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Hero and Goat of the Devils’ First Half

The New Jersey Devils, as everyone knows, are a mess this season.

Inconsistent play, injuries and terrible defense have contributed to New Jersey’s abysmal 11-29-2 record. There’s little hope in making the playoffs or even finishing with a .500 record. The Devils will most likely secure a lottery pick in the draft, their first high round pick since the 1990s.

Several players have contributed to the disappointing season thus far. Some made positive strides despite the overall team play, while others struggled. Here is The Devils’ Den heroes and goats of the Devils’ first half:

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Let’s start on a positive note, because there haven’t been too many this season. The Devils haven’t had many heroes this season. Several of the players are experiencing career-worst years. But there have been some bright spots on an otherwise dismal team. Here are my nominations for the Devils’ first-half hero:

Patrik Elias is the Devils lone All-Star representative and the "hero" of the first half of the season. Photo Credit: Chris O'Meara/AP Photo

Patrik Elias

Elias has been the Devils’ most consistent forward during the first half of the season. After a sluggish start to the season (four points in 10 games), the Devils’ left-winger picked up the pace. Elias has nine goals and 18 assists in his last 32games. He’s recorded 17 points in his last 19 games.

Elias became the Devils’ de-facto leader during the first half of the season as well. He gave the media honest answers and never held back his opinion about the team’s play. He helped quarterback the powerplay and mentor Mattias Tedenby. His leadership should earn him a shot at the vacant captaincy.

The Devils’ left-winger will be New Jersey’s lone All-Star representative. It’s a well deserved honor for Elias this season.

Honorable Mention: Johan Hedberg

Hedberg, signed to backup Martin Brodeur, played well during the first half of the season. With Brodeur struggling with injury and ineffectiveness, Hedberg stabilized the goalie position for the Devils. What looked like a depth move this summer became an important signing for Lamoriello. His numbers aren’t impressive (5-10-1, 3.04 goals-against average and a .891 save percentage), but that’s due in large part to the team’s overall play. Without Hedberg, the goalie situation would have been dire.

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Now, of course, we must name the goats of the season. You could just throw the Devils’ roster on a wall and throw darts at it to pick. Several players deserve the nod as goat. There have been pretty terrible players, but here is my goat of the first half:

Ilya Kovalchuk

I know it’s not nice to kick a guy when he’s down, but Kovalchuk has been abysmal this season. Gone are his abilities to score or be a productive forward. It seems the hockey gods are brutally punishing the left-winger for all the drama his contract caused this summer. Whether it’s posts hit, missed shots or great saves by the goalie, Kovalchuk can’t buy a goal right now.

What’s even worse is that the guy genuinely cares. It’s not a situation where he’s willing to take his money and continue his garbage play. Kovalchuk wants to score and be the offensive force he should be. But it’s just not happening for the left-winger. He’s only recorded 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists) and is a minus-27 on the season. Not very Kovalchuk-like numbers, and definitely not what the Devils were expecting.

 

Brodeur's numbers aren't very Brodeur-like this season. Photo Credit: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

Honorable Mention: Martin Brodeur

It’s hard to put a future Hall-of-Famer and face of the franchise in the “goat” category, but that’s exactly what Brodeur has been during the first half of the season. Yes, his defense has been terrible. He’s also dealt with injuries. The fact of the matter is that his rebound control and glove are both subpar. For the first time in his career, Brodeur looks average. This may be a blip in the radar, or it may be a sign of his decline. Either way, his stats (7-18-1, 3.01 GAA and a .890% save percentage) aren’t Brodeur-like.

Honorable Mention #2: Henrik Tallinder

Most analysts skip Tallinder when discussing the most disappointing Devils players. Most fans will (and do) point out their error. Tallinder currently carries a minus-22 and has yet to fulfill his potential this season. He was expected to be a solid defenseman who would mentor the Devils’ young Swedish players. While we won’t see his mentoring possibilities, we’ve all seen his terrible play on the ice. He’s been beat in his own zone, failed to clear pucks and hasn’t provided any offense. He could improve, as I expect several players too, but he hasn’t nearly played to the level expected from him.

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When a team struggles this much, it’s hard to find the positives. All players, in some way, will suffer because the team isn’t doing well. There are several goats and few heroes, but the players I mentioned above are who I think deserves the award. During the second half of the season, the Devils can only hope those goats play better and the heroes continue to shine.

For a preview and updates of tonight’s game against the Florida Panthers, visit SB Nation New York.

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