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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
As everyone out there recovers from a weekend of parties, food and college football, I’d like to take the time to say thank you to everyone who read this blog. What started as a hobby exploded into something much more, as the site gained 10,000 views this year alone. Whether you’ve read The Devils’ Den once or a hundred times, it’s been a great experience. Thank you all for continuing to support the site.
In the coming year there will be changes to the site’s design, content, etc. I hope to keep this growing and keep improving throughout the year. If you have any suggestions, you can send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are the top five posts from the past year:
After the New Jersey Devils signed Ilya Kovalchuk, I explored the real cost – including fines, draft picks and players – that Kovalchuk cost the Devils.
Before Burns passed away last year, there were false reports of his death throughout Canadian television. The ex-Devils coach fired back, giving TSN’s Bob McKenzie a profanity-laced response to the report.
These series of schedule preview posts, done during the off-season, were a favorite for many readers. This one in particular looked to the Devils matchup with the Canadiens this season. So far, Carey Price has exceeded my expectations.
This post discussed the proposed changes to the NHL Network and my belief that it was a positive transition. So far, many of the changes haven’t taken place. But they’ll be things to look forward to in the coming year.
In this post, I took a look at the importance of the Devils’ position in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Ah, the good ol’ days.
Once again, thank you for reading and supporting The Devils’ Den!
To all the readers of The Devils’ Den:
First, thanks for taking the time to read the blog. I do appreciate it, and any participation has been great. I wanted to let all of you know of a change in the game previews and game recaps for the site. I was recently offered a position with SB Nation New York to write for their site (for the Devils, of course), so I jumped at that opportunity. From here on out, I’ll be doing the game previews and recaps on their site. So make sure you visit newyork.sbnation.com for all the previews and recaps.
Anyway, here’s tonight’s preview: http://sbn.to/fk5PNp
The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-3, in tonight’s game six of the Stanley Cup finals to win their first Cup in 49 years.
Patrick Kane netted the winning goal at 4:10 of the overtime period. Kane skated the puck down the side boards and released a shot from the goal line. The puck snuck through the pads of Flyers’ goalie Michael Leighton and into the side of the net.
There was some confusion on whether or not the goal counted, but eventually replays confirmed the goal.
Jonathan Toews, captain of the Blackhawks, received the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP. Toews finished with 29 points, which ranked second among all skaters this postseason. Ex-Devil John Madden won his third Stanley Cup ring.
The N.H.L. released the schedule for the Eastern Conference quarterfinals series between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New Jersey Devils. The schedule is as follows:
Game 1: Wednesday, April 14 at the Prudential Center – 7:30 p.m.
Game 2: Friday, April 16 at the Prudential Center – 7:30 p.m.
Game 3: Sunday, April 18 at the Wachovia Center – 6 p.m.
Game 4: Tuesday, April 20 at the Wachovia Center – 7:30 p.m.
Game 5: Thursday, April 22 at the Prudential Center – 7 p.m. (if necessary)
Game 6: Sunday, April 25 at the Wachovia Center – TBD (if necessary)
Game 7: Tuesday, April 27 at the Prudential Center – 7:30 p.m. (if necessary)
The T.V. and radio broadcast schedules have yet to be announced.
Keep checking The Devils’ Den for a complete look at the series. Here’s a rough schedule of what you can expect in the next few days:
1. A Look Back – The 1995 Eastern Conference Finals
2. Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Preview: Devils forwards vs. Flyers forwards
1. A Look Back – The 2000 Eastern Conference Finals
2.Eastern Conference quarterfinals preview: Devils defense vs. Flyers defense
1. A Look Back – The 2004 Eastern Conference quarterfinals
2. Eastern Conference quarterfinals preview: Martin Brodeur vs. Brian Boucher
3. Game 1 Preview
4. Game 1 Live Game Blog
5. Game 1 Recap
Make sure you continue to check The Devils’ Den for all of your Devils’ playoff information!
The blog has been down for the past week because I’ve been out of the country. Tomorrow, the blog will pick up again. So please check out The Devils’ Den for all of your Devils’ news!
Marc Pouliot’s goal at 8:28 increased the Oilers lead to two goals in the third period of their game at Rexall Place.
Sam Gagner began the play in the neutral zone, taking the loose puck and passing it ahead to Robert Nilsson. Nillson deked around Devils’ defenseman Colin White and drove to the slot. As he fell to the ice, he passed to an open Pouliot in the slot. Pouliot sent the puck to the top of the net for the goal.
That goal came right after a Kovalchuk breakaway. Kovalchuk split two defenders in the neutral zone, grabbing a loose puck and moving in alone on Deslauriers. Kovalchuk attempted to put a wrist shot through Deslauriers’ legs, but the Oilers goalie closed his pads and made the save.
Soon after the second goal, Devils’ enforcer Andrew Peters tried to begin a fight with Ryan Whitney. Both went off for roughing penalties, but Peters earned a game misconduct for continuing to talk to the officials and Whitney.
At the 15 minute mark of the third period, the Devils still don’t have a shot on net. Edmonton has put four on Brodeur.
The Devils had their best opportunity of the third period at the 14 minute mark. Edmonton goalie Jeff Deslauriers stopped an initial shot, but the rebound came to the front. Several players crashed the net, but Gilbert seemed to protect the puck from the oncoming Devils. He slid the puck to Deslauriers to freeze the puck.
Gilbert should have been called for a penalty for closing his hand around the puck in the crease.
Gilbert Brule scored 1:23 into the second period to put the Oilers ahead, 1-0.
Brodeur came behind the net to play the puck. It took a bad hop off the boards and came to Andrew Cogliano. Cogliano put the puck past Anssi Salmela on the side boards, and it rolled to Patrick O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan sent a quick pass to Brule in front, and the forward one-timed the puck past Brodeur for his 14th goal of the season.
All you have to do is look at the quality of shots, and it’s understandable why the Devils are down 1-0. It seems like every forward is trying to take on the entire defense or forcing passes to the slot. The Oilers, on the other hand, are working the puck and getting high-quality scoring chances, usually from the low areas of the points to the slot.
Brodeur had to make another spectacular save with 25 seconds left in the period. Bryce Salvador passed the puck to the front of the net, where O’Sullivan intercepted it. O’Sullivan tried a spin-o-rama shot, but Brodeur stacked the pads and made the save.
The Oilers outshot the Devils, 16-9, in the period. They lead the overall shot total, 19-15.
Lemaire changed the lines here in the second period. Kovalchuk skated on the top line, and Langenbrunner shifted down to the second line. Lemaire restored the lines at 3:54 of the period.
The Devils had a great penalty-kill during a Dainius Zubrus slashing penalty. The Devils didn’t allow the Oilers to set up their powerplay, possessing the puck and pressuring the Oilers defense. They tallied three shorthanded shots, and it’s seemed to bring the Devils to life a bit in the period.
Dean McAmmond went to the locker room after a hit from Stortini at 6:30 of the second period. Stortini put McAmmond into the bench area, and McAmmond hit the boards with the side of his body. He immediately came off the ice and went to the tunnel.
Soon after the goal, Zach Parise took a holding penalty 2:09 into the second period. The Devils’ forwards seem to be getting frustrated with their play thus far.
Brodeur made a great pad save on a re-directed shot by Tom Gilbert. Gilbert directed a shot from the point on Brodeur, and he had to quickly put out the right pad to make the save.
The Oilers have had the better play so far in the second period. They’ve continually pressured the Devils on the forecheck, and they haven’t let the forwards or defenseman get quality scoring chances.
The Devils held the edge in shots, 6-3. The advantage, however, isn’t an accurate indicator of period. Most of the first period was played in the neutral zone and on the Devils side of the ice. They need to come out in the second period more aggressive and take control of the period.
Although the Oilers have only recorded two shots, Brodeur has been busy in his own zone. Most of the play has been in the Devils zone thus far, and he’s had to be sharp.
The Devils 12th ranked powerplay (18.8% prior to the game) couldn’t do much with their first chance of the night. With Zach Stortini in the box for roughing, the Devils couldn’t generate a shot on net.
Interesting decision by Jacques Lemaire tonight for his starters. Lemaire is sending out the Ilya Kovalchuk – Dainius Zubrus – Patrik Elias line to start the game instead of the top line of Zach Parise – Travis Zajac – Jamie Langenbrunner.
Defenseman Martin Skoula will make his debut for the Devils tonight. He replaces Mark Fraser in the lineup. Andrew Peters gets the start over Jay Pandolfo. Rod Pelley and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond (upper body injury) also will not play.
Martin Brodeur gets the start in net for the Devils. Jeff Deslauriers will start for the Oilers.