Even with their future Hall of Fame goaltender enduring the first major injury of his career, the New Jersey Devils set a franchise record for wins and earned another Atlantic Division title.
However, that run ended quickly again in the postseason.
That quest begins Saturday night against the visiting Philadelphia Flyers with Brodeur expected to play his 1,000th game.
Brodeur could have reached that milestone last season but left elbow surgery cost him 50 games. He returned in late February to help the Devils reach 51 wins and earn their ninth division championship in 13 seasons.
Scott Clemmensen(notes), now with Florida, and Kevin Weekes(notes), currently an unrestricted free agent, filled in admirably in his absence, and Brodeur returned by posting a shutout against Colorado en route to winning nine of his first 10 starts.
Among those was a 3-2 home victory March 17 against Chicago that pushed him past Patrick Roy for the NHL’s career wins record. Brodeur, who has 557 victories, is also expected to join Roy as the only goaltenders to appear in 1,000 games and enters the season two shutouts shy of Terry Sawchuk’s record 103.
However, he couldn’t lead New Jersey to a clinching victory in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. After tying Roy with his 23rd playoff shutout in Game 5, he gave up four goals in each of the next two losses. Brodeur also allowed four goals in consecutive defeats to the New York Rangers in the 2008 postseason.
After the defeat to the Hurricanes, Brent Sutter stepped down as coach on June 9, citing family reasons, but his brother, Darryl, hired him as Calgary’s new coach two weeks later.
In Sutter’s place, the Devils turned to Jacques Lemaire, who coached the team from 1993-98 and led them to the first of three Stanley Cup titles in 1995.
“We’re just trying to learn the system that Jacques wants us to play,” Brodeur said. “I think it’s going to be a growing process throughout season. We’re trying to be geared toward being the best team possible when the playoffs come.”
Lemaire, who had spent the previous eight seasons as the Minnesota Wild’s only coach, inherits a mix of young and veteran talent. Leading that group is 25-year-old All-Star winger Zach Parise(notes), who set career highs in goals (45) and points (94), ranking in the league’s top five in both categories.
The Devils are expected to be without second-leading scorer Patrik Elias(notes) for three to four weeks as he recovers from groin surgery. With Elias’ injury and the loss of two-way center John Madden(notes) to free agency, New Jersey signed veteran Rob Niedermayer(notes) on Sept. 25.
Emery stopped 28 shots in a 2-0 victory at Carolina for his first shutout since Feb. 28, 2007. He is expected to remain in goal as Brian Boucher(notes) is recovering from a lower-body injury suffered in the preseason.
“(Emery’s) looked more comfortable every day,” coach John Stevens said. “He looks alert, he’s finding pucks, he makes saves on effort and he was tremendous.”
Philadelphia was 3-1-2 against New Jersey to win the season series for the first time since 2003-04, but the Devils are 14-1-0 at home versus the Flyers dating back to Jan. 9, 2006.