New Jersey Devils goaltender Johan Hedberg appears to be getting his groove back. In the absence of Martin Brodeur, who has been sidelined since Feb. 24 with back problems, Hedberg’s performance hasn’t exactly been stellar. Last night’s convincing win over the rival Philadelphia Flyers was perhaps Hedberg’s best outing since taking over the goaltending duties.
In the midst of the six-game skid, Hedberg’s mishaps in net coupled with the Devils’ inability to score spelled disaster for the team which once led the Eastern Conference.
With another game against the Flyers tomorrow evening and the streaking Montreal Canadians coming into the Prudential Center on Saturday, it is a good thing the team appears to have found its stride once again.
“I can’t remember when we put five on the board the last time,” Hedberg said in an interview following last night’s contest. “It was nice to have a little cushion.”
When was the last time? It was on Feb. 15 to be exact against the Flyers. A win in Philly on Friday would complete a sweep of the season series between the two clubs.
“We know they’re going to be fighting as hard as they can to get back into the playoff (spot),” Hedberg reasoned. “We want to keep them behind us. Nothing against them.”
For the 39-year-old Swede, Sunday night’s shootout victory over the Winnipeg Jets may have been a turning point.
“I thought he was very confident, very aggressive,” coach Pete DeBoer said when addressing the media following last night’s game, “those are the two words that come to mind when I think about his game tonight.”
Hedberg’s thoughts echoed his coach’s impressions of his performance. “I felt confident, but it also comes a lot from the way we played in front of me,” the goalie explained, “I think I started feeling it here more last game. I wanted to continue that. It’s been too much up and down, so that was important. There was no guessing.”
There certainly wasn’t. The team as a whole appeared much more confident and in command, which is a good sign given the vital stage of the NHL season.
“I think now teams are going to separate,” Ilya Kovalchuk said to reporters last night regarding the jockeying for playoff spots. “We have to stick to what we do best. Good teams find a way to get through slumps and get back on track. We’re hungry and we want to win.”