Johan Hedberg (February 10, 2011 - Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images North America)
“MOOOOSE,” chants have been heard throughout the Prudential Center 16 games this year. That is about 12 more times then I was expecting. When Johan Hedberg came to New Jersey this offseason I thought it was a waste of money, with the expected number of games Marty Brodeur’s backup typically plays and the cap space needed with Ilya Kovalchuk and all, I would have rather paid the league minimum for Yann Danis again. I had a feeling at first Hedberg was only signed to persuade Kovy to sign with the Devils or at least make it more comfortable for him to sign here.
I was wrong when I expected Moose to be collecting splinters most of the season with the exception of a handful of games. That handful of games played was expected due to the fact that Brodeur’s backup as averaged about 9 games played a year for the past 5 years (excluding the year he was injured). Hedberg has already played in 31 games this year, starting 24 of them. I cannot complain as Johan definitely won some games for the Devils that Brodeur would not have been able to. Due to a few injuries to Brodeur at different times and playing extremely well resulted in the substantially larger than normal number of games he’s played. It also kept Brodeur on the bench for a few games when he became healthy again.
Hedberg’s work ethic and competitiveness is well above average, contributing to his solid goaltending. The players and coaches are extremely happy with the way he has played, too. Even in his last game, a loss to Tampa Bay and the first after 9 consecutive wins, coach Jacques Lemaire said he was happy the way Moose played and that, “He still played the game he’s been playing this whole time.” His goals against average is in the top 10 in the league at 2.24. This is the best GAA of all the goalies (at least 15 games played in) who are playing for the last 4 teams in the Eastern Conference. Hedberg has yet to play a poor game this season, yes he’s had a weak goal here and there, but between his confidence level (just coming off winning 9 in a row) and his ability to steal games he will definitely be great in the 5 more games he plays this year. His stats and ability to play so well shows he has the potential of a pay increase come July 1st. Even at 37 he will be a great veteran backup that can play 35+ games at a high level. He proved it again this year.