Devils have proven doubters wrong

December, 23, 2008
OK, raise your hands puckheads around the world, those of you who wrote off the New Jersey Devils in early November when it was announced superstar goalie Martin Brodeur would be out 3-4 months after undergoing elbow surgery.

Yes ... many, many hands are up. Mea culpa: We weren't very high on New Jersey's chances without Brodeur either.

Surprise, surprise. Heading into Tuesday night's game against Boston, the Devils had gone 13-7-1 since Brodeur went down and remained very much in the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference.

"I'm not surprised, because of the type of room that we have and the coaching staff," Devils GM Lou Lamoriello told "Not that we don't miss Marty -- I mean, Marty is who he is -- but it's just a group that believes in a team atmosphere where no matter who's in and who's out, you have to find a way without looking for excuses. That's exactly what they've done from Day 1."

This is a team that's also had to live without Brian Rolston and John Madden, among others, for chunks of time as well. New Jersey's best players have really stepped up over the last month and half or so. Patrik Elias has rediscovered his old self, young sniper Zack Parise has pushed his game to elite levels, Jamie Langenbrunner has been a steadying force at both ends, and Paul Martin leads the team with a whopping 25 minutes of ice time per game. The big guys are delivering.

And don't forget the coach, either. Brent Sutter is showing why Lamoriello tried so darned hard to hire him in the first place.

Staying on a winning track has allowed Lamoriello to stay away from a forced move. At the time of the Brodeur announcement, the speculation was hot and heavy that Lamoriello would surely need to eventually phone up another NHL team looking for goalie help. Instead, Scott Clemmensen and Kevin Weekes have held the fort.

"The thing about that, too, is the relationship that both of them have," said Lamoriello. "They respect and support each other. And that's what it takes. Philosophically, from where I sit, it's really gratifying to see that, because that's what it's all about and that's what, I hope, we're all about."

Brodeur, meanwhile, remains on target for a March return.

"He's right where he should be," said Lamoriello. "There's no issues. He's progressing in the timetable that we had initially. We're taking it a step at a time. He's feeling good and feels good about the rehab. All of it is very, very positive."

Boyle wonders
We were in the middle of a conversation with San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle this week when he stunned us with a true piece of trivia.

"I haven't gone to an All-Star Game," he said with a chuckle.

We plead ignorant on that one. We had no idea. Here's a guy that, for the last six seasons or so, has been among the highest-scoring blue-liners out there. But he has been given no love when it comes to awards recognition. He's having another great season this year, leading all NHL defensemen with 27 points through 32 games. Surely he'll be in Montreal next month for the All-Star Game, finally?

"We'll see. I'm not holding my breath," said Boyle. "It's out of my hands. I just try to do what I can on the ice. That's all I can say. I'm not going to start pumping my own tires."

For Boyle, though, the snub is par for the course. Here's a guy who wasn't even drafted. Then the team that had enough smarts to sign him out of college, the Florida Panthers, didn't believe in him enough and dumped him on Tampa Bay for a fifth-round pick in January 2002. He was told time and time again as a teenager that he was too small to make it.

So the All-Star oversight during the past 5-6 years is just icing on the cake.

"I can't let those things affect me, because if I did I would have gone crazy by now," said Boyle.

Hopefully, Team Canada won't commit the same mistake by overlooking him next season when announcing its roster for the 2010 Olympics.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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