Cory Schneider wants to start all 82 games

Cory Schneider made 35 saves in his fifth shutout of the season to lead his New Jersey Devils past the Penguins in a 2-0 victory, resulting in three straight losses for Pittsburgh.

All Cory Schneider wanted was more time in the blue paint.

And, boy, did he get it.

In his seventh NHL season, his second with the New Jersey Devils, Schneider was on the ice for roughly 3,924 minutes — more than double the action he saw during any one campaign as Roberto Luongo’s understudy with the Vancouver Canucks and 1,244 more minutes than he played during his 1A-1B situation in 2013-14, Martin Brodeur’s last hurrah.

All that work was tiring at first, he admits, but he craves it.

The 29-year-old Schneider, about to become a dad any day now, is happy and engaging and "getting that itch again" for more blue paint.

We recently sat down with unquestionable No. 1 goaltender to talk about his craft, his minutes, his blind love for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, and how he stays in touch with Luongo.

SPORTSNET.CA: You and your wife are going to have a baby boy right around the start of the season. How does she feel about that?
CORY SCHNEIDER: That’s the nice thing about being in New Jersey. Being from Boston, she has her mom and my parents and sister [close by]. People can come down and help her out, so we’re hoping that works out to our advantage.

What did you think of your own workload last season? Only two goalies had more starts than your 68.
Good. Definitely a new experience. I had a lot of help. Chris Terreri, my goalie coach, he’s dealt with Marty [Brodeur] for a lot of years, so he’s used to having a goalie play 70 games. He’s constantly asking: “How do you feel? Do you need to skate? Do you need to take a day off skating?” Having him there in my corner was good to get me through it the first time around.


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Did you get tired by the end?
Honestly, I was more tired to start the year than to end the year. The first 20 games I played, I was getting used to playing that much. There were some games I felt tired, but the more played, the better I felt. It was a great experience. Obviously I would’ve wanted to win more games and had more success, but there’s nothing better than just jumping into it, knowing you’re going to play every night. You don’t overthink things. You just go play.

"I keep my rhythm from the previous night and it’s almost easier to play back-to-backs."

Number of ideal starts: Pick one.
Eighty-two. [laughs]

Really? We're in a different era, of course, but Grant Fuhr said the same thing.
Any night they tell me "you’re going to play" is a good night. I’m not going to sit here and say I’d like to play less. If they said, “We want you play every single night,” I would.

Physically it’s not very prudent, so a night off here or there is great. Somewhere in the high 60s, low 70s would be fine with me. We have a new coach [John Hynes], new GM [Ray Shero], so maybe they have a new philosophy. Hopefully we figure that out soon.

Do outsiders make too big of a deal about playing both ends of a back-to-back?
I like them. If you have 20 of them, you can’t do every single one, but there are some nights where I feel OK the first night, and they say, "You’re going again the next night.” You still have the momentum the night before. Sometimes you overthink things, but if you just played the night before and you’re going again, you don’t have time to think. I found that I keep my rhythm from the previous night and it’s almost easier to play back-to-backs.

Five shutouts, .925 save percentage, but your good season kinda flew under the radar. Do you get frustrated by the lack of run support? How conscious are you of the lack of scoring while in the net?
It would be easy to think that way, and clearly we would’ve liked to score more goals as a group. [Offence] doesn’t matter if you’re not playing defence. If you’re losing 5-1 every night, goal-scoring doesn’t matter. For me it’s about preventing goals and giving my team a chance.

"When you let it linger, you carry it with you and that’s when it affects your game."

My teammates are working hard. They’re competing, they’re trying, and some nights it just doesn’t work out for you. As a goalie you gotta stay even-keeled. You can’t let what’s going around you affect your play. If I start thinking, We need to score more goals, all of a sudden I’m not paying attention to what I’m doing, they get three by me, and it’s a 3-0 game halfway through.

I try to make sure I’m doing my job so when the goals do come—and there were plenty of nights where we scored tons of goals—it’s not a 6-5 loss, it’s a 5-2 win. Hopefully we’ll do better in that department. It’s part of the evolution of our team. We have some new, young guys that’ll help out in that area.

A goaltender's ability to immediately forget the one he just let in: Is that something built into your nature, or does it only come with practice?
Bit of both. Your personality must be fiery and competitive and ready to battle every single puck. Get upset for a split second when you do get beat, because nobody wants to get beat. But when you let it linger, you carry it with you and that’s when it affects your game.

I think it’s a learned skill. The more you do it, the more experience you have, the better you are. It also has to be part of your demeanour, your personality. You see some guys and you can’t tell if they’re in a 5-0 preseason game or Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. Some guys are just in the moment.

Who?
Guys that have had a lot of success. Jonathan Quick. Corey Crawford. Marty was that way. I played with him. The reason he was so good is he took it as it came. He didn’t get worked up. He didn’t think about the situation; he just went and played hockey. Whether it’s a regular-season game in October or in the playoffs in May, he had the same demeanour, no matter what. That served him well. He never got worked up or nervous. I saw that from him, and I hope to incorporate that into my game.

"I was the one campaigning for a separate category for 3-on-3 goals against, and no one really listened to that."

How often do you get new equipment?
Playing a lot of games like I did last year, I’ll go through five or six sets of pads. Six to eight sets of gloves. Sometimes you feel really good in new gear, then once it starts breaking down, you want to hop into a new set of gear.

Some guys will use the same set forever. I’ve heard stories of guys who get brand-new pads and gloves out of the box every month and wear them. It’s personal preference. I wear Vaughn pads, and they’re softer in general. I know the Reebok and CCMs are a bit harder so they kick pucks out harder.

So you prefer soft pads?
You get a feel for where your pads are at. Brand-new ones will fire rebounds out, then once you’ve had them for a month or two they break down and get softer. Rebounds will die more. I find myself playing to my gear. If my gear is broken in but I’m playing well, I’ll keep it. But I’m active. I’m moving around more. When it’s new, you’re bigger, and you stand your ground more and the pucks just hit you.

How hard will 3-on-3 overtime be for you?
I was the one campaigning for a separate category for 3-on-3 goals against, and no one really listened to that. From a goalie’s perspective, it’s going to be really difficult. Pretty much every team in my division is dangerous: Ovechkin, Backstrom, Crosby, Malkin, Kessel… go down the line. It’s going to be real tough, a big challenge.

But hockey fans and people who enjoy the game are going to love 3-on-3. It’ll be fast, exciting, and you’re gonna see the talent really come out. It’s not going to be guys bottled up with no room out there. It’s going to be Ovechkin skating up the ice with a head of steam. That’s going to be fun for the fans to watch.

The shooter you least enjoy facing?
Ovechkin’s up there. Stamkos—every time he’s got the puck, you gotta be aware of him. Thinking back to my days in the Western Conference, Toews and Kane and Getzlaf-Perry, if you want to make pairs. Seguin-Benn.

Claude Giroux in Philly is another one. He can shoot, he can pass, and when he has the puck you don’t know what he’ll do. It’s fun playing against those guys because it is such a good challenge, but at the same time it’s really stressful because you absolutely know when they’re on the ice every single time.

"I was the one campaigning for a separate category for 3-on-3 goals against, and no one really listened to that."

You still stay in touch with Roberto Luongo, right?
Yeah. We have a couple fantasy leagues tighter. We chitchat and talk throughout the year. He was a great mentor and friend to me. The whole situation in Vancouver got overblown.

Oh, I'm not sure there's a perception that you guys had beef or anything.
No, but just the who’s-playing-who’s-not thing. For a young guy coming into the league, it was great to have him show me by example how to be a pro, how to play the game. Now that I’m getting older, you hope that when a young kid comes into the league, I can handle it the right way. The way he did with me.

What's your fantasy team name?
I got a few. One is The Pats Are Back. I had that name last year, and they won the Super Bowl, so I’m keeping the name. Another one is the Jersey Jammers.

Super Bowl prediction?
Patriots over the Seahawks, again. I’m an unabashed Pats fan.

Deflategate: Did he do it?
Not a chance. Everyone’s doing it. Did he do anything above and beyond what everyone else is doing? No. Was it worth a four-game suspension? No.

Are there even ways to cheat in the NHL?
Not really. Maybe an illegal curve on a stick. I don’t even remember the last time someone got caught with that. Maybe goalie equipment, but it gets approved by the league. I suppose if you wanted to add something on after the fact, you could, but it gets checked. So that would be tough to get away with. For the most part, guys aren’t looking to get away with that anyway.