The Devils never beat themselves.... Watch for center Zach Parise, 21, to break through as an offensive force.
Brian Rafalski DAN MCGILLIS
Paul Martin RICHARD MATVICHUK
* ALL CAPS denotes new player, Italic denotes rookie
Although he has been reined in by new rules, goalie Martin Brodeur remains without peer
Had the NFL's lockout dragged into a second season, Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur had a backup plan. Last year he invested in La Pizzeria etc., a casual Italian restaurant in Montreal's north end, and as he told Montreal's Gazette while at the eatery in August, "On Oct. 1, I would have been making deliveries."
Brodeur still makes his dough -- a team-high $5.2 million -- as an upper-crust netminder, but his work environment has nevertheless been transformed. The NHL's new rule restricting goaltender movement behind the net was implemented precisely to limit corner-to-corner roamers such as Brodeur, and he'll see changes when he looks up the ice as well. Brodeur will have neither crease-clearing force Scott Stevens (retired) nor Norris Trophy winner Scott Niedermayer (signed with Anaheim) to defuse oncoming offenses.
Fear not. Brodeur's stickhandling ability is so superb that he is the rare goalie who will benefit from the new allowance of two-line passes; he'll be able to fling the puck up-ice to get breakout plays rolling. And Devils G.M. Lou Lamoriello hasn't left Brodeur unsupported. He brought in snarling 6'2", 230-pound Dan McGillis to a defense still rich in skill and know-how. "You don't expect Brodeur's game to fall off," says Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock. "For all the great talent he has, he's a really tough guy to outwork. He never gives up on a puck or shot. That can be tough to deal with over the course of a game."
With Patrick Roy retired and the Senators' Dominik Hasek seemingly in his dotage at age 40, Brodeur, 33, is in a class of one among the goaltending elite. Winner of back-to-back Vezina trophies, Brodeur is even more daunting in the postseason, during which he has led New Jersey to three Stanley Cups and in 2003 set a record with seven shutouts. That's why when the Devils look at their roster, they derive such optimism from a single source. In the words of forward Sergei Brylin, "We still have Marty."