22. may 2009 / 2008-2009: A YEAR OF MILESTONES AND ADVERSITY FOR PATRIK ELIAS AND THE DEVILS
The 2008-2009 New Jersey Devil’s season was highlighted by unforgettable moments, success in the face of adversity and the tremendous play of #26 Patrik Elias.
Rolling into the 2008-2009 season, the Devil’s had high hopes for the task ahead. After bringing former Devils Brian Rolston and Bobby Holik back to the squad, second-year coach Brent Sutter emphasized a much more offensive strategy to a team that had developed a reputation for being defensive minded for over a decade. The new style of play appeared to work as the Devils went 6-2-2 in their first ten games. On November 1, 2008 however, on the heels of a 6-1 thumping of the Atlanta Thrashers, the Devils learned that star goaltender Martin Brodeur had suffered an elbow injury, which would demand surgery and an absence of over three months. The season that started so well was suddenly at its crossroads.
Defying the league’s low expectations for a successful season without Brodeur, the team forged ahead, soaring on the backs of goaltenders Scott Clemmensen and Kevin Weekes and ignited by a sudden surge in offensive production. One of the leaders of the pack was Patrik Elias, who recorded 19 points in just 14 games in the month of December highlighted by a 4-point performance (2g, 2a) against Ottawa on December 19thand a 10-game point streak (5g, 5a) from December 4th to December 21st. He continued to dominate the scoreboard in January, tallying 14 points in 14 games as the Devils went 11-3.
“I think a lot of people around the league started asking whether or not we would be able to succeed without the greatest goalie in hockey and we really pulled together and played good hockey. I give a lot of credit to our goaltenders (Kevin Weekes and Scott Clemmensen) for playing so well during that time. I think because of the challenges and injuries this season it helped us get tighter as a group,” said Patrik.
When Brodeur returned in late February, the Devils were in a battle for the top of the Eastern Conference. As Brodeur was once again making headlines, this time for the coveted NHL’s all-time wins record among goaltenders, Patrik had his sites set on the all-time franchise points record which was held by current Assistant Coach, John Maclean. In storybook fashion, both Devils greats would reach their respective records on the same night; March 17, 2009 in front of a home town crowd. Patrik’s assist on Brian Gionta’s second period goal gave him his 702nd career point and helped the Devils edge the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2, giving Brodeur the historic win.
Patrik would finish the regular season with 31 goals and 37 assists, his best year since 2004. His 78 points put him in the top 20 in the league among all players. Patrik tied his career best with 31 powerplay points (12 goals, 19 assists) and beat his career best in shorthanded points (2 goals and 3 assists). He also recorded six game winning goals and was a +18. In his 77 games played this season, the disciplined winger was only penalized for 32 minutes. Other highlights included four different five game point streaks and a three assist night on Januay 4th against Ottawa. The team finished 51-27-4, good enough for first in the Atlantic Division and third in the Eastern Conference.
After being sidelined for four games late in the season, Patrik returned healthy and hungry to lead his team into the playoffs. He scored his 40th career playoff goal and had two assists during the first round best-of-seven series with the Carolina Hurricanes, however a late Carolina flurry in the third period of Game 7 ended the Devil’s season abruptly.
Although the loss hurt, Patrik decided the best way to get over the team’s early exit was to keep playing hockey. Immediately after the team split up for the off-season, Patrik went to Switzerland to join the Czech National Team in the Ice Hockey World Championships. Patrik scored twice in the first two games, sparking his squad to two decisive victories 8-0 over Slovakia and 3-0 over Belarus, however the team was eliminated by Sweden in the Quarterfinals. Patrik’s 2008-2009 season will undoubtedly be remembered for his franchise milestone, a record that solidifies his loyalty to the team he began his career with in 1996. (Dan Altano).