link||Fayne||Yes|
|3/4||25||Past the left pad||van Reimsdyk leads a 2-on-1 with Kessel. Pass, shot, score past a diving Moose.||No||Link||Zidlicky||Yes|
|3/5||26||Between the legs||Salvador loses puck to Palat. Palat passes it to Conacher, who passes it to Thompson open in front. One-timer for the goal.||No||Link||Salvador||Yes|
|3/5||27||Over (tipped?) the right pad||Lecavalier leads 3-on-2 counter attack. He gets it to Killorn, who feeds it cross-slot to St. Louis. St. Louis lifts the puck for a goal.||No||Link||Fayne||Yes|
|3/5||28||Between the legs||Killorn gets away from Salvador in corner, takes the puck to the high slot, and fires low for success.||Yes||Link||Salvador||Yes|
|3/7||29||Past the blocker||Ennis feeds an open Vanek in the slot for a rocket of a shot.||No||Link||Elias||Yes|
|3/7||30||Between the legs||Sekera's shot is blocked, Flynn takes it and puts the puck in low through traffic.||No||Link||Salvador||Yes|
|3/9||31||Over the right pad||Corvo feeds a wide open Semin right in front of Hedberg. Semin makes a deke and lifts the backhander in.||No||Link||Zajac||Yes|
|3/9||32||Between the legs||Hedberg stops Staal's shot off the rush. Harrison rushes in to put back the rebound.||No||Link||-||Yes|
|3/9||33||Low, right, past a diving Moose||Devils caught in a change, Semin rushes up and makes a cross-slot pass to Tlusty for the goal.||No||Link||Bench||Yes|
|3/9||34||Between the legs||Sanguinetti shot gets deflected up high in the air. Larsson misses at knocking it away, Hedberg tries to square up for it, Terry gets it and slides it in.||Yes||Link||Larsson||Yes|
|3/9||35||Low, past the left pad||Hedberg tries to glove a loose puck off a bad-angle shot by Gleason. Skinner beats him to it and knocks it in past his left pad.||Yes||Link||-||Yes|
|3/10||36||Under the right arm||Stuart takes a long shot. Greene accidentally deflects it up past Hedberg.||No||Link||-||No|
|3/10||37||Over the glove, top left corner||Larsson stumbles with the puck on offense, which springs Kane in a 2-on-1. Kane keeps it and fires a laser to the top-left corner.||No||Link||Larsson||Yes|
|3/13||38||Past the glove||Simmonds gets puck down low, wheels, and finds Voracek open in the left circle. Pass, one-timer, goal.||No||Link||-||Yes|
|3/13||39||High, over a fallen Moose||Voracek blocks Salvador's shot and is off on a counter. He finds Hartnell streaking in from his left, hits him with a pass, and Hartnell puts one up over a low Moose.||Yes||Link||Salvador||Yes|
|3/15||40||Left flank||3-on-2 led by Read results in a pass to Gagne open in the slot. Gagne delays and as Greene & Larsson crash the net, hits Talbot with a pass for an easy goal.||No||Link||
|3/16||41||High, past right shoulder||Volchenkov loses it to Armstrong. He goes to the left dot and fires a high one through a double screen to find the top-right corner||No||Link||Volchenkov||Yes|
|3/16||42||Past the blocker||Zidlicky makes a blind backhand pass to no one on his team from the corner. Tinordi fires one from distance and Plekanec tips it in.||No||Link||Zidlicky||No|
|3/19||43||Past the right leg||After Stepan wins the puck from Harrold, he goes to the corner and lofts one to the front of the net. Del Zotto bats it down past Hedberg.||No||Link||Harrold||No|
|3/19||44||Past the right pad||Girardi misses on a long shot. The puck bounces off the back board to Hagelin, who beats Moose on his right flank.||No||Link||Harrold||Yes|
|3/19||45||Between the legs||Devils caught in a change, Nash keeps it in a 2-on-1 and fires a low, hard one through Hedberg from the left dot.||Yes||Link||Bench||Yes|
Location of Goals Allowed
All locations listed are relative to Hedberg himself, not necessarily where the puck goes into the net. It's simplistic, but it works for general information. This was the month to either beat him between the legs or on the glove side because a majority of the goals allowed in March got past Moose in those areas.
In this past March, Hedberg played the most minutes for the Devils in a month since February 2011. Hedberg was far, far better then. He was down right fantastic in February 2011. In March 2013, not only did he allow 27 goals in ten games, but eight of those were soft ones. That's eight goals against he totally should have had. I honestly expected more, but reviewing the video reminded me that when it came to the 2013 Devils, they made some remarkable errors at times.
I found that the Hedberg had his biggest struggles early in the month. He settled down in March 2 as he was beaten by one-timers and a literal bad bounce off his body by Buffalo. Yet, his performance in Toronto on March 4 was arguably his worst of the season. GAs# 22, 23, and 24 were not only the first, second, and third goals of the game but they were all entirely stoppable situations. Moose made the wrong decision or got caught unaware and paid for it. The following night, Hedberg wasn't as calamtious but he got beaten by a stoppable shot from Alex Killorn on GA #28. That one sent him to the bench in favor of Keith Kinkaid. Four soft goals in two games led me to think this was going to be one long review. As it turned out, Hedberg wasn't as calamitous as time went on.
Of course, he wasn't perfect. It would be two games later when the next set of softies were baked (cooked? boiled?pureed?) as seen in GAs #34 and 35. That happened in Carolina and they were the fourth and fifth goals scored by the home team. Two nights after that, the Devils won their one game in regulation with Moose in the net. GA #39 wasn't the softest goal and it was essentially a consolation goal. However, I believe Hedberg went down too early and since he made the first move, the guy with the puck made the correct move. So I counted it. Two games later and it would be Hedberg's last until April; his final goal allowed of the month may have come off the rush but GA #45 was entirely stoppable. While Hedberg's other four soft goals were more spread apart, the closeness of all the games in the schedule plus the fact he didn't go farther than five goals allowed between soft goals felt like there were more. Hedberg absolutely deserves criticism for how he performed in March and these eight goals were the low-points to highlight in that regard.
That said, my goodness, some of the errors by the skaters were ridiculous. It made me wonder whether the team was trying to tick off a checklist of How to Screw Up and Pay For It. Turnovers? The two goals allowed to Montreal, GAs# 41 and 42, fit that bill. Losing the puck in your own end? GA #26 featured the captain with an ugly one there. Elias made a hideous one on GA #23 for what it's worth as well. Losing a board battle that led to something big for the opposition? Peter Harrold had position but lost the puck which led to a very strange shorthanded GA #43 (Hedberg did come out, but he didn't get get burnt and got back in position. Not his fault it was batted down in mid-air). Getting caught out of position? Harrold again provided a good example on GA #44. Leaving guys open in the slot? While they were on penalty kills, GAs #24, 29 and 31 immediately come to mind. Losing the puck on offense? Larsson's flub at the blueline led to GA #37 happening. Bad pinching? Zidlicky got caught and it led to the 2-on-1 that ended with GA #25. Lazy backchecking? Bobby Butler saw the bench when he came back to stand still for GA #19. Defensemen taking themselves out? GA #40 was a comedy of error performed by Adam Larsson and Andy Greene in what should have been a simple 3-on-2. Bad line changes? I counted two of those too: GAs # 33 and 45. Even the soft goals allowed had skater errors involved in most of them; goals allowed where, yeah, Hedberg should have made the save but he wasn't the only one who erred on the play. As poor as Hedberg has played at times in March, conceding 27 goals in ten games took a team effort. Throw in a lack of goal support when Moose only got beaten twice or three times, and the losses racked up too. No wonder Martin Brodeur started all the way through March 20 through April 25.
In terms of other findings, only six goals allowed were on special teams: two shorthanded (GAs #19 and #43) and four power play goals (GA #33 were allowed in March. Given that the Devils allowed seven power play goals and one shorthanded goal with Hedberg in net last month, that's actually some improvement. It also makes the 21 even strength goals allowed stand out even more. 21 of the 27 goals allowed came from that scoring chance area as far as I could tell in my review. Of the six non-scoring chance goals allowed, four were off deflections of some variety: GAs #22, 36, 42, and 43. The only non-scoring chance goal allowed that was soft was GA #22 in that Hedberg re-directed a pass past himself. It was bad to watch, though I would still contend GA #10 from February was his worst of the season.
It was a poor March for Hedberg and the team as a whole wasn't successful with Moose in net. Still, I want your take on how Moose performed in March. Which of the goals allowed would you least want to remember? Of the eight soft goals, which one do you think was the worst? Perhaps you disagree with my choices and feel that others were or were not soft. Which ones would those be and why? Knowing what you know now, was it the right call for Hedberg to play as much as he did? Likewise, was it correct that he didn't see the ice again until late April due to this month's performance? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the 27 goals allowed by Johan Hedberg in March in the comments. Thank you for reading.