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Devils 2013 Schedule Preview: Carolina Hurricanes

January 15, 2013 Leave a comment
Anton Volchenkov, usually known for his big hits, collected three assists against Carolina last season. Photo Credit: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images North America

Anton Volchenkov, usually known for his big hits, collected three assists against Carolina last season. Photo Credit: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images North America

With the lockout done and the schedule for this shortened season already decided, The Devils’ Den will give you an in-depth look at the team’s opponents this season. We kicked things off with a look at two Northeast division teams, but today we’ll move south for our preview of the Carolina Hurricanes.

There’s a renewed sense of optimism surrounding the Carolina Hurricanes.

Despite missing the postseason for the third straight season, and finishing last in the Southeast Division, the Hurricanes were one of the teams itching for the lockout to end. A draft-day trade for Jordan Staal gives the team a big weapon down the middle, and the addition of sniper Alex Semin could turn into one of the best bargain signings by general manager Jim Rutherford.

Kirk Muller took over after a 4-10-2 November swoon last season, and brought the Hurricanes back from dead. At one point, the team sat just five points out of the playoffs before losing four of their last five games.

Carolina had a ton of momentum carrying them before the lockout. Can they find it again and contend for a spot in the top eight?

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Devils 2013 Schedule Preview: Buffalo Sabres

January 14, 2013 Leave a comment
Patrik Elias led New Jersey with four assists against the Buffalo Sabres last season. Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America

Patrik Elias led New Jersey with four assists against the Buffalo Sabres last season. Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America

With the lockout done and the schedule for this shortened season already decided, The Devils’ Den will give you an in-depth look at the team’s opponents this season. We kicked things off with a look at the Boston Bruins, and we’ll continue today with a preview of the Buffalo Sabres.

Last year was supposed to be the year in Buffalo.

New owner Terry Pegula, not afraid to open up the checkbook, brought in Christian Ehrhoff, Ville Leino and Robyn Regehr. Doling out the cash, however, didn’t match the lofty expectations fans and analysts had for this team. They spent most of the year at the bottom of the conference, and only a late-season surge saved them from being a complete bust.

On top of their struggles, opponents exposed Buffalo’s lack of grit. In the most glaring example, Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic bowled over Ryan Miller in open ice, and no one on the Sabres responded.

This offseason, Pegula added that toughness, bringing in the likes of John Scott, Steve Ott. The Sabres also kept Patrick Kaleta, re-signing their in-house enforcer.

There were no changes this season despite the failure to reach the playoffs. Will this be coach Lindy Ruff and general manager Darcy Regier’s last chance to bring the team deep in the playoffs?

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Devils 2013 Schedule Preview: Boston Bruins

January 11, 2013 Leave a comment
David Krejci recorded six points against New Jersey in just four games last season. Photo Credit: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images North America

David Krejci recorded six points against New Jersey in just four games last season. Photo Credit: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images North America

With the lockout all but done*, and the framework of the schedule for this shortened season already decided, The Devils’ Den will give you an in-depth look at the team’s opponents this season. We kick it off today with a look at the Boston Bruins.

The Stanley Cup hangover was alive and well in Beantown last year. After winning the organization’s first championship since the 1971-72 team, the Bruins stumbled out of the gate, finishing with the worst opening month for a defending champion since the playoff format changed in 1994.

That all changed, though, as Boston found its footing. The Bruins finished with a 49-29-4 record, winning the Northeast Division and completing a second straight 40-win, 100-point season. They lost in the quarterfinals, falling in seven games to the Washington Capitals.

The Bruins had the most overseas players during the lockout, and welcome back the likes of Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand and a healthy Nathan Horton. But the big question will be in between the pipes, where Tuukka Rask takes over as the team’s number one goalie.

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Devils 2011-2012 Schedule Preview: Calgary Flames

August 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Hedberg laid out to stop Niklas Hagman on his shootout attempt. Photo Credit: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will preview the 2011-2012 schedule, breaking down matchups and providing in-depth analysis of their opponents. Today, we the preview this season’s matchup with the Calgary Flames.

The New Jersey Devils and Calgary Flames came together to form one of the more interesting games two years ago. Flames’ head coach Brent Sutter, who failed to lead New Jersey past the first round as coach, left the team. He cited the need to be near his family and the Red Deer Rebels. Shortly after that, he signed on to coach Calgary. That led to an interesting meeting at the Prudential Center, but one that went without any real incident.

Since then, the matchup faded back to it’s usual ho-hum nature. As with most of the teams from the Western Conference, there isn’t much hatred between the two teams. The matchup, however, still offers some intrigue. Here’s why you should watch this year’s matchup between the two teams.

The History Behind The Matchup

In 92 games against Calgary, New Jersey is 24-56-1 with 11 ties. Their .326 point percentage is the worst historically among all opponents. The Devils allow 3.89 goals per matchup (358 total) and score just 2.71 goals per matchup (249 total).

The team’s faced off once last season, on November 24 at the Prudential Center. The matchup came during the Devils only hot streak of the first half, and ended in a 2-1 shootout victory for the Devils. David Clarkson opened the scoring, tipping home a Mattias Tedenby shot at 13:06 of the first period. Matt Corrente held the puck at the blueline, skating it toward the center of the zone. His shot hit Tedenby in the slot, but the rookie found the puck and fired it on net. Clarkson deflected it past Henrik Karlsson for the lead.

Calgary wouldn’t go easily, tying the game just 1:18 into the third period. Mark Giordano held the puck near the blueline, shooting the puck toward the net. Rene Bourque came skating across the slot and tipped the puck past Johan Hedberg for the game-tying goal. Both teams remained scoreless until the shootout, where Ilya Kovalchuk would take care of business:

That was the first time the Devils strung together two wins in a row. They wouldn’t find that type of success again until January.

This Season’s Matchup

The Flames didn’t make any big splashes in free agency this offseason. They tried for Brad Richards, but ended up as one of the losers in that sweepstakes. They re-signed Anton Babchuk and Brendan Morrison, and recently added defenseman Scott Hannan.

The Devils and Flames trade some spare parts as well. Calgary acquired Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond from New Jersey for a 2012 fifth-round draft pick.

Both teams face off once this season, on January 10 in Calgary.

Stat Pack

In 15 games against the Flames, Martin Brodeur is just 7-5-0 with three ties. He’s carrying a 2.17 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage…In 16 games against New Jersey, Flames’ captain Jarome Iginla has 12 points. Just one of them, however, is on the powerplay.

Devils 2011-2012 Schedule Preview: Buffalo Sabres

August 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Kovalchuk led the Devils to their only win against the Buffalo Sabres this season. Photo Credit: Bill Wippert/Getty Images

Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will preview the 2011-2012 schedule, breaking down matchups and providing in-depth analysis of their opponents. Today, we the preview this season’s matchup with the Buffalo Sabres.

Usually, the Buffalo Sabres stay out of the limelight during the offseason. But since late last year, the only successful team from the Buffalo area made a ton of noise. First, billionaire Terry Pegula purchased the team, brining a wealthy owner to a usually frugal team. They made some noise in the playoffs, but lost to the Philadelphia Flyers. That would be one of their only disappointments.

With Pegula backing the team, Buffalo went on an offseason spending spree. They became, for the first time in recent memory, big spenders. Nobody was surprised; Pegula promised to pay for a quality team. An already good team added some key pieces. It’ll be a different team on the ice taking on New Jersey this season.

The History Behind The Matchup

The Devils have faced the Sabres 132 times, and haven’t fared well against them. New Jersey is 47-65-3 with 17 ties, allowing 448 goals against, or 3.39 goals per game. They’ve only scored 380 goals against Buffalo, good for 2.88 goals per game.

The two teams faced off four times last season, with New Jersey compiling a 1-2-1 record. They first met on October 13 in a game that became a duel between Martin Brodeur and Ryan Miller. Both goalies stood on their heads, matching each other save for save. In overtime, rookie Matt Taormina set up Ilya Kovalchuk for a game-winning one-timer deep in the Sabres zone. The puck rang off the crossbar before finding it’s way to the back of the net. That marked the first win of John MacLean’s coaching career. Too bad he wouldn’t lead the team to many more.

Buffalo evened the series just 10 days later, blowing out the Devils, 6-1, at the Prudential Center. Drew Stafford started the scoring, giving Buffalo a 1-0 lead at 6:57 of the first period. Tyler Myers extended the lead to 2-0 at 16:33 of the opening frame. They poured it on in the second period, scoring three times. Tyler Ennis pushed the Sabres’ lead to 3-0 at 3:10 of the middle period. Patrick Kaleta stretched the lead to four at 8:17 of the period, chasing starter Johan Hedberg.

Brodeur couldn’t stop the bleeding. Thomas Vanek made it 5-0 at 18:12. Vanek scored again in the third period, making it 6-0. Zach Parise broke the shutout, scoring at 11:25 of the period. Miller finished with 26 saves. The game was more known for the infamous benching of Kovalchuk.

The teams played another high scoring game on November 10, with Buffalo winning, 5-4, in a shootout. Jason Arnott opened the scoring, putting the Devils ahead, 1-0, at 10:12 of the first period. That lead wouldn’t last. Jason Pominville tied the game, 1-1, at 5:22 of the second period. Derek Roy wasted no time in giving Buffalo the lead, scoring 13 seconds later to give his team a 2-1 advantage. The Devils answered right back. David Clarkson tied the game, 2-2, at 7:58 of the middle period. Arnott struck again, giving the Devils a 3-2 lead at 12:01.

The see-saw battle would continue. Myers evened the score, 3-3, at 13:50 of the second period. Jamie Langenbrunner responded, putting the Devils ahead, 4-3, at 18:01 of the second period. New Jersey once again failed to hold their lead. Ennis tied the game at four at 8:54 of the third period. Both teams moved to the shootout, where Vanek and Langenbrunner both scored. Roy put his team ahead, and set up one of the worst moments for Kovalchuk this season:

Jhonas Enroth stopped 28 shots for the win. Hedberg stopped 38 in the loss.

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Peter DeBoer? Devils Make Head-Scratching Selection

Peter DeBoer became the seventh coach for the Devils in the past seven years. Photo Credit: Andy Marlin/Getty Images

The New Jersey Devils finally finished their coaching search two days ago, becoming the last team to fill that spot. The selection is still a bit of a head-scratcher.

Several big names were linked to the team’s open spot. Ken Hitchcock and Michel Therien, two veteran coaches with playoff experience, seemed destined for the job at one time or another. The Montreal Canadiens link still existed, with Guy Carbonneau finding his name attached to the position. Assistants like Mike Haviland were thrown into the discussion. Reports even had the Devils dipping into the college ranks, with Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves possibly taking over. Surprisngly, none of these guys earned the job.

Instead, Devils’ president and general manager Lou Lamoriello decided to hire Peter DeBoer. Does it ring a bell? DeBoer spent the past three seasons as the Florida Panthers coach, compiling a less-than-stellar 103-107-36 record. He never made the playoffs, but came close, losing out to the Canadiens in a tiebreaker during the 2008-09 season. Before coaching in the NHL, he spent seven seasons as the Kitchner Rangers head coach. That team won the Memorial Cup in 2003 and featured right-winger David Clarkson.

Clarkson gave the hire a ringing endorsement.

“I think Pete is going to be a great fit,” Clarkson told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record yesterday. “Wherever he goes, he finds a way to get the best out of the players.”

Lamoriello believes DeBoer can serve a dual purpose. First and foremost, the team needed a coach who could bring them back to the playoffs. The veteran-laden roster is seeing their championship window close rapidly. The organization’s 14-year playoff streak snapped last year, and Lamoriello doesn’t want to make that an every year occurance.

He also needed a coach who could relate to young players. The Devils relied heavily on rookies last season, and their better prospects are knocking on the NHL door. DeBoer spent the past three years coaching young players with Florida. The teams weren’t great, but it gave him the opportunity to learn the ropes. Lamoriello believes that experience served him well.

“He’s young,” Lamoriello said to Gulitti. “He has excellent experiences in dealing with all types of players. He also served as an assistant where he an opportunity in international play with league players and to (be able to) sit and watch how other people handed them. And I think he’s had three years of outstanding apprenticeship (with Florida), if that’s what you want to call it.”

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Evaluating The Devils’ Organizational Depth: Trenton Devils Forwards

June 10, 2011 3 comments

Ginand led all Trenton Devils skates with 75 points. Photo Credit: Trenton Devils website

The New Jersey Devils forward strength seems focused on one position: left wing. On the NHL roster, the position runs three deep, with Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and converted center Patrik Elias. Rookies like Mattias Tedenby will only strengthen that position in the future.

Even the center position features some depth. Travis Zajac anchors the first line, and rookies such as Adam Henrique and Jacob Josefson may become lineup fixtures in the future.

The one position where the team lacks depth is right wing. David Clarkson represents the team’s only veteran right-winger, and his offensive potential is limited. Nick Palmieri showed a ton of promise this year, but his offensive success was helped by playing on the first line.

While Albany does a fantastic job of breaking down the forwards by position, the Trenton Devils do not. Since all the forwards are clumped together on the website, this will be a review of all the forwards. Some seem good enough to take the leap, and others seem destined to be ECHL-lifers.

And here we go:

Ryan Ginand – 68 GP, 75 points (29 G, 46 A), plus-1 rating

Ginand was one of the few standouts on the Trenton Devils this season. He was the team’s lone All-Star representative, leading them in every offensive category. He also fired 402 shots on net, the second most in ECHL history. Ginand enjoyed a brief callup to Albany this season, and should find a permanent spot on their roster next year. His offensive skill seems promising, and he could be a can’t miss prospect for the organization.

Ryan Hayes – 63 games, 50 points (23 G, 27 A), 0 rating

Hayes is right behind Ginand in terms of offensive potential. In his first professional season, the forward recorded 50 points, good for second on the team. His transition from the Plymouth Whalers of the CHL (where he played with Tyler Seguin) went better than expected. He’s also big into humanitarian work, which is a plus for any professional athlete. Hopefully he’ll play in the Devils prospect camp this summer so we can get an extended look at him.

Jeff Prough – 48 games, 42 points (25 G, 17 A), minus-13 rating

Prough suffered through some minor injuries this season, playing just 48 games. He still produced 0.88 points per game, which is pretty solid. He’s been with the Trenton Devils for three seasons, so he’s reaching the limits of potential flameout. He twice recorded 30 goals and 60 points, so he’s shown he can produce. Hopefully he gets a shot to move up the organization’s ladder next season.

Matt Lombardi – 66 GP, 33 points (20 G, 13 A), minus-10 rating

Like Hayes, Lombardi made his Trenton debut this season, playing in 66 games. There was no shortage of offense on this team, and Lombardi was the fourth forward to record at least 20 goals. He came from Boston College, working his way from walk-on to assistant captain of two national champions. It was a solid debut season.

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The 2010-2011 Player Review Best Of The Rest: Offense

May 29, 2011 1 comment

Zharkov finally scored the first goal of his NHL career this season. Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will break down the 2010-2011 Devils season. Many of those breakdowns revolved around individual player performances. We broke down all players who skated in at least 40 games, because they contributed to over half the games (and outcomes) this season. In the next few days, we’ll look at “The Best of the Rest,” breaking down other players who skated in less than 40 games. Today, we’ll look at the remaining offensive players.

Throughout the course of a season, teams will count on players to fill in games. The New Jersey Devils were no different. Nine different offensive players skated in less than half of the Devils’ games this season. Some were fourth-liner fill ins, and others were rookies who couldn’t find a consistent spot. One was even a team’s cornerstone who missed significant time due to injury.

We’ll take a look at all of them, in order of games played. And here we go:

Vladimir Zharkov – 38 GP, 4 points (2 G, 2 A)

After playing 40 games last season with New Jersey, Zharkov once again got his opportunity in the NHL this season. He spent most of his time playing on the third and fourth lines. He almost exclusively played during even strength situations, pulling down a minus-0.59 rating. He only helped produce eight goals this season, and the team’s offensive numbers improved with him off the ice. He provided little value, recording a minus-0.2 GVT.

I believe the numbers unnecessarily belittle Vharkov’s effort. We finally saw some offense, as Zharkov managed to score his first two NHL goals. He’ll never be a big scorer, but I believe he’ll hang around as a solid third or fourth line player.

Tim Sestito – 36 GP, 2 Points (2 A)

Sestito helped fill the fourth-line center role early this season. The seven-year pro filled in well, but couldn’t really contribute offensively. He helped produce just three goals, assisting on two of them. The team expectedly played much better offensively with him off the ice. He didn’t really help much defensively either, with the shots against per 60 improving with him on the bench.

Predictably, Sestito didn’t finish with a positive GVT. His minus-1.3 rating ranked him in the bottom three of all players. He could probably be replaced by a rookie next year, and the organization may go that way. His cap hit wasn’t large this season (just $500,000), so he could also be brought back on a low cost, one-year deal.

Jacob Josefson – 28 GP, 10 Points (3 G, 7 A)

Josefson entered the pre-season as one of the most talked about rookies in camp. Everyone knew the organization would closely watch the development of their young Swede. After watching him this season, they can only be excited about his future in a Devils sweater.

Josefson recorded a plus-1.42 rating, fourth-highest among all skaters. He helped create offense (2.08 goals for per 60 on-ice) and prevent it (1.31 goals against per 60 on-ice). Those numbers both worsened when he was on the bench. Surprisingly, the GVT ratings put him at a minus-0.3. It’s not terrible, but it shows an area he must improve.

Josefson earned high praise from Jacques Lemaire, who doesn’t easily praise rookies. Look for him to stay in the lineup next season and keep developing into a solid center.

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The 2010-2011 Player Review: Nick Palmieri

Palmieri, slotted on the top line, meshed well with both Ilya Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac. Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will break down the 2010-2011 Devils season. We’ll cover the big team stories, but also offer a breakdown of individual player performances. In today’s review, we focus on Nick Palmieri.

Heading into the 2010-2011 regular season, Nick Palmieri found himself a mere name among the New Jersey Devils’ prospects. The rookie right-winger, who played in six regular season games during the 2009-10 campaign, found himself buried underneath new rookie faces like Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josefson. Being overlooked wasn’t a surprise, as Palmieri managed just one assist in that brief stint with the Devils. But he totalled 36 points, including 21 goals, with the Lowell Devils. The organization knew the talent was there, and Palmieri rewarded them for their trust.

Palmieri’s presence helped fill a major hole on the team’s first line. After the trade of Jamie Langenbrunner, New Jersey needed a right-winger to move up to the top spot. In came Palmieri, who developed chemistry quickly with Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk. He scored the “dirty goals,” crashing the net and battling for pucks in the corners. He collected 17 points in 43 games, becoming an important piece of the team’s offense. Like rookie counterpart Mark Fayne, Palmieri exceeded expectations last season, helping stabilize the top line and providing solid secondary scoring.

Palmieri At Even Strength

Palmieri helped generate offense on the ice, outproducing several veteran players. After his call-up on December 30, the rookie right-winger averaged 14:19 of ice time. He made the most of his limited opportunities, compiling a plus-0.40 rating. Surprisingly, he finished in the green despite his quality of teammates (minus-0.006) ranking lower than the quality of competition (plus-0.029).

Palmieri was one of the few players to make a positive on-ice impact during even strength. On the ice, New Jersey averaged 2.54 goals for per 60 (25 total) against 1.73 goals against per 60 (17 total). His on-ice plus/minus of plus-0.81 ranked first among skaters with 40-plus games played. Off the ice, all three numbers declined. Goals for per 60 dropped to 2.03, and the goals against per 60 dropped to 1.62. His off-ice plus/minus rating also fell to plus-0.41.

For all his help producing offense, Palmieri didn’t effectively create or defend shots. While on the ice, the team averaged just 22.9 shots for per 60. Opponents were able to put 23.1 shots on net. Off the ice, the offensive shot numbers improved.  New Jersey 24.7 shots for per 60, but still allowed 23.7.

The Corsi ratings exemplify Palmieri’s effectiveness. On the ice, Palmieri collected a plus-3.20 Corsi. It’s not a large number, but it’s impressive nonetheless. Playing with the top line helped improve this number, but he contributed as well. He managed to put 66 shots on net, which isn’t easy considering the talent around him. Off the ice, the rating declined to plus-2.54. The split isn’t huge, but it shows the positive impact Palmieri brought on the ice. He wasn’t a game changer, but he provided some solid play.

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The 2010-2011 Player Review: Mark Fayne

May 26, 2011 1 comment

Fayne played 57 games this season, leading all skaters with a plus-10 rating. Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will break down the 2010-2011 Devils season. We’ll cover the big team stories, but also offer a breakdown of individual player performances. In today’s review, we focus on Mark Fayne.

The New Jersey Devils’ defense entered the preseason under one of the biggest question marks in recent history. The organization watched as Paul Martin, arguably one of their best offensive defenseman, left to sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins. In his place came Anton Volchenkov and Henrik Tallinder, and Andy Greene became the top threat along the blueline. Colin White and Bryce Salvador figured to anchor the defense. But things, of course, never work out as planned.

A spot opened along the blueline after Salvador suffered a concussion in the preseason. Ex-coach John MacLean gave several rookies a look. Matt Taormina took the spot, starting the first 17 games of the season. The injury bug would get him too, opening the door for Mark Fayne.

Nobody had terribly high expectations for the Providence product. The rookie made his NHL debut against the Washington Capitals on November 22, and the experience proved to be “nuts.”

“My first game was kinda nuts playing against Ovechkin,” he said to me in an interview. “I wasn’t matched up against him, but a few times I was out when he was at the end of his shift and I thought ‘Oh my God, that’s Alex Ovechkin.'”

Clearly, the experience of playing in the NHL didn’t overwhelm Fayne. He became the best rookie defenseman, starting 57 games and providing solid minutes. He contributed offensively, played smart defensively and took care of his job on the ice. The rookie exceeded expectations, making him one of the best defenseman this season.

Fayne At Even Strength

Fayne finished among the top three in almost every important even strength category. That means he outproduced players like Dainius Zubrus and David Clarkson in his first season. Fayne averaged 17:50 of ice time, ranked 14th among all rookie skaters. That number was the highest of all the rookies on the Devils this season. His plus-1.02 rating ranked first among skaters with at least 50-games played. He’s the only player to crack a plus-1 rating, and only one of eight to finish positive. He produced those numbers despite facing better quality of competition (plus-0.04) with lesser teammates (minus-0.071).

Despite a down year for several players, Fayne helped provide scoring and played responsible defensively. While on the ice, the team averaged 2.30 goals for per 60 (35 total). That average tied him for second on the team with Travis Zajac. He only allowed opponents 1.77 goals against per 60, tied for lowest on the team with Mattias Tedenby. His on-ice plus/minus of plus-0.52 ranked first on the team and was just one of three plus ratings on the ice.

With Fayne off the ice, the team worsened in every category. Goals for per 60 dropped to 1.73 and goals against per 60 rose to 2.23.  His off-ice plus/minus fell to minus-0.49, almost a full point lower than his on-ice production.

Shot production followed a similar trend. On the ice, Fayne helped the team average 25.5 shots on net. He limited opponents to 22.4 shots against per 60, third best among defenseman with 50-plus games played. Off the ice, both numbers suffered. Shots for per 60 dropped to 23.7, almost a two shot difference. Shots against per 60 rose to 23.8, which is a small yet noticeable difference.

Fayne’s Corsi rating confirms his strong even-strength performance. His on-ice rating of plus-7.7 ranked second among all defenseman, just seven-tenths of a point behind Tallinder. Off the ice, that number dropped to plus-0.6. Fayne exceeded expectations on even-strength play. He helped produce offensive opportunities, limited opponents chances, and became a solid player. Outproducing some of the bigger names on the roster, including Ilya Kovalchuk, shows the potential for him to grow into a top four defenseman.

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