by Patrick Hoffman on 02/15/09 at 10:29 AM ET
When Martin Broduer went down with an injury in early November, many hockey pundits and fans thought that the New Jersey Devils were done. They weren’t scoring a lot of goals, they weren’t really winning and lastly, they would have to rely on Kevin Weekes and Scott Clemmensen.
Well, just over four months later, the team is near the top of both the Eastern Conference and the Atlantic Division thanks to timely goal scoring from the likes of Patrik Elias, Zach Parise, Jamie Langenbrunner, solid defense from Colin White, Bryce Salvador and Paul Martin and solid special teams.
However, one area that everyone is overlooking is the solid goaltending from Clemmensen. The 31-year-old netminder from Des Moines, IA, is proving to folks around the club and the league that he can play with the big boys and that ultimately, he can play well. Through last night’s game against the Boston Bruins, Clemmensen has compiled 24 wins in 37 games while posting a 2.23 goals against average and a .922 save percentage with two shutouts (both happened this week against the New York Rangers and Bruins).
Many people out there probably thought that 20 wins for Clemmensen would be impossible. However, with over 20 wins and counting, Clemmensen has no intentions of stopping his terrific season.
“My previous high coming into this year was three,’’ Clemmensen told reporters after the Devils’ 4-1 win against Ottawa at Scotiabank Place back on January 27. “It feels good. Why stop at 20? There’s more to go and you take it one game at a time and hopefully 20 can become 21, and then 22, 23, and so on, so forth.”
Even Langenbrunner, the team’s captain, didn’t know how good Clemmensen was until Brodeur went down with the injury in early November.
“I don’t think many people would have thought he’d get 20 wins in the NHL this season, that’s for sure,” Langenbrunner told reporters after the team’s victory over the Senators back on January 27.
Not bad for someone who was considered an after thought when he was with the team from 2005-06 to 2006-07 as the club’s backup to Brodeur. In those two seasons, Clemmensen appeared in just 19 games and posted goals against averages of 3.35 and 3.15, respectively, and had save percentages of .881 and .889.
Yes, Clemmensen benefits from playing in a rather tight defensive system, just like Brodeur does but look at Clemmensen’s background. Hockey pundits throughout the league has this guy labeled as a career-backup or American Hockey League (AHL) starting goaltender. Now, teams from around the league may well be interested in his services once his contract runs out at the end of this season.
“Going from the NHL (Toronto) to the American League last year, I didn’t get upset,” Clemmensen told the New York Post back on January 10. “I was having fun, even being in the minors. No matter where I am, it’s too much fun to hold the game in contempt. I knew I could play in the NHL. I just wasn’t there. Now that I’ve had the opportunity, I’m sure glad I had what I had last year.”
At this point in his career, this is exactly what Clemmensen needed to happen. He needed to be given the chance to play more games and not just against lower-ranking clubs. Not only has his play against top-flight clubs in the league given himself confidence, it has also helped get confidence from his teammates, including Langenbrunner, the team’s captain.
“It’s a confidence thing,” Langenbrunner told Kevin Allen of USA Today back on February 3. “We found it, and Scott found his game and started to believe in himself at this level and it just kind of rolled from there.”
While Clemmensen accepts the compliments, he’ll be the first to tell you that it’s a team game and that the guys in front of him certainly deserve a lot of credit.
“This team’s been unbelievable at handling adversity and bouncing back, just fighting and grinding it,” Clemmensen told reporters after a 4-3 overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in late January.
With Brodeur coming back relatively soon, there is no better time than the present and Clemmensen has finally proved that he belongs in the NHL.
Filed in: | Goal Line Report | Permalink
Tags: boston+bruins, bryce+salvador, colin+white, jamie+langenbrunner, kevin+weekes, martin+brodeur, new+york+rangers, ottawa+senators, patrik+elias, paul+martin, pittsburgh+penguins, scott+clemmensen, zach+parise
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at email@example.com.