St. Louis gets a small measure of revenge on their home ice with a shutout over a snakebitten Devils team, who could not find an answer to the perfect play of Jaroslav Halak. This one drops the Devils’ record to 22-21-11 on the season.
- Alex Steen
is having the season of a lifetime. Tonight he netted his 27th of the year on a wrister from Jaden Schwartz
and David Backes
in the first. As it would turn out, that goal was also the game winner.
- The dominant Blues power play that the Devils stoned last time came through in a big way tonight, with Brendan Morrow deflecting a shot from Jay Bouwmeester to break the Devils midway through the third period. On the other side of the ice, the Devils went 0/4 on their power play opportunities.
- With all the talk of Corey Schneider’s play coming into tonight, (which was still fantastic, even in a loss) it was Jaroslav Halak who who made a very strong push to be his team’s starter tonight with a 23 save shutout.
After crashing back down to Earth in the Bronx on Sunday, New Jersey took another hit via a shutout loss to the St. Louis Blues.
On Tuesday night, the Devils were left flustered, frustrated, and finally — for five periods and counting — scoreless. The Blues brought everything they had for their rematch with the Devils. Unlike the fatigued team that showed up in Newark to play on January 21, tonight St. Louis was fast and physical, and showed why they are considered among the league’s elite teams. The Blues didn’t overwhelm the Devils. For the most part the game was 1-0 until a deflected power play goal and an empty-netter changed the look of the scoresheet. Yet, somehow, the game was never really in doubt for St. Louis. The stat lines were pretty even, and might have even favored New Jersey. But, in the end, St. Louis played relentless coverage against their top scorers, pushed the Devils to the outside, and made sure that the vast majority of the Devils chances were no real threat.
For the Devils, it was a game that they’ll have trouble seeing the bright side of. Corey Schneider put together one of those games that he’s starting to become known for, but, true to their own reputation, the Devils offense failed to hold up their end of the bargain. This was more to the credit of the Blues. Whenever Jaromir Jagr got the puck, Barret Jackman was all over him, taking him off his game. The same could be said of Patrik Elias, Ryan Clowe, Ryan Carter, Michael Ryder and plenty others. While they didn’t necessarily play poorly, they were constantly prevented from hitting the top of their games. Every shot was contested, and every pass had two men in the way.
New Jersey’s defense, despite what the final score might have you think, played fairly well. They held the Blues to two very difficult goals, the empty-netter aside, and made sure that the team was in the game all the way. Eric Gelinas and Andy Greene played their part in the offensive zone, and, in general, the D did what they could to help push the team up the ice. In terms of intensity, however, they failed to match what St. Louis brought to the table. The Devils shooters had to work for every opportunity they had against Halak, and usually got a little roughed up for their trouble. The Blues, on the other hand, seemed to have plenty of time to work with against a very cautious Devils’ team. This is something that they must change if they want to right the ship Thursday in Dallas.
New Jersey earned an impressive win against an elite team in the St. Louis Blues. The Devs pulled out all the stops, finding a big reserve of goals for Cory, and treated the fans that braved the elements to a 7-1 victory. This win brings the Devils’ record to 21-19-11 on the season.
Normally a slow starting team, the Devils manufactured two goals in the first three minutes from Mark Fayne
and Ryan Carter
. Jaromir Jagr
would add one off the skate at the midway point to make it three in the first.
The dominant Blues power play was blanked on all three opportunities, while New Jersey caught fire and went 3/4.
In his first game back Damien Brunner was named the first star, wracking up a goal and a pair of assists in his return. Also earning 1G and 2A was Eric Gelinas.
Any chances that the Blues might have had for a comeback were snuffed out by Corey Schneider who stopped 26/27 shots from St. Louis.
What a night! And, what a response from a team that was pretty down on itself after last Saturday’s loss to Phoenix. Against the St. Louis Blues, the Devils showed what they can really do when they are healthy and this whole roster can take the ice.
Offensively, what can I really say that the seven-goal headline doesn’t? After the game at Phoenix, Coach Pete DeBoer voiced concerns about the team’s ability to score even strength goals, which only compounded the fears of fans who have long worried about the team’s struggles on the power play. Tonight was a great exhibition of both elements of their offensive game. With tallies from seven different skaters, three of them on the power play, it felt like New Jersey couldn’t be stopped, no matter who was shooting. Mark Fayne scored his first goal since November 29, Ryan Carter and Damien Brunner scored their first goals since coming back from their respective injuries, and the team’s recent top players, Jagr, Clowe, and Adam Henrique continue to produce. Add in multi-point nights from Eric Gelinas and Patrik Elias, and there’s a lot to be excited about following this effort.
There was some concern about Adam Henrique who left the game in the third period after being hit with a slap shot on his surgically repaired left thumb. Hopes are that this was just precautionary, as the game was already well out of St. Louis’ reach by the third. It should be noted that Henrique’s goal came after the injury occurred, so it didn’t seem to slow down his play too much. We’ll keep you updated with any information on his status whenever we get it.
A big part of tonight’s victory for New Jersey was receiving contributions from all four lines, which coach DeBoer admitted after the game is a team goal. But, it wasn’t just the tallies on the scoring sheet that had the team’s manager so excited. He made a point to mention that there were big contributions down the line on both ends of the ice. The Devils laid down to block 14 shots for their goaltender, as opposed to St. Louis’ four. And in the first two periods, before the game was out of hand, the Devils’ suffocating defensive play held the Blues to a mere 13 shots on goal. This was a complete reversal from the 25 SOG they allowed Phoenix in the same amount of time.
With Schneider putting together another stellar performance, turning away 26 out of 27 shots, it’s hard to think of a single aspect of the Devils’ game that didn’t click tonight. That’s not to say that all their woes are behind them. There are still questions to be answered, acquisitions to be made, and a few too many streaky scorers to ever be completely comfortable. What this night was, was great sign of things going forward. When the Devils can play the four-line game that Pete DeBoer wants, and can showcase that depth that had everyone so excited before the season, they are a different team, and a strong threat to make a run for a playoff spot in the tightly contested Metropolitan division.
New Jersey finished their four game road trip with a visit to Phoenix, and the Jobing.com Arena for a tough matchup with the Coyotes. The Devils and goalie Martin Brodeur struggled early and couldn’t quite complete the comeback, as they fell 3-2. This loss drops the Devils’ record to 20-19-11 on the season.
- The Coyotes struck first with a quick wrist shot from Jordan Szwarz at 2:35 into the first period.
- Another 4th liner found the back of the net for Phoenix. Jeff Halpern beat Brodeur high to the glove side at 13:13 to give the Coyotes a 2-0 lead.
- Ryan Clowe scored a power play goal off the rebound at 18:44. The goal was Clowe’s second of the season, and his eighth point in his last seven games.
- Phoenix finally broke through the Devils’ PK on their third attempt as Martin Hanzal poked the puck free of Brodeur’s grasp and into the net at 14:22 in the second.
- With the goalie pulled, Jaromir Jagr redirected a Ryan Clowe pass past Mike Smith at 17:46 in the third to bring the Devils within one.
Tonight was an example of what happens when the vaunted Devils’ defensive game isn’t at the top of its game, and it’s not pretty. Two soft goals let in by Martin Brodeur and some sloppy defense all-around lead to an easy 2-0 lead from which the Devils never really recovered. The Devils were thoroughly outplayed and outright pushed around in the first, as they were outhit by Phoenix 17-4. Had it not been for a couple big saves from Brodeur and a late PP goal from Ryan Clowe, this game could have gotten out of hand quickly.
The rest of the game was actually pretty solid for the Devils. Brodeur found his game and stood on his head to keep the Devils in it, and the Devils offense, Clowe and Jagr in particular, was all over Mike Smith with 34 shots and some legitimate scoring chances. The defense eventually found their game, holding the Coyotes to a mere two shots in the third period, but overall, it wasn’t enough to overcome the Coyotes who blocked 25 shots in front of Mike Smith and ensured that the Devils would not be able to complete yet another comeback.
This has to be particularly discouraging for the red and black, as their scoring woes continue. After the game, Coach Pete DeBoer expressed some pleasure with his team’s late effort, but admitted that an early deficit like tonight’s is something that the Devils can’t afford, saying “we can’t spot anybody two goals. That’s the bottom line”. Jaromir Jagr also showed great disappointment with tonight’s loss. When asked why the Devils have had such trouble scoring five on five, a visibly frustrated Jagr said, “maybe we’re just not good enough”, and when asked for his opinion about the road trip as a whole, 1-1-2 in those four games, Jagr replied, “it was a lot better before tonight”. With the Devils falling another two points behind Philly and the Rangers, both victorious earlier tonight, and the team having fewer goals scored than all but one other team in playoff contention, his frustrations are understandable.
On the brighter side for the Devils, there were two standout offensive performances, from Ryan Clowe and Jaromir Jagr, that the team can draw from going forward. Clowe continues to impress since returning to the lineup. His goal scoring drought seems to be a thing of the past, with two in four games. His overall point totals are even more impressive, as eight of his season total of 11 have come in his past seven games. While Clowe’s play was encouraging, Jagr’s is inspirational. #68, who now has 15 goals on the season, continues to lead by example on the ice, playing a strong and smart game that is just as deadly in the final seconds as it is in the first few minutes.
The New Jersey Devils bounced back tonight with an important, shutout win over a struggling Dallas Stars team at the Prudential Center. This one pushes the Devils’ record to 18-18-9 on the season.
- Michael Ryder made the most of a perfect play and pass from Travis Zajac, snapping it past Kari Lehtonen to give New Jersey a 1-0 lead midway through the second. This was Ryder’s 15th goal of the season, and his third straight game lighting the lamp.
- Corey Schneider stops all 26 for his 3rd shutout of the season. This was the first time all-year that Dallas had been held scoreless.
New Jersey snapped their skid, coming out ahead in a low-scoring duel between two struggling teams. With talks of the playoffs beginning to gain more traction, both the Devils and the Stars came in desperate to tally a “W”. Dallas arrived at the Prudential Center as the losers of three-straight allowing a total of 18 goals across those defeats. The Devs weren’t looking much better, having blown two-straight leads before tonight, and losing a total of three in-a-row themselves.
As we’ve seen so many times this season, it was the stoppers for the Devils that lead them to the victory. Between netminder Corey Schneider stopping 26 shots and the exceptional play of the defenders in front who blocked another 18, the Stars were kept off the scoreboard for the first time this year. Tonight was a big test for the New Jersey defense, facing some dynamic, young scorers in Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. After stumbling in their last three efforts, the Devils rose to the challenge Dallas provided, even strength and on the penalty kill.
There wasn’t much offense to speak of from New Jersey tonight, but all the credit for that goes to Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen. The Devils created more than their share of offense, firing 34 shots on net. Mike Sislo showed surprising speed, and Adam Henrique continues to impress. But, tonight the offensive stars were Travis Zajac and the red-hot Michael Ryder. Travis Zajac is showing exactly why the Devils have so much faith in him as their number one center. Tonight he was a rock, playing the Stars strong at both ends of the ice, and keeping the puck in attacking zone. This effort turned out to be the key to the game, as Zajac protected the puck and made enough room for a perfect pass to, and shot from, Michael Ryder. Since coming together with Adam Henrique, and now Ryan Clowe, Michael Ryder has been electric with points in all but one of those games, and goals in the last three. Tonight though, it was Zajac, and not Henrique, that set Ryder up to continue his impressive play.
The New Jersey Devils came to the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. and fought off an offensive onslaught as they rallied back to beat the Capitals 5-4. This one pushes the Devils’ record to 15-15-7 on the season.
- Marek Zidlicky with a first period, power play goal that came together after some great puck movement from Andy Greene, Jaromir Jagr, and the rest of the power play line. That’s Zidlicky’s 4th of the season, all of them coming on the power play
- Jason Chimera scored at the midway point of period number 2 on a rebound off his own wrap-around to tie the game at 1.
- Mikhail Grabovski was left all-alone behind the Devils’ D to pop in the go ahead goal, his 10th goal of the season, off a nice pass from Eric Fehr.
- Joel Ward found his own rebound just before the end of the 2nd period off of a Mike Green slap shot to net his 11th of the year, and the Caps’ 3rd of the night.
- Jaromir Jagr netted a power play goal from Greene and Patrik Elias to breathe a little bit of life back into the Devs. This ties him with Mark Messier at 694 career goals, and counting.
- Alexander Ovechkin and the Caps took advantage of a turnover by Elias and took a little bit of wind out of the Devils sails making it a 4-2 game.
- Marek Zidlicky responded on a great feed from Travis Zajac, netting his second of the night, and his first even-strength goal of the year.
-Dainius Zubrus got the tip off another beautiful pass by Travis Zajac. New Jersey rallied back from the brink to tie it up at four.
- Andy Greene sealed the comeback victory after he chipped in a rebound off a shot by Jaromir Jagr.
The Devils gave their fans another collective heart-attack tonight. The Devils were winded and hurting, playing their third game in 4 days, and it almost came back to bite them. But, it was all worth it, as the comeback kids scored 3 unanswered goals to beat take down Washington and bring themselves to NHL .500.
We’ve talked a lot about the impressive youth movement that is exciting the fans in New Jersey, with the likes of Eric Gelinas and Reid Boucher playing important roles in the Devils’ starting lineup. Tonight was no different, the younger players looked good and hustled hard. But tonight was all about the vets. With goals from Zidlicky, Jagr and Zubrus, and Greene, the only man on the New Jersey scoresheet younger than 30 was Travis Zajac. Jagr, Elias, Greene, and Zajac also each had a pair of assists, meaning that every player on the Devils’ side of the scoresheet had a multi-point night.
And what more can be said about Jaromir Jagr? The man never ceases to amaze, playing like a number one forward at age 41, and making everyone around him better. Tonight #68 continued his climb towards history as he recorded his 694th NHL, regular season goal. This tied him with former Rangers teammate , Mark Messier, for 7th all time.
And, even on a night where they gave up 4 goals, there is something to be said for the Devils’ defense. Only a few games removed from fighting off top scoring tandems of Crosby and Malkin, and Getzlaf and Perry, tonight the Devils were faced with the task of holding off offensive superstars, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Ovechkin, and hold them off they did. Backstrom, the league leader in assists coming into the game, was completely absent, and Ovechkin, was a non-factor until a Patrik Elias turnover in the zone gave the league’s top-scorer an open shot at Martin Brodeur.
It wasn’t a perfect effort, not by any means. I’m sure a fair amount of people were ready to give up after the second period. But in the end, they worked hard and earned themselves the 2 points that they desperately needed. Now they’re sitting at third in a very shaky division and starting to show that they’re a team that can do some damage going forward.
The New Jersey Devils rallied to put together a decent effort, but could not overcome early mistakes as they fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins from the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, PA., by the score of 3-2. This one pushes the Devils’ record to 12-15-6 on the season.
- Pascal Dupuis got the final touch as he and Chris Kunitz rushed Corey Schneider who thought he had the puck covered. A mental lapse from the goaltender and the defense that should have been back supporting him put the Devils on the wrong-end of their earliest deficit on the season.
- Chris Conner scored off of a pretty pass from Brandon Sutter and a pretty awful defensive breakdown by both Eric Gelinas and Jon Merrill.
- Jason Megna put the exclamation point on an awful period from the Devils with a wrist shot goal at 14:40 to put the Pens up 3-0 going into the first intermission.
- Patrik Elias brought the New Jersey back to life with a beautiful redirection of an Anton Volchenkov pass from the side boards to give the Devils their first goal at 3:24 into the second.
- Dainius Zubrus poked in goal number 2, less than a minute after the first, pushing a Jaromir Jagr shot across the line.
With the loss to Columbus still fresh in their minds, fans of the New Jersey Devils were hoping for the team to come out angry and looking to make up for lost points. What they got, however, was a mistake-ladened team that got overwhelmed all-too quickly, and almost let the game slip away without a fight.
The first period was one of the worst in recent memory. It only took 41 seconds to get this game going in the wrong direction for the Devils as Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz came barreling down on a loose puck that Corey Schneider thought he had covered up. A big mental mistake by Schneider, but even more so from the defense that let two Penguins come in unimpeded to take their shots at the Jersey goaltender.
Things would only get worse for the Jersey defense in the first, in particular their rookie defensemen, Jon Merrill and Eric Gelinas. After Merrill mishandled an easy pass from Gelinas, turning it over to the Penguins, Eric Gelinas made a rookie mistake and left his post to cover for Merrill along the boards, leaving Conner open to score his second goal of the season, one-on-one over Schneider. Shortly after this, the Gelinas – Merrill pairing was separated. Jason Megna’s somewhat controversial goal towards the end of the third, his fourth of the season, the Devils headed down the tunnel for the first intermission with their heads hanging.
In the second period, however, things got turned upside-down. The Devils didn’t just play better, they thoroughly dominated the class of the Metro division, outshooting the Penguins 32-11, and outscoring them 2-0. All of the momentum was on the side of the Red and Black for the final 40 of the game, and had it not been for a few posts in their way, we could be talking about a different outcome here. But in the end, unfortunately for the Devils’ Army, New Jersey couldn’t find any more than those two quick second period goals, and dropped their second straight game.
In a rare turn, especially considering that we’re talking about a losing effort, the bright spots for the Devils came from the offense tonight. Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias, and Travis Zajac played superb games for the Devils at both ends of the ice, as did tonight’s fourth line of Jacob Josefson, Tim Sestito, and Cam Janssen. Three players in particular who had great games out there for New Jersey, but were left with nothing to show for it, were Adam Henrique, Steve Bernier and Damien Brunner. Brunner continued trending upward while playing alongside Elias, and was robbed of his third goal in his last two games by a fantastic save from Marc-Andre Fleury, a feeling that Steve Bernier can relate to tonight.
Henrique, on the other hand, beat Pittsbrugh’s goaltender to the glove side with a chance to tie the game, but couldn’t best the post. A similar situation occurred in the closing seconds of the game, but that time Henrique’s backhander sailed wide. It’s unfortunate that all that Adam Henrique can take away from this game are a couple of missed opportunities and a costly penalty for playing with a broken stick, because he had a good game tonight.
The defense didn’t have their best game tonight, although they weren’t terrible. In a game where defensive mistakes cost New Jersey at least 2, and maybe all three, goals, they were scored by Dupuis, Conner, and Megna. Pittsburgh’s high-scoring superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were shut down by the Devils’ D. Between them, the league’s top scorers managed just 2 shots and a lone secondary assist, which Crosby collected on Pittsburgh’s first, fluky goal.
In the crease, another good night by Schneider will be marred by the first goal. After all, defense or no, if he just drops his pad down on the ice, the whole thing never happens. After that he played about as well as any goalie could under the circumstances only surrendering the other goals on a bad breakaway and after some contact in the crease from Megna lead to a bad rebound and a goal. But tonight, regardless of how well Corey played, Marc-Andre Fleury was the star between the pipes.
Fleury has had a bad reputation in the years since the Penguins’ cup victory, and even briefly lost his job to veteran Tomáš Vokoun. But, he has responded with a grit that many didn’t know he had, and he showed that tonight. His 37 saves on the Devils 39 shots, especially those against Brunner and Bernier, were what kept Pittsburgh from giving this game away.
The New Jersey Devils defeated the New York Rangers for the third straight time, this one ending 4-3 in overtime from Madison Square Garden in New York, NY. The win pushes the Devils to 12-13-6 on the season.
- Brad Richards scored on a 2 on 1 against Martin Brodeur in the first period continuing his recent string of good play. He currently stands at 3 goals in his last 6 games.
- Mats Zuccarello started off the second period with a big goal off a rebound from a shot by Ryan Callahan to give his team a 2-0 lead.
- Cam Janssen stood up strong for his teammates and used his skates rather than his hands to make his biggest contribution with a big response goal for the Devils to bring the game 2-1.
- Travis Zajac tied up the game at 2 midway through the third going top-shelf off a rebound from Jaromir Jagr.
- Michael Ryder netted his third goal in his last four games beating Henrik Lundqvist through the 5-hole to give the Devils a 3-2 lead.
- Chris Kreider got a chip-in goal on a 6 on 4 power play in the last minute of the game, after Travis Zajac took a terrible delay-of-game penalty.
- Eric Gelinas scored his own power play goal on a bomb from beyond the top of the circle in overtime to secure the OT win for the Devils.
Coming off three consecutive losses to Eastern Conference foes, the Devils came into Madison Square Garden this Saturday night needing a win to help get things back on track. In the end, the comeback kids came through, as another never-say-die third period effort and a timely power play in OT lead to a big win for Jersey’s team.
Special teams came through in a huge for New Jersey. While their penalty kill was nearly lights out again, save for that nearly infamous 6 on 4, the Devils’ power play got to play the role of hero tonight. Granted, it took an overtime 4 on 3 to set things right, but when they got the chance, they stepped up and Eric Gelinas sealed the deal. Still, as good as the Devils’ kill was, you have to wonder if the PK crew has seen too much action recently with 15 penalties against the Devils in the last 4 games. We’re going to have to pay attention to this going forward, as all that time shorthanded is bound to catch up to any team eventually.
There were plenty of good moments for the Red and Black, and so many of them came from fan favorite Cam Janssen. Cam, well-known as bit of a fire-starter, was all over the ice with big hits and game-changing plays. He skated over and stood up for Patrik Elias against Rangers’ defender Justin Faulk, before motoring down to the other end of the ice to slide feet first into the Devils’ opening goal. While controversial to everyone wearing blue, new rules allow for redirection as long as there is still no distinct kicking motion. So the goal was deemed clean, which was consistent with the way that similar situations have been ruled by the crew in Toronto thus far this year. But, even beyond that first goal, Janssen made sure that his presence was felt, and his team fed off that energy turning a potential disaster, after the Zuccarello goal, into a very good second period and game for the Devils. Simply put, the Devils don’t win tonight without #25 on the ice.
As has become the norm this season, the Devils also saw some pretty strong performances from the usual suspects. Jaromir Jagr was as strong and prominent as anyone on the ice tonight. Travis Zajac, Andy Greene, and Eric Gelinas played top-flight hockey throughout the game, holding their positions and creating strong chances and points for the offense. Michael Ryder continued his hot-streak finding the net yet again, this time for the win and Adam Henrique was highly aggressive and was a constant threat to Henrik Lundqvist. Some surprise contributions also came in from Cam Janssen, as well as Tim Sestito who provided a strong forecheck and the primary assist on Janssen’s and Ryder’s goals.
And, no Devils recap would be complete without mentioning a terrific effort by one of their two superstar goaltenders. Tonight was Brodeur’s turn between the pipes, and the vet did not disappoint. After letting in a goal on a rough 2 on 1 against Brad Richards where he dipped his shoulder a hair too low giving Richards the top corner, #30 was fantastic stopping all but the unreachable. And, while tonight it was the offense who stepped up big, this was another big win in MSG for Martin Brodeur.
For those of you who are wondering, the points challenge between Marty and Cam is on, but because Marty got the secondary assist on the goal, neither player gained any ground tonight.
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.
After last night’s win against the Kings, it’s time to take another peek at some advanced stats.
The stat I like to use is CorsiOn, which is basically a formula that combines all shots directed towards the net in the offensive zone versus shots towards the net in the defensive zone while each player is on the ice.
- via Behindthenet.ca
- The numbers show the impact of Eric Gelinas. He leads the team in CorsiOn and is two points higher than Travis Zajac in the second spot. What it means is that not only is Gelinas is creating offense, but he is also limiting chances in the defensive end.
- These numbers are for 5 on 5 only, so any power play time does not come into play.
Based on his play via the eye test, his stats (2g 5a in 13 games) and his Corsi rating, there is going to be a tough decision on the horizon for the Devils. When Bryce Salvador and Anton Volechenkov return, it will give the Devils eight defensemen. Though it’s possible that the team could keep all eight, with Ryane Clowe’s eventual return, it will put the Devils in a tough spot.
The fact is, Gelinas deserves to be up. His presence on the power play is is immeasurable, as his shot forces teams to defend him. The result, when he’s out there with Marek Zidlicky, it allows No.2 to find the open player. As long as Gelinas is out there, teams have to respect his shot and as a result, the power play is more versatile.
At this point, how could the Devils possibly send Gelinas down? It wouldn’t make any sense to do so.
As for the rest of the numbers, it’s no surprise that Zajac and Jaromir Jagr are two and three, respectively. The top line, along with Dainius Zubrus has been creating a plethora of opportunities over the last few games.
Not long ago, the New Jersey Devils were toiling at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division, trying to do anything to stay afloat.
Now, the Devils find themselves in a playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division if the season were to end today. There’s a long way to go, but we’re finally seeing some cohesion from this team, as they’ve gone 5-1-1 in their last seven games.
The turnaround is especially impressive considering some of the injuries that this team has suffered. Captain Bryce Salvador has been out for an extended period of time with a stress fracture in his foot, yet the defense hasn’t missed a beat. Patrik Elias missed time and Ryane Clowe has been out with a concussion and there’s no clear timetable as to when his return will be.
Yet, somehow this team is finding ways to win games. The once cliche I use often is that good teams will find ways to win and bad teams will find ways to lose. For every bad loss, or “moral victory” the Devils went through in October, now, their getting those bounces. Whether its Dainus Zubrus’s goal out of a scramble in front against the Rangers, or Wednesday night’s flukey game-winning goal in overtime that was credited to Travis Zajac, the red and black are beginning to create their own luck.
It’s almost poetic justice that Zajac got credited with the goal last night. No. 19 has been spectacular of late, doing so many of the unnoticed things that don’t necessarily show up on a score sheet. He’s winning face-offs, killing penalties, moving the puck and pushing play forward in the offensive zone. His play to keep the puck in the zone on Jaromir Jagr’s game tying goal last nightwas a subtle, yet crucial play. Zajac certainly took his share of criticism for his play in the wake of signing his big contract extension, but he’s living up to that large number with his all-around play.
Another perennial whipping boy, Marek Zidlicky, has been a catalyst all season. During the offseason, I actually predicted that the Devils power play would be better without the “retired” No.17 and that Zidlicky would be a big part of it. What we’re seeing from the Czech defenseman is an excellent ability to create offense out of the back end. As the power play quarterback, Zidlicky has excelled not only passing the puck, but shooting as well. His 12 points (3g, 9a) are second only to Jagr.
As for the defense, the depth that they built has paid off in a big way. Say what you’d like about Peter Harrold and Mark Fayne, but they’ve both been pressed into service with the injuries to Salvador and more recently, Anton Volchenkov and they’ve both held their own.
One of the biggest questions that is facing this team in the coming days will be what to do with Eric Gelinas. Though he’s had some “rookie moments” that are to be expected with a young defenseman, overall, he’s been a shot in the arm for this team. He shoots the puck well, to the point where he’s dangerous any time he winds up to fire the puck. His seven points (2g, 5a) in 12 games equates to roughly 48 points in an 82 game season. Yeah, that.
It hasn’t all been pretty. The team continues to struggle to score in front of Cory Schneider. I don’t really buy the whole idea that Brodeur’s playing of the puck makes THAT much of a difference in the team’s ability to score. A goal here and there? Sure, but not to the extent that the team has failed to score when No. 35 is in net. Despite that, both goaltenders have been excellent. Though it was shaky at first, the tandem has turned into exactly what they were hoped to be: a 1-2 punch that gives the Devils a strong goaltending performance every night.
Damien Brunner, who might have been the hottest Devil to start the season, has been struggling. He seems very much like the type of player that needs speed and space to make plays, something that isn’t exactly the norm in the Devils offense. He had a similar slump last season, as he started and finished hot, but struggled in the middle of the 48-game season.
Despite the deficiencies that still linger with this team, we’re beginning to see this squad come together. With so many games yet to play and a tough test on Thursday night in Los Angeles, it’s going to be a grind. This team is not built to blow people out. Every win is going to have to come by way of outworking the opponent and scoring some opportunistic goals. If the defense can continue to hold its own and if the offense begins to find it’s stride, then this team will begin to cement itself in the middle of the Metropolitan Division playoff picture.