First game. First start. First win. You gotta support the team! Rookie goaltender Scott Wedgewood made a stellar first impression and gave the New Jersey Devils all the support they’d need, in a 2-1 victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets. In fact, Wedgewood’s 27-save effort was so impressive, Head Coach John Hynes announced he’ll get the starting nod against the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins.
Wedgewood’s first start got me thinking about a number of other Devils’ goaltending debuts. Below are among some of the more impressive initial starts of New Jersey netminding.
— Dan Rice (@DRdiabloTHW) March 22, 2016
Kevin Weekes – October 6, 2007:
Not a rookie debut by any stretch but Weekes’ first game as a Devil was a stout performance. Playing at the Florida Panthers, the team which drafted Weekes, Weekes was masterful, posting 32 saves in a 4-1 Devils win. Weekes would win eight more games during his Devils tenure.
Scott Clemmensen – January 20, 2004:
OK, so technically Clemmensen made a pair of relief appearances with New Jersey in 2001. However, his first start was something to write home about. Playing at Pittsburgh, Clemmensen recorded a 25-save shutout, preserving a 3-0 Devils victory. It was a gratifying win for Clemmensen, after enduring a few rough campaigns with the AHL Albany River Rats. Clemmensen would post 31 more victories in his Devils’ career.
Mike Dunham – November 7, 1996:
Another technicality, as Dunham made a relief appearance debut about a month earlier, taking over for Jeff Reese. After winning 50 games across the previous two seasons at AHL Albany, Dunham’s first NHL start was quite impressive. Playing at the Chicago Blackhawks, Dunham stood strong, saving 35-of-37 pucks sent his way, making a 4-2 Devils win stand up. Dunham would win a dozen more games during his time with the Devils.
Martin Brodeur – March 26, 1992:
Sporting number 29, Brodeur won his first of 691 games in his illustrious career. Hosting the Boston Bruins, Brodeur turned aside 24-of-26 shots, preserving a 4-2 Devils victory. March would become Marty’s month, his 136 wins, more than any other month. Plus, Brodeur would go on to beat Boston on 25 more occasions in the regular season.
Sean Burke – March 5, 1988:
While Burke had made a relief debut three days prior against Washington, he made his first start at the legendary Boston Garden. Although not the prettiest on paper, Burke stopped 17-of-23, in a 7-6 Devils victory over the B’s. Those Devils would ride Burke into the playoffs, as he went 10-1 with seven straight victories down the stretch. An All-Star in 1989, Burke would win 61 more games with the Devils.
Craig Billington – October 26, 1985:
In his actual NHL debut, Billington made 23 saves in a 5-2 Devils win at the Meadowlands, against the Los Angeles Kings. Like Brodeur, Billington made his debut at the age of 19. Billington would win 42 more games with New Jersey was an All-Star in 1993.
Alain Chevrier – October 10, 1985:
Chevrier, along with the aforementioned Billington and Wedgewood, are the only rookie New Jersey netminders who have won their NHL debuts. Playing at the rival Philadelphia Flyers, Chevrier made 33 stops in a 6-5 Devils win at the unforgiving Spectrum. Chevrier would win 52 more times in a Devils sweater.