By the numbers – Where has all the scoring gone?

Dave Turner

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. Patrik Elias

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. Damien BrunnerRyder 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.

By the numbers: Advanced stats show the impact of Eric Gelinas

Dave Turner

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.

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 12.44.23 PM

- 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. Eric Gelinas

- 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.

20120130-152120.jpg

What a difference a month makes

Dave Turner

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.20120130-152120.jpg

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. Eric Gelinas

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.

Final Score: Devils 4, Ducks 3 OT

The New Jersey Devils rallied in the third period and beat the Anaheim Ducks in overtime by a 4-3 mark at Honda Center on Wednesday night.  The Devils are now 8-8-5 on the season.

The Least You Should Know:

- Jaromir Jagr scored with 1:09 to go in regulation to send the game into overtime.

- The man who helped create Jagr’s goal, Travis Zajac, scored the game winner in overtime at 1:58.

- The Devils are back to .500 on the season and moved into a playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division.

Jeff OConnor

Wow.  Who saw that coming?  The Devils trailed after 40 minutes by a 3-2 score.  They dominated and had the first nine or 10 shots of the third period.  It felt like a bad Ducks goal was coming, but it never did.Zajac worried

Zajac deserves a TON of credit for keeping the puck in the zone on that tying goal.  An errant drop pass was labeled to be cleared out to the neutral zone, and perhaps an empty netter to end the game.  Instead, the puck comes behind the net, the Devils grind it and a feed in front was buried by Jagr.

Then the team finally got a bounce in overtime.  Dainius Zubrus hustled up the right side in an odd-man rush with Zajac, who was trying to catch up with him and go to the net.  Zubrus threw it at Zajac who could only kick it towards net.  The Ducks, without caution, tried to whip it out of the zone quickly but it winded up going off Corey Perry’s leg into the vacated net.

It’s easy to forget about the job done by Martin Brodeur.  He was brilliant once again.  The first goal from Matt Beleskey I’m sure he would like to have back but the tallies from Nick Bonino and Ryan Getzlaf he had no prayer on.   The save on Matthieu Perreault in overtime before the Zajac winner won’t soon be forgotten by anyone who’s a fan of the sport.  That glove save by Marty will be replayed on highlight reels…well, forever.

This team is starting to find a more consistent rhythm in the goal-scoring department.  The goaltending has been as rock solid as was thought to be before the season and the team only gave up one goal at even strength.  They are brimming with confidence and that’s needed as they face some high-quality teams this week.  The next two contests will be a great barometer and litmus test for this club to see where they stack up against true Stanley Cup contenders.

The fun continues in less than 24 hours.  The Kings are next, coming up later on tonight at 10:30 p.m. EST.

Final Score: Kings 2, Devils 0

The Los Angeles Kings took down the New Jersey Devils 2-0 at the Prudential Center in the first meeting between the two teams since the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals.  The loss drops the Devils to 6-8-5 on the season.

Dwight King scored on a deflection from a point shot by Jake Muzzin late in the 3rd period to give Los Angeles the lead that they would take to the end of the game.

- Patrik Elias’ return was a shot in the arm for the Devils on all fronts, but he failed to register a shot on goal and looked like he was at least one game away from getting his legs back under him.

- Corey Schneider put together a stellar effort despite another shortage of offensive support.  But, tonight belonged to Ben Scrivens, who recorded a 26-save shutout, his second shutout triumph this year.

Ryan Jahnke

The Devils have something good going right now, putting up a record of 3-0-1 in their last 4 games before facing LA.  Their defense has been suffocating and their goaltending has been among the league’s best, no matter who is between the pipes.  Their penalty kill is lights out, particularly at the Rock, where opponents have managed just one power play goal against the Devils (before tonight’s empty-netter).  So with all of this going so right for the team, their fans have just one question left… what is going on with the offense?

The Devils came into Friday night’s game against the Kings and strong backup goaltender Ben Scrivens as one of the lowest scoring teams in the league, and the first few periods did little to change that.  Great pressure and strong chances for New Jersey resulted in 18 shots and no goals through the first two.  Things were even worse for the red and black in the third.  Their legs were gone and their shots had dried up.  Los Angeles used this to their advantage and turned up the pressure on New Jersey, wearing the Devils down until finally recording what would be the game-winning goal on a strong screen and beautiful deflection by Dwight King.  A long empty-netter by Anze Kopitar sealed the deal and a regulation victory for the Kings.

The offense remains a problem for New Jersey.  The first period was one to be proud of as Jersey’s team thoroughly outplayed their opponents.  They worked especially hard in the L.A. zone, creating chances and crashing the net.  After that, things got ugly.  The Devils were outhit by a wide margin and gave the puck away more than three times as much as Los Angeles.

That’s not to say that there weren’t any bright spots from the New Jersey front men.  Jaromir Jagr, Adam Henrique and Danius Zubrus all put up strong efforts, and Andy Greene was a big playmaker tonight.  Unfortunately, the Devils always seemed a step behind the play as countless pucks slid through the crease without anyone in red there to bury them.

The defense and goaltending were dominant.  Cory Schneider did everything a goalie could do to win this game for his team, and the boys in front of him limited  opportunities.  One unfortunate stretch was their undoing, as the relentless Kings’ attack at the end of the game lured two Devils D-men to the side of the goal leaving Dwight King uncontested in front of Schneider.

This kind of game can take the wind out of a team’s sails.  The Devils came in talking about giving Schneider some goal support, and then get blanked at home.  With a lackluster third and an anemic power play to finish the game, the Devils left the ice with their heads hanging and the fans’ frustrations ringing in their ears.  It’ll be a tough test for the team tomorrow night as New Jersey looks to pick themselves up and rise to the challenge against Pittsburgh.  The Red and Black will need to play all three periods tomorrow like they did the first stanza tonight. Martin Brodeur will need to keep up his impressive streak of quality games, put the team back on track and make sure that they don’t lose the momentum that they had built up over the previous four games.

Final Score: Devils 5 Predators 0

The New Jersey Devils closed out a strong weekend of play with a dominating 3-1 win over the Nashville Predators.  The win moves the Devils to 5-7-5 on the season.

- This one was all Devils from the outset, as they were fast, disciplined and controlled the play all night.

- Jaromir Jagr notched the 1,700th point of his career with his first period goal.

- Martin Brodeur turned in yet another stellar performance in net, stopping all fifteen Predator shots.

- Travis Zajac scored his first goal in seven games when he ripped a shot home in the third period to ice the game for New Jersey.

Dave Turner

It may have taken 17 games to do so, but we finally saw a complete 60-minute effort from the New Jersey Devils.

They came out flying and kept up the pressure en-route to the dominating 5-0 win over the Predators.

After a frustrating 2-1 shootout loss on Friday night, the Devils seemed to have found their legs against Nashville. Forechecking, defense, passing, it was all on display on Sunday night from Prudential Center.

The win caps a strong weekend for the Devils, who gained five of a possible six points in just three nights. They seem to be finding their stride at the right time, as they’ll travel to Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night before playing a back-to-back against the Penguins and Kings next weekend.

With his early struggles so far away in the rear-view mirror at this point, Martin Brodeur might be the hottest goaltender in the NHL right now.

It was the kind of night where everything seemed to go well. Cam Janssen scored his second goal in three games when he banged home a rebound off of an excellent shot by Ryan Carter and Mattias Tedenby got his first goal of the season as well.

There’s no doubt that their confidence is high after their best effort of the young season, but it’ll take more of the same effort next week if this team hopes to even up their record at .500.

Final Score: Devils 3, Flyers 0

The New Jersey Devils took down the Philadelphia Flyers 2-0 from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. with a well-earned bounce-back effort.  The win pushes the Devils to 4-7-4 on the season.

Adam Henrique scored on a deflection off of a blast from the point by Eric Gelinas in the first period.  This was the team’s first goal in six periods of hockey.

- Travis Zajac’s return was a big plus for a team in need of some offense and help on the forecheck.  Peter Harrold and Anton Volchenkov also returned to have a positive impact on the game.

- Cam Janssen used his hands for something other than fighting, as he registered his first goal since March 2011, and his second ever goal as a New Jersey Devil.

- Martin Brodeur recorded the 22 save shutout, extending his NHL record to 122 over his career and his 12th against the Flyers.

Ryan Jahnke

The Devils have been hurting recently, following up two big wins against Boston and Tampa with two debilitating, shut-out losses to the Flyers and the Wild.  What little swagger New Jersey gained was ripped away as injuries to key starters, including top two forwards Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac, left the team snake-bit and unable to manufacture goals for over 151 minutes.  Maybe it’s a little too dramatic to call the 15th game of the season a must-win, but it’s hard to deny that the team’s confidence moving forward hung on the outcome of the game in Philadelphia.

New Jersey didn’t disappoint, as the red and black put together strong efforts at both ends of the ice.  The Devils took the game to Philly by out-working and out-hustling their rivals for 60 straight minutes.  Despite being out-hit 30 – 22, it seemed like New Jersey played the better physical game winning the battles in the corners and along the boards.

Their penalty kill was dominant, their forecheck was overwhelming and their overall defensive effort was as impressive as it’s been this season, from both the forwards and the D-Men.  Andy Greene and Travis Zajac really stood-out as the workhorses of New Jersey’s defensive effort accounting for the most minutes on the ice at their respective positions. The strong defense never allowed the Flyers to get a their game going. The Devils held the Philadelphia power play to an 0 – 3 night.  Returning defensemen Anton Volchenkov and Peter Harrold also deserve credit for logging some important minutes and playing a big part in the Devils’ gritty win.

Offensively, there was more in this game to be excited about than the scoresheet might lead you to believe.  In a night that was all about hustle and pressure, the Devils’ offense did their part and got some contributions from some very, very unlikely sources.  Mattias Tedenby and Andrei Loktionov created some wonderful chances, and defensemen Eric Gelinas and Adam Larsson continue to prove why they’re near the top of a very promising young group of blue-line threats.

The team showed a greater commitment to driving the net, and it paid-off in spades as New Jersey netted two deflection goals up high on Ray Emery.  Adam Henrique netted the first one for his fifth of the season and Cam Janssen was elated to nab the second off of a shot from Larsson and a great tandem effort from Janssen himself and Ryan Carter.  After being brought up for this game to the dismay of many who wanted to hear that a goal-scorer was coming into the lineup, it was a great to see the look of joy on the face of New Jersey’s enforcer as Cam lit that lamp.  Then, to cap off a solid offensive night for Jersey’s team, Jaromir Jagr recorded the empty-netter. A nice reward for a man who was once again, arguably, New Jersey’s top forward.

It wasn’t a perfect effort.  It would have been nice to see the Devils throw a few more shots at Emery, and maybe take advantage of one of their three power plays, but really that’s just nit-picking.  Tonight was a good game offensively, especially for a team that is still without Patrik Elias and Ryan Clowe.

Of course this night wouldn’t be complete without discussing the play of no.30.  It was a big night for Martin Brodeur, as he recorded his 122nd career shutout, and his 12th against the Flyers.  To be fair, a combination of solid D and a struggling Flyer lineup meant that this wasn’t Brodeur’s toughest test.  But, when the team needed him, Marty stepped up, made some big saves, and stopped all 22 tries by his opponents.  Tonight, Marty wasn’t just better, he was perfect.