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Behind Enemy Lines: Devils missing their anchor

For the past 15 years, Martin Brodeur has been the New Jersey Devils. He is the face of frustration we all see when we think about the Devils dominance over our team during many of these years. He is what I think of when I whine about how I live in New Jersey and my tax dollars go to that waste of a franchise (just kidding, Devils fans.. kind of). He was a rookie of the year, a four-time Vezina Trophy winner, and a four-time Jennings Trophy recipient. He is one of, if not the greatest goalie in NHL history.

And he's hurt. The Devils have been missing their anchor -- the face of their franchise -- for exactly one month now. On November 4, he was diagnosed with a biceps injury that will force him to miss four months of action. This was a major blow to the Devils.

Moreso than any other team in the league, the Devils are built around their goaltender. They are able to play the style of game they play, one in which the goalie and defense are relied upon heavily and the scoring comes as a result of opportunistic plays in the opposite direction, because they have such a world-class goaltender. So, when I say that Brodeur IS the Devils, it's more than just a figure of speech. He's more than just the face of the franchise. He is their anchor, and without him, they are royally screwed.

Or so you'd think. His replacements, Scott Clemmensen and Kevin Weekes, have performed admirably in Brodeur's absence. From Devils' blog In Lou We Trust:

...the issue has not been in net. OK, Kevin Weekes got lit up in the Rangers game and Scott Clemmensen made some poor decisions with his stick last night. However, both did well enough to keep the Devils in almost all the games that they were in - even in most of the losses. Both Weekes and Clemmensen have stepped up their games to fill in a role with a nigh-impossible hole to fill, and they have done well so far.

- John Fischer, November 30

It really comes down to the inconsistent scoring for this Brodeur-less Devils team. They had a five-game win streak (not really against anybody good, but five straight wins is five straight wins) in which they scored 24 goals in those five games. Just before that streak, however, came a four-game losing streak in which they scored only five goals.

The inconsistency can perhaps be attributed to more injuries they suffered on the front lines. Bobby Holik, John Madden, Brian Rolston, and Brian Gionta all have missed time since Brodeur went down, and when that many guys are in-and-out of the lineup it clearly isn't easy to stay consistent.