Michael Ryder has no goals in his last five games.
We know he’s a streaky guy but outside of a post he hit on Saturday night against Philadelphia, he’s been relatively quiet. For one, he’s not shooting nearly enough. He has six shots in the team’s last five games. Even with these last five contests, he’s shooting at an 18 percent clip. That’s great.
What’s concerning is that he hasn’t scored an even-strength goal since October 7 at Edmonton. The two even-strength tallies he does have came when he was on a line with Adam Henrique and Travis Zajac. Of course, Zajac was the center and Henrique was the winger. Zajac has been out the last few games so Pete DeBoer has had to juggle lines, leaving Ryder without a cemented spot amongst the top three lines.
Even still, on his two even-strength goals, no one has assisted on Ryder’s markers. Perhaps Ryder hasn’t found his correct complementary parts yet. Newcomer Jaromir Jagr found his a few games ago, really connecting with Andrei Loktionov and Patrik Elias. Compared to other teammates he’s played with on his line for significant minutes, Henrique and Zajac remain his best options in terms of metrics. When Zajac gets healthy, he needs to consider going with two centers on that line with Ryder. Ryder was brought here to do one thing; score goals. If he’s not producing with other linemates, it might be worth sacrificing in other areas if it means No. 17 is on a line where he’ll get lots of great looks.
Where has Damien Brunner been? He has failed to record a point in seven of his last eight games. Unlike Ryder, Brunner is firing the puck a lot. In the last five games, he’s let the puck fly 15 times. After a hot start, he’s now hitting the back of the net at a 10.8 percent rate. Unfortunately for the Devils, they are still figuring out what he is. Despite playing many seasons overseas, Brunner only has one NHL season under his belt. He had 12 goals in 44 games with Detroit last year but shot 9.8 percent. Oof.
I think everyone, coaches and management, need to take more time to evaluate Brunner to better identify where he fits with this team. It should be said that one of the linemates he should be playing with is currently out with an injury, Ryane Clowe. Clowe and Brunner have been on the ice 5-on-5 for nearly a full game’s worth of ice time. They’ve created points together and have been on the plus side of the Corsi chart. He’s played away from Clowe for about half a game and the Corsi mark average during that time is a minus-16. So while Brunner is still finding his game and role, perhaps the answer is waiting in a man who will hopefully be back with the club soon.
Ryder and Brunner carried the team early in the season when they struggled to get points. They started to take a backseat to other performers when the team got on a bit of a roll. Recently, they’ve been nowhere to be found as the team may be heading towards another slide.
These numbers are of a small sample size, no question, but these guys are only going to play with a select few players all year long. These two won’t be playing with the CBGB line, so in essence, there are seven other guys to choose from that they’ll match up with and hopefully at some point, click.
So, while others like Jagr have found some chemistry and are getting more comfortable, these two guys are still in search for their security blankets. Once they have some more time and find that level of trust in others, Pete DeBoer will finally have a well-rounded stable of forwards on the ice, instead of just on paper like most thought he had in August.
1. What can the Gelinas-Larsson pairing bring?Eric Gelinas was called up after Bryce Salvador left due to a death in the family. After a strong preseason, he get’s his chance. Gelinas has a great shot and showed a lot of promise in the defensive end as well during the preseason. Though it’s likely that he’ll be sent down once Salvador returns, a strong game could certainly work towards changing that. As for Adam Larsson, he’s back in after sitting for a few games. He needs to have a strong game as well. The young Swedish defender must limit any defensive zone breakdowns and begin to show some of the progress he had made during last season.
2. Cory Schneider against his former team: take two. Schneider was good against Vancouver when the teams squared off in British Columbia just a few games ago. He did give up the goal in overtime and you have to expect that with the home ice, he wants to be even better. After a shaky performance against the Blue Jackets, the 27-year-old netminder has to be better tonight, especially with the Canucks scoring goals in bunches so far this season.
3. The new lines, will they work? Once again, the lines are switched for tonight. Though they have to find something that sticks at some point or another, Pete DeBoer is still trying to find the right combinations that will best suit his players. Andrei Loktionov with Patrik Elias and Jaromir Jagr is a tantalizing combination. Though Loktionov has had some gaffes in the defensive end lately, he still possesses creativity and speed in the offensive end. Put him with two hall-of-fame caliber players and he should be in an excellent position to succeed. Rostislav Olesz has almost silently been very effective this year, he’s a big, tough forechecker who can bring some scoring touch as well. Putting him with Travis Zajac and Damien Brunner may elevate all three.
Prediction: Devils 3, Canucks 2
This is a must-win game for this team. 1-5-3 is already a tough hole to climb out of and any loss at this point makes it even harder. They looked good for about a period and a half against Columbus, but got outworked in the third period and it showed. Expect a very strong effort from this team tonight as they look to show that their win against the Rangers wasn’t a fluke. Patrik Elias’s return makes this lineup deeper and it will translate into some goals.
The range of emotions last night was stark. Early in the third period the team was laughing on the bench, enjoying what was at that point, a very good effort.
Then, the Ryan Nugent-Hopkins goal opened up a pandora’s box and the game snowballed out of control.
Some may think the sky is falling.
Take a deep breath and say this three times: “It’s only three games.”
In the wake of their meltdown loss in Edmonton on Monday night, the Devils are a team still trying to find their footing amidst this nascent 2013 campaign. All this team can do is chalk it up to a learning experience and move on. In truth, no matter how bad that loss was, there are still 79 games left to play. In terms of the big picture, this game will be a blip on the radar three months from now, if the Devils are able to learn from this game.
Though it feels like an eternity ago, as they were blowing the lead, another 3-0 game came to mind.
Remember that loss? That was game three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in 2012. This was a home loss in a playoff game and it didn’t cripple the team. They were able to overcome that defeat. That’s all that this year’s club needs to do. It’s almost a good thing that they have another game tonight, because it forces them to quickly put this defeat in the rear view mirror.
Last night, in the process of learning how to win, this team got a good lesson in playing a complete, sixty-minute hockey game. This early in the season, teams have to lose in order to learn how to win. The fact is, no matter how bad last night was, there’s a game tonight in Vancouver and it’s another chance for this team to get their first win of the season.
Still, there are some glaring issues that this team needs to address moving forward.
This team needs more time to work on some of their defensive deficiencies, but those are correctable. The fourth goal by Taylor Hall was about as blatant of a breakdown as you can get, as all of the players were against the boards and it allowed Hall to freely skate in and beat Brodeur.
So far through three games, there are almost an equal number of positives and negatives to take away. The offense doesn’t look like it’ll be an issue. They’ve scored seven goals in the past two games. Usually, if you score three or four goals, that should be enough to win the game. Both times, however, it was not enough because of the defense.
The defensive breakdowns and struggles at neutral ice are correctable, but the two areas that stand to be a problem are the faceoff dot and the shootout. Last night the Devils won just 25 of 67 faceoffs. That’s 37.3% which is completely unacceptable. Considering that one of the Edmonton goals came directly off of a faceoff loss by Travis Zajac, who won five of seventeen faceoffs for 29.4%, this is an area which will plague this team.
Losing faceoffs limits offensive zone opportunities and also allows opponents better scoring chances of their own. If this team is going to constantly get beat in the dot, they will struggle.
As I mentioned last night, the shootout is a major area of concern. If this team is going to go quietly into the night every time they get to the shootout, it may cost them down the road. Whether its taking practice time to work on the shootout, or just simply finding a bit of luck, the Devils simply cannot afford to lose shootouts at the same rate they did last year.
Looking at some of the positives, the offseason acquisitions are already paying dividends. Damien Brunner has been spectacular at times so far, with three goals to start the season. Michael Ryder has shown dead-eye accuracy with his shot, as he has notched two goals on the season.
Considering that the biggest question mark coming into the season was the offense, it’s a strange turn of events when the offense actually looks like the strength of the team thus far.
Whatever the case may be, this team is searching for a W in the worst way. A win tonight, coupled by a strong performance by Cory Schneider in his return to Vancouver, would go a long way. Most teams would sign up for three out of four points to begin a road trip in a heartbeat.
All that’s left is for this team to take what they experienced last night and channel it into a full, three-period effort. A win would go a long way for this team’s confidence. You have to believe that the Devils view tonight’s game as a must win, because if these losses keep piling up, no amount of positives from these last few games will hide the early blemish on their season.
It felt like the 2012 Eastern Conference Semifinals all over again on Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Center, as the New Jersey Devils downed the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1. The game featured sharp goaltending, a fancy Marek Zidlicky, goal and relentless forechecking. More importantly, there were two players that looked like their 2012 selves: Bryce Salvador and Anton Volchenkov.
Salvador logged 24:24 of ice time with a plus-1 rating and five blocked shots. Volchenkov was just as brilliant as he posted 17:10 on the ice to go along with a plus-1 rating and two blocked shots.
Last year, Volchenkov and Salvador were weak points of the team. Volchenkov had his lowest plus/minus rating since 2008-09. His PIM/game was tremendously high; he averaged 1.0 PIM/game, which equates to 82 minutes over the course of a regular season. His previous career high in PIM was in 2006-07 with 67.
Salvador was a minus-12 in 39 games, which extrapolates to well over a minus-24 for an 82-game slate. Sal’s career worst came in 2005-06 when he was exactly minus-24. According to behindthenet.ca, Salvador’s Corsi rating was a -1.37, worst on the team. In fact, it ranked 95th among NHL defenseman who played at least 30 games. Critics grilled Salvador’s first campaign as captain last year, saying he wasn’t vocal enough. The fact of the matter is that no one is inside that lockerroom to see how he interacts with the team during the course of a game or when the media isn’t around. Throw in the fact that he was hampered by a hip issue all year, The Captain struggled to lead by example.
For 2013-14, they will be the x-factors to the Devils success. If they can rebound from the shaky seasons they had last year, their hopes of a championship will get a big shot in the arm. On Tuesday, both were in vintage form.
Moments into the second period, the Devils found themselves on a penalty kill. Towards the end of it, the Flyers were swarming and a clear cut chance looked to be on the way from the middle of the slot. Volchenkov was able to hurry, dive and get his stick on the puck, catapulting it over the net.
At the end of the second period while on the PK, Salvador hit the deck to block a point shot with his lower body. He did so successfully, grimacing a bit as the puck eventually bounced out to the neutral zone. Flyers commentators Jim Jackson and Keith Jones gave him high praise for putting his body on the line during a preseason game. I’m sure his teammates noticed and Devils fans should have too.
Both played very strong contests. Great plays at time, but for the most part they were consistent and solid. With Cory Schneider in net, that’s all the Devils defensemen need to be; solid. Volchenkov and Salvador were on fire during the 2012 playoff run to the Stanley Cup Final. They both played all 24 games, combining for five goals and 11 assists while checking in at plus-16.
That’s too far-fetched a pace for them to duplicate in 2013-14. But their numbers 2012-13 numbers shouldn’t be duplicated either, since they were the exception to the rule compared to their career baselines.
Consider this. Ilya Kovalchuk and Martin Brodeur missed significant chunks of last season. They lost 12 straight games. Their top two centers in Adam Henrique and Travis Zajac had extremely underwhelming seasons. Salvador and Volchenkov had their worst seasons in Devils uniforms. All that, and they only missed the playoffs by seven points. If Salvador and Volchenkov can be, at the very least, somewhat productive this year, the Devils will be better than last year.
From what we saw on Tuesday, there’s hope for more than just being better. There’s hope for both playing at the same level they did two seasons ago, when they fell just short of a Stanley Cup.
We’ll be doing a weekly mailbag article each week during the season, so if you have a question or comment, feel free to tweet us @SNYDevils or tweet Dave and Jeff directly @DevilsInsiders.
Jake Wakely – @NJDFan4Life – “Is it too big to say he (Gelinas) is like Shea Weber, that’s what he was compared to when he was drafted?”
(Dave)Though Eric Gelinas has a lot of potential, I think there is a big difference between being very good, and being Shea Weber. Weber is one of the best defensemen in the entire league. He hits, he’s positionally sound, and he’s a monster on the power play.
I believe that Gelinas will turn into a very serviceable NHL player, who will see a lot of minutes once his defensive game becomes more polished. The young blueliner showed what he can do with his shot in the preseason game against the Rangers. It seems like a bit much to compare him to Weber, but he has the potential to be a highly productive offensive defenseman that might top out with 45-point ability out of the back end.
Jonathan Harpula – @Statpula – Can our “interchangeable” forwards score enough for a playoff run? Will loss of Ilya = a Ewing-theory type revival?
(Dave)I love the Ewing theory reference. For those of you who don’t know, the Ewing theory is the idea that even though Patrick Ewing was a sensational player both with Georgetown and the New York Knicks, his team somehow always managed to play better when he was off the court.
This is a team without a big-time scorer. There isn’t anyone on this roster who can give you 40 goals, it’s just not going to happen. With that being said, I think this team will have four lines that are capable of scoring. The additions of Michael Ryder, Ryane Clowe, Jaromir Jagr and Damien Brunner (if he makes the team) will definitely provide offense.
Realistically, this team will not be in the top half of the league in scoring, but I think that somewhere in the 16-20 range in goals scored is realistic. Though they lost Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson, they replaced their 26 combined goals with 47 combined goals from the aforementioned offseason acquisitions. Of course, you can’t go comparing numbers as if they’re the end-all be-all, but at the very least, this a deeper team than they were last year.
Jonathan Harpula – @Starpula – Is Brunner the perfect signing to give Jagr and Elias periodic rests?
Travis Coolidge – @TimOconnor11 – Does Brunner make the team ?
I do think that Damien Brunner will make the team. He has the speed and playmaking ability to warrant a spot. Unless he really struggles in the preseason games, or they come to an impasse with a contract, Brunner should be a Devil in 2013-2014.
Brunner would be a great signing because he was a guy on pace to score approximately 20 goals last season over an 82-game span. The way the Devils are currently constructed, I’m not sure we know enough about the offense where Pete DeBoer will have the luxury of sitting Jagr or Elias just to get them a breather. If Henrique and Zajac continue their struggles into this year, PDB can’t afford to have his most experienced and productive guys watching from the stands.
Pat Kelly – Who do you see being the top 3 shootout players for the devils since Kovy and Clarkson are both gone? I see it being Elias, Henique, and Ryder?
(Dave) That’s a great question. The Devils squandered so many points in the shootout last season, so it’s an area that they have to be better at if they expect to push for a playoff spot.
I would think that Elias is a lock, but after that, things get cloudy. Damien Brunner has the highest percentage on the team, scoring twice in seven attempts. Looking at the statistics, this is an area where the Devils may struggle. They MUST be better in the shootout this year, there are too many important points at stake.
If I had to pick a shootout lineup right now, I’d go Elias, Zajac and Jagr, based on their stats and what i’ve seen from them. Zajac has a deceptively strong shot and Jagr is a wily veteran who can still get a goalie to bite on a fake.
Here are the statistics for current Devils during the shootout in 2012-2013:
Damien Brunner: 2 for 7 – 28.6%
Travis Zajac: 1 for 4 – 25%
Patrik Elias: 2 for 8 – 25%
Jaromir Jagr: 2 for 9 – 22.2%
Ryane Clowe: 0 for 3 – 0%
Adam Henrique: 0 for 2 – 0%
Andrei Loktionov: 0 for 1 – 0%
Michael Ryder: 0 for 1 – 0%
We received quite a few questions about the Carter-Gionta-Bernier line. With the amount of players fighting for roster spots, there is a chance that the line might be broken up.
Fabio Torres – @fabio_torres – With all the new players and young guns wanting a spot in the lineup, is the CBGB line on borrowed time?
Avid Devils Fan – @NJDMCP – Would you break up the CBGB line or scratch Josefson?
Jon Bouchard -You know I love Stephen Gionta- with the upswing of young talent for NJ (Boucher, Tedenby, Cislo, Zajac) and the addition of potentially strong offensive additions (Olesz)… is his job in jeopardy? Is someone else’s from CBGB?
Great question, guys. Personally, I’d break up the CBGB line to start the season. I’d put Jacob Josefson between Carter and Bernier. Lou Lamoriello and Pete DeBoer need to make one final evaluation of Josefson. Gionta is a known commodity at this point; he’s going to grind and hustle. He probably will get 8-10 goals at year at best. I’m not sure the Devils know what Josefson can be yet. While healthy last year, he logged the most PK time for any forward. He’s responsible in his own zone and has a good hockey sense. The offense just hasn’t come consistently. The Devils need to give him one last shot to squeeze whatever talent he has in him and try to salvage their first round draft pick from 2009.
It’s easier to forget he’s only 22 still, despite playing during the course of three seasons. It wouldn’t shock me if Gionta starts the season with the big club, comes in for Josefson 15 games into the season or 40 or maybe he even stays in the minors the whole year. I think Josefson should take Gionta’s spot not because Josefson is a better player; he’s not, Gionta has proved more valuable than him over the last two seasons. The reason Josefson should replace him is that the Devils still not what he can be and if he reaches somewhere close to that first round pick he is, he’s more valuable than Gionta.
This is a series of posts on the Devils’ pending free agents (restricted and unrestricted). We’ll cover their strengths and weaknesses and end up with a final verdict on whether we think the Devils should re-sign the player. There will also be a poll at the end of each post so you guys can weigh in with your thoughts.
Position: Center Age: 22 2013 statistics: 28 games with Devils/8 goals, 4 assists, 12 points/minus-2 rating, 4 PIMs Free-agent status: Restricted 2012-13 salary/cap hit: $$575,000 (NHL) /$816,666 (NHL) (via Cap Geek) Team history: Acquired for 2012 fifth-round pick in February
What he brings: Loktionov has very good vision, which allows him to sometimes see plays develop a step or two ahead of the other team. It’s part of the reason why he was such an excellent compliment to Ilya Kovalchuk, whose own ability to completely manipulate the ice like a chess board in truly remarkable. Loktionov is also a strong passer and has a good enough idea of timing to thread the puck through traffic. The part of Loktionov’s game that Pete DeBoer probably likes is the Russian’s two-way ability. Loktionov is far from an offense-only centerman, which is a big part of why he received such a key role on the Devils’ top line. Well, that and the fact that Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique were basically invisible offensively for long stretches this season.
The Anaheim Ducks were eliminated from the postseason, which means we can all start speculating about whether winger Bobby Ryan will be traded this summer. The Ducks have devoted a lot of cap space to Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry and there might not be enough left to keep Ryan, who is due to count $5.1 million against the cap for each of the next two seasons (per Cap Geek).
If a 30-goal scorer is on the trade market, you would think Lou Lamoriello and the Devils would be interested. Todd Cordell of Hockey Buzz posed the question, speculated about Anaheim’s asking price and then answered it rather definitively.
His points per game average was down a bit from his standards this season but he still had more even strength goals and points than every player on the Devils, so clearly he’d be a welcome addition.
Now about the cost. What would it be? I’m guessing the Devils would have to include one of Eric Gelinas / Alex Urbom / Jon Merrill as well as another forward prospect (likely Stefan Matteau or Reid Boucher), an NHL center off of their roster and potentially the 9th overall pick (depending on the prospects/center they offer).
A steep price, indeed, but you don’t get young perennial 30 goal scorers without giving up a lot. You have to give to get, they say.
Whether Ryan ends up a Devil or not, Devils GM, Lou Lamoriello, must make some calls and try to get his hands on Ryan. Lamoriello has said you look at every opportunity to improve your roster. Well, an opportunity is sitting right in front of you.
Cordell’s argument is a fair one. The Devils don’t have a lot of players with the offensive game that Ryan possesses and 30-goal scorers are increasingly rare commodities. I don’t disagree that Lamoriello should (and probably will) make a call to Ducks GM Bob Murray if indeed Ryan is available. Even if the Devils retain David Clarkson and Patrik Elias, we saw this season that’s not enough. If Clarkson leaves, Ryan would be a much better offensive replacement and likely at a similar cost value given what Clarkson could get on the open market. Ryan would give the Devils an instant 1-2 punch on the right side with Ilya Kovalchuk and could prove to be an incredibly dangerous winger playing alongside Adam Henrique or perhaps even be a new bestie for the sullen Travis Zajac. The idea, in theory, sounds like a no-brainer.
But you lose me at the cost. As we saw this season, the Devils have minimal depth both at the NHL level and throughout the organization. Sacrificing one of your top defensive prospects along with your top offensive prospect, a current NHL center and potentially the No. 9 overall pick in a talent-rich draft is way too much for a franchise like the Devils to give up. Lamoriello needs to keep adding to the prospects and the talent base, not subtract from it. I understand the idea of adding a talent like a Ryan (a N.J. kid, no less) is absolutely tantalizing. Some of you might say that trading unproven talent for proven skill is always worth it — and a lot of times I would agree with you. But I worry about this team beyond next season or the year after that. There has to be a talent pipeline once more and a trade for Ryan might very well gut it of most of the top-level players.
While I appreciate the idea and think Ryan could be a very helpful addition, I just think it’s a short-sighted move meant to capitalize on what’s left of Martin Brodeur’s career. The Devils need to build for next year and what happens after Marty retired, not one or the other. What do you think?