x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Jagr’s skills defy ravages of time in second NHL stint

Devils delighted to have Czech scoring machine on their roster

Jaromir Jagr, rear, has continued his goal-scoring exploits with New Jersey Devils despite his professional hockey career entering its third decade. Mark J. Terrill / AP Photo
Jaromir Jagr, rear, has continued his goal-scoring exploits with New Jersey Devils despite his professional hockey career entering its third decade. Mark J. Terrill / AP Photo

It seems unlikely that Jaromir Jagr, at age 41, will be able to keep up his early pace, so kudos should be awarded now.

Then again, the scoring machine from the Czech Republic has been underestimated before.

Five years ago, with his statistics in decline, he left the NHL to play out his career in Russia – or so it seemed. Two years ago, though, he returned to sporadically flash his old skills, playing the 2011/12 season for Philadelphia Flyers, and splitting 2012/13 between Dallas Stars and Boston Bruins.

This season, he signed with New Jersey Devils and the results have been turn-back-the-calendar stuff. Jagr’s nine goals and 18 points lead the Devils, as do his plus-minus numbers; the Devils are 10 goals better than the opposition when he is on the ice.

More impressively, he has been the man for big moments. Last week, he scored late to tie Anaheim Ducks and propel New Jersey to an overtime victory. The next night, he beat Los Angeles Kings with an overtime goal.

The overtime goal netted two milestones that you might expect from a star whose career began in 1990 with the dynastic Pittsburgh Penguins. He tied his former Penguins teammate Mario Lemieux with 690 career goals, ninth all-time, and he matched Gordie Howe’s 121 game-winning scores.

“It’s amazing what he is doing at his age, with the minutes we are loading on him,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said of the five-time NHL scoring champion.

Whatever Jagr has left, the Devils plan to get all of it.

sports@thenational.ae