By Dave Turner
In this weekly column, we’ll feature three players who are playing well and three who are not for Jersey’s team.
1. Martin Brodeur- If you knew nothing about Brodeur’s age and judged him simply on his play in the Devils’ first two games this season, you’d probably think he was in his mid-twenties. Marty has been spectacular thus far. His glove has been quick and his rebound control has been as strong as ever. The Devils have been underwhelming in the offensive end through the first two games, so Marty has needed to be sharp.
The time off, accompanied by the playoff run last season, seems to have rejuvenated Brodeur. If he keeps up his strong play, New Jersey will be in every game they play. Remember what happened the last time there was a lockout-shortened season? Marty definitely does and that is fueling him this season.
2. Travis Zajac- Fresh off a new eight-year contract extension, Travis has gotten off to a fast start so far, scoring a goal in both games so far. Zajac was tremendous in the playoffs last year and he’s on his way towards blossoming into a bona-fide No. 1 center.
His two-way play cannot be overlooked. He plays a major role on the penalty kill and he’s won 19 faceoffs in two games. Playing with Ilya Kovalchuk will give Zajac an opportunity to get shots and also to dish the puck. I believe that Zajac has the ability to be a 70-point player in an 82 game season on a line with Kovy.
As someone who may very well be a lifetime Devil, he is quickly becoming one of the faces of the franchise. Plain and simple, Zajac has been getting it done when it matters.
3. Bryce Salvador- The newly-appointed captain has been living up to the patch on his sweater already. Salvador is +1, has an assist and has been rock solid in the defensive zone.
Even better? The Captain quickly dispatched Flyer Maxime Talbot on Tuesday. He did so, so quickly in fact, that he wasn’t even given a fighting penalty. He dropped Talbot right away, much to the pleasure of the sell out crowd.
When Sal is at the top of his game, he’s almost invisible. He negates scoring chances and is smart on the puck. When you don’t notice him, he’s playing his best.
1. Marek Zidlicky– Three penalties against the Flyers (high sticking, slashing and an interference penalty that negated a power play); that pretty much sums it up for the veteran from the Czech Republic.
Throw in the fact that he’s been out of position on numerous occasions and you have to wonder if he’s in danger of playing himself out of the lineup, especially with Adam Larsson in waiting.
If that isn’t enough, he has been ineffective thus far on the power play, which was one of the main reasons that the Devils traded for him from Minnesota.
2. Mattias Tedenby- After the Islanders game, Tedenby may have made the “hot” portion of this list. After Tuesday’s game against the Flyers, he lands here. While Tedenby showed speed and excellent stick handling against the Isles, he played himself off of the second line late in Tuesday’s game.
Tedenby also took a tripping penalty and totaled just 7:01 of ice time. The biggest issue with the young Swede is his inconsistency. Every time he shows promise, he finds his way into the doghouse again.
If he doesn’t get his head on straight and start producing some points, his time in New Jersey may be brief. The most frustrating thing about him is that he has the skill to succeed, yet it seems that the mental side of this game is what hinders him most.
3. Patrik Elias– Okay, before you go getting all upset that he’s on this list, there was no one else who stood out to me, but when thinking about who to add, Patrik’s 0-for in goal scoring so far has been a slight source of concern.
Though I fully expect the wily veteran to pick up the scoring touch soon, he hasn’t quite yet. It’s understandable for an older player to struggle in the wake of the lockout, but for someone who finished in the Top-10 in the NHL in points last year (26g, 52a), he will need to pick it up.
With teams rolling their top defensive pairings against the Kovalchuk-Zajac-Zubrus line, the Devils second line needs to produce. David Clarkson has picked up where he left off with his 30-goal season, so Elias is armed with a potent scorer on his line. Production from Elias is crucial for the success of the team this season.