After coming off a season in which they made the postseason for the first time since 2012, the New Jersey Devils are looking to accomplish the same feat in the upcoming season, and perhaps even go further.
There are reasons to believe that this can happen. The team has the league’s most valuable player in Taylor Hall, a solid offensive supporting cast, a consistent defensive corps, and a really good head coach in John Hynes.
One should expect the above-mentioned factors to get the job done again this season. With that said, there is one area that could be a concern for this hockey club this season and that’s goaltending.
It really starts with supposed starter Cory Schneider. When New Jersey Devils’ goaltender Cory Schneider was first acquired by the club from the Vancouver Canucks, he was everything the team needed him to be.
He was consistent, posted good numbers, kept the team in many games that they should not have been in, and was even an All-Star (2016). His first three seasons between the pipes for the Devils were simply outstanding:
2013-14: 17-9-4; 2.11 GAA; .921 save percentage; 3 shutouts
2014-15: 26-31-9; 2.26 GAA; .925 save percentage; 5 shutouts
2015-16: 27-25-6; 2.15 GAA; .924 save percentage; 4 shutouts
These are unbelievable numbers despite playing behind some pretty garbage hockey teams. In fact, Schneider’s play was so good that much of the fan bases fears about what the team’s goaltending would be like after the Hall of Fame Martin Brodeur left were significantly lessened.
This is where the concern is now. It was reported a few weeks ago that Schneids may miss the start of the upcoming season, as he is still recovering from the hip surgery he had in May. The article states that the recovery is normally five months, which would bring us to the beginning of October, right around when the season starts.
While it is nice that the team has both Keith Kinkaid and Eddie Lack, they clearly do not bring to the table what Schneids normally does. When Kinkaid struggled in this year’s postseason in the first round against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Schneider was put back in between the pipes and played extremely well in three games.
The Devils may have lost the series, but it was not his fault. Schneider posted a 1.78 GAA and a .950 save percentage. Those are the numbers we have come to expect from the Marblehead, MA native.
While the team’s GM Ray Shero said they are not going to rush Schneider back, they will need to get him back in net sooner rather than later if they want to make the playoffs for the second straight year. He may have struggled in his last two seasons, but for this team to have success both now and in the future, they need Schneider in goal to be the solution.
Hopefully when Schneider gets healthy, he’ll come back and play like the All-Star. If he comes back and tries to fight through an injury like he did last season, that could be a major problem as the club will need to rely on Kinkaid and Lack to get this team into the playoffs.