Not so long ago, the Devils put together a string of games that saw them post 20 goals in a seven game span, which was an average of 2.86 goals per game. Now, this team has struggled to score, tallying just four goals over their last three games, two of which have been losses.
Aside from Jaromir Jagr and more recently, Patrik Elias, and to some extent Ryan Carter, the Devils have struggled to score. With the goaltending turning in a strong performance almost every night, it’s almost safe to say that two goals may get this team at least a point in more games than not. Scoring that second and even a third goal, has been a major struggle as of late.
Here are some offensive numbers for the Devils notable forwards over each of their own last ten games played:
Jaromir Jagr - 6 goals, 2 assists – plus-4 rating, 28 shots on goal
Patrik Elias - 3 goals, 6 assists – plus-1 rating, 16 shots on goal
Dainius Zubrus - 1 goal, 5 assists – plus-5 rating, 17 shots on goal
Including Elias, who missed a few games in November, these three have been producing. They don’t exactly have jaw-dropping numbers, but Elias is scoring almost a point a game over his last ten games played.
Jagr has lead the team in shots over that span and it has payed off, his six goals on 28 shots is good for 21.4% which means that just over one in every five shots he’s taken has found the back of the net.
After those three, that’s where things get a little dicey, after that, the scoring numbers drop off drastically:
Travis Zajac - 2 goals, 2 assists – plus-2 rating, 15 shots on goal
Adam Henrique - 1 goal, 2 assists – plus-1 rating, 13 shots on goal
Michael Ryder - 1 goal, 2 assists – minus-2 rating, 16 shots on goal
Andrei Loktionov - 0 goals, 1 assist – minus-2 rating, 16 shots on goal
Damien Brunner - 0 goals, 0 assists – minus-2 rating, 16 shots on goal
Travis Zajac has been playing an excellent two way game, so though his numbers are far from stellar, he’s at least contributing to the club in other ways. Adam Henrique and Michael Ryder were expected to be big parts of the offense this year and their numbers just don’t cut it. Henrique has the fewest shots of anyone who was listed here. Furthermore, he’s had some good chances, but just can’t seem to bury them.
As for Loktionov and Brunner, it has been very much a downhill struggle since the beginning of the season. Andrei Loktionov started strong and looked like he was poised for a breakout season of sorts. Now, he’s struggling, with only one point in his last ten games played. There might not be any bigger disappointment so far this season than Damien Brunner. He got off to such a good start, with five points in his first five games in New Jersey. Since then, he has been held off of the score sheet in 16 of his last 17 games played. That has has to change.
To put this in perspective, Eric Gelinas’s six points over his last ten games are more than Henrique, Ryder and Brunner COMBINED. In that same span, Marek Zidlicky has four points. Combine the two defensemen’s points totals and they have just one fewer point than Zajac, Henrique, Brunner, Ryder and Loktionov combined.
Clearly, the offense has struggled. It almost seems as if players such as Michael Ryder and Damien Brunner have struggled to fit into the Devils system, that requires players to forecheck, win pucks in the corners and grind their way into goals. Ryder and Brunner are above-average shooters, but both need space to work with. A lot of times you’ll see Ryder with a little room and he tries to make a move. That’s just who he is, an open ice player. For both of them, the best bet would be to put them in a situation that allows them to just shoot the puck. Whether it’s keeping Elias at center to help distribute, or some sort of different line combination that will allow for more shots, something has to be done to help get those players out of their current slumps.
The goaltending has been there. This team is in every game they play because of the strong play of the defense and both Martin Brodeur and Cory Schneider. The difference right now is that this team has been unable to give enough support to either to capitalize on enough of their chances to gain points.