Since the dawn of creation, man has self-selected himself into one of two camps: those who believe that the phenomenal numbers Martin Brodeur has put up over his career are the due to his superior skill and those who attribute these jaw-dropping statistical achievements to a "system," rather than a man. The truth, as our buddy Puck Daddy would tell you, lies somewhere in between - Brodeur is the right goalie for the Devils system.
That said, the "system" faction got a huge boost to its argument this season when Brodeur went down and in came Scott Clemmensen, who has gone 22-9-1/2.29/.920 in Marty's absence after entering the season with 8-7-0/2.94/.888 career marks. Must be a late bloomer.
But by now you know that this isn't the same Devils team you're used to seeing piling up the 2-1 wins - these guys can score, to the tune of 3.06 goals per game thanks to fantastic play at five-aside. They have five different 40+ point men already (as many as they had all last season), and as many double-digit goal scorers as the Caps have.
The Devils are the League's hottest team, having won eight in a row, and they have the League's reigning Player of the Week and Month, Jamie Langenbrunner, who has scored two goals in each of his last three games.
But they don't have Alex Ovechkin.
Ovi enters the game just one goal shy of joining Mike Bossy, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux as the only players in NHL history to score 200 goals in their first four seasons, and could also unofficially join that trio and a couple others in the 50-in-50 club, but that would take a 14-goal effort tonight... he might need overtime.
And as hot as the Devils are, don't expect the Caps to be intimidated - in three games against Los Diablos thus far in 2008-09, they've scored 11 goals (but have only managed a 1-0-2 record), and on the season against the NHL's other five current division leaders, the Caps have posted a 4-2-3 record.
If a picture's worth a thousand words, this one's easily worth the 380 or so above:
Tonight's a statement game. What will be said remains to be seen.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
The Caps are "still believed to be in the market for a physical defenseman." Yawn.... Being at the game, I missed Lisa Hillary's report on Saturday that Karl Alzner "was very upset at being sent down and that [Bruce] Boudreau wasn’t thrilled either." Luckily, Ed Frankovic didn't.... Uh oh. A "bad ice" post (albeit the lamest one yet). Duck!... Get yer fresh power rankings he-ya, with the Caps down one to sixth at Sportsnet.ca, up two to fourth at TSN.ca, holding at sixth at The Hockey News, and up one to third at SportingNews.com and CBSSports.com.... It's never too early for a mock draft.... Alex Giroux is your AHL Player of the Month for January.... Today's Cap of the Day is a former Cap and current Devil.... Happy 41st Birthday to the man for whom the Caps traded Kris Beech, Ross Lupaschuk and Michal Sivek, Frantisek Kucera.... On this date ten years ago, the Caps set a record by scoring eight goals in 9:34 and nine in 11:32 - all in the second period - in a 10-1 win over the Bolts.... Finally, I'm happy to announce that SB Nation has added Flyers blog Broad Street Hockey (formerly Broad and Pattison) to the roster. Stop in and buzz Travis with a metaphoric head-high slapper, won't you?