After two absolutely solid months of performance, perhaps there was going to be a proverbial bump in the road. Needless to say, March was a very big bump as far as bumps go. Out of the 14 games the Devils had in March, the Devils compiled a below-average record of 6-6-2; including a 5 game winless streak at home. The sizable lead the Devils built up in the Atlantic Division was whittled away and are now in a tight race with the Pittsburgh Penguins for the division lead and the all-important #2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
While there have been many games where the offense, the defense, or the entire team played very poorly, the Devils went through other struggles. Throughout the month, injuries afflicted Brian Gionta, Patrik Elias, John Madden, Colin White, Scott Gomez, Erik Rasmussen at one point or another and they took their toll on the team. In some games, the Devils played with a shortened roster - not being able to call up players for reasons due to time and a lack of salary cap space. Once Brian Gionta was placed on long term injured reserve, players were able to be called up from the Lowell Devils to fill in roster spots. David Clarkson was certainly impressive, looking and playing like a young Randy McKay in the games he's played in; acclimating himself well with the team and even fitting in when played on the top lines. Rod Pelley was put in Madden's spot and Pelley was all right; he didn't light the world on fire, but he was acceptable. Clarkson, at least, may have played himself in for a spot on the roster for next season, if not the playoffs.
However, the month ended on a high note. Players began getting healthy and while Scott Gomez left the March 30th game against Phildelphia early with a bruised thigh, the formerly injured players returned. Gionta will return on April 1, but Elias, Madden, Rasmussen, and White have returned to the line up and back into getting regular minutes. More importantly, they won 3 of their last 4 games: a 4-3 comeback win decided in the shootout against Florida on March 24
, a 3-2 win over the New York Islanders to snap the winless streak at the Continental Airlines Arena on March 27
, and last night's 3-1 win over Philadelphia to end the month.
There was other milestones to celebrate: the Devils secured a playoff berth in March, Martin Brodeur broke the franchise record for most wins in a season by a goaltender with 44 and has an outside chance of catching (and breaking) Bernie Parent's all-time record, and the Devils reached the 100 point plateau for the tenth time in the team's history. The most impressive wins, however, were the two away wins the Devils earned despite only playing with only 16 healthy skaters: the 4-3 win over Pittsburgh on March 8
and the 3-2 win over Buffalo on March 10.
Whenever you beat good teams permanently short two players, that's simply amazing.
Now, as far as the Devil of the Month, I'm going to go obvious here with Martin Brodeur here. Yes, Brodeur has not been excellent this month, but he's been consistently the best player on the roster. Nobody on the Devils did consistently well all month, with the Devils as a whole disappearing in the multiple poor games they had; not to mention injuries keeping top players off the ice to perform well. Brodeur has had some strong games this month even though he was left out to dry by the defense more often than not. He got up to 45 wins, breaking a franchise record for wins, and could conceivably catch Bernie Parent's 47 win record. Given that I certainly can't name any of the defenders and most of the skaters either were hurt or not particularly impressive this month, Brodeur is once again the In Lou We Trust Devil of the Month for March 2007.