Next step for Devils: the .500 mark
|Brodeur is 12-1-1 in his last 14 appearances.
“I forgot,” Lemaire said after Monday’s practice.
But there’s no forgetting Sunday’s 3-2 shootout decision over the Islanders that extended the Devils’ winning streak to four in a row. They have used a 20-2-2 mark in the second half to climb within eight points of Buffalo for the final playoff spot in the East.
Once 10-29-2, the Devils (30-31-4) are one win away from the .500 mark. They will have the chance to reach it for the first time this season when they host Ottawa on Tuesday.
“One [win] away? Good,” Lemaire said. “That’s what we were looking for. A long time ago.”
He added: “We thought that it was impossible, but maybe now it could be something possible.”
To Martin Brodeur, who is 12-1-1 in his last 14 outings, the .500 mark would be significant. He made 20 saves and stopped five of six Islanders attempts in the shootout to capture his fourth straight victory and improve to 17-19-2.
“It’s definitely a lot of credit to the guys to bear down and play well throughout the big stretch that we’re having and continue it,” Brodeur said. “The .500 mark was always a goal of everybody to try and achieve it and we’re one [win] away from it now, so it’s nice.”
With 17 games remaining, there’s still little margin for error. The Devils get some favorable breaks on the schedule and will face both Ottawa and the Islanders two more times. They also have one game remaining with Buffalo and the Rangers, who currently sit in seventh place, 10 points ahead of them in the standings.
“There is a margin, but it’s thin,” Lemaire said. “You guys, you can get excited when we’re a game away. Look at all that we did to gain three points. It’s amazing when you look at our last 10 games, we gained three points. So it’s still a long ways.”
As incredible as the second-half run has been, the Devils are hoping they can make their push before they run out of time. New Jersey has gained one point on the final playoff spot in each of the last two weeks despite winning five of six over that span.
“It’s not that you don’t believe, the thing is, games are running out,” Lemaire said. “That’s what I’m looking at. Soon there’ll be 10 games left. Soon. So, let’s say we lose one, two games there. We’re back to where we were. You tell me we’re going to win all of them, I’ll tell you we’ll make the playoffs, but we won’t. And we might not make it winning all of them depending on what the other teams do, because they’ll win their share.”
Brodeur wants to see the eight-point deficit cut in half to position the Devils for a final surge.
“I think eight points is still a big margin to get in,” he said. “But I think if we do get to four or three points, I think that’s where we’re going to have a really good chance, especially later on when we play the Rangers and Buffalo. It’s going to be interesting for everybody, but we have to get to that first and we can’t lose sight of that, that’s for sure.”
Will they start feeling the pressure if they can chip away at the deficit even further?
“I don’t think so,” said David Clarkson. “We’re not thinking about that. If we start thinking the big picture, it’s going to affect us. I think we’ll just take it day by day, game by game and we’ll do what we’ve done to get to where we are. That’s what’s made us successful, is taking it game-by-game and working on the little things Jacques wants to change. You saw us out there today working on stuff that he feels we could get better at. If we keep doing those things, I’ll think we’ll be a better team.”
Clarkson is enjoying his first days of fatherhood. He and his wife Brittany welcomed daughter McKinnley on Friday.
“It was pretty cool waking up and holding her before I got to the rink,” Clarkson said.
Everyone is back home and doing well.
“I think it’s something that you can’t explain,” he said. “When this happens, I think you go home with things on your mind about maybe here, or anything else, but when you hold that little one, it’s like nothing else is in your thoughts. So it’s been pretty special so far. I can’t wait for her to walk and talk and do all those fun things.”
The couple didn’t want to know the child’s gender beforehand, but went with a hunch.
“We thought it was [going to be] a boy, so we had a lot of boy clothes,” he said. “Today I’m going to surprise my wife and go get some pink things so she doesn’t look like a boy.
“Everyone was hinting at a boy. One of the doctors was like, ‘Well, looks like a little hockey player.’”
So far, Clarkson’s enjoying the little things about being a dad.
“Just waking up and seeing her, rocking in the rocking chair with her,” he said.