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A Look Back: The Kovalchuk Trade

February 8, 2011 Leave a comment

 

Ilya Kovalchuk hasn't been the offensive force the Devils expected, but he's picked up his play during the second half of this season. Photo Credit: Graham Hughes/AP Photo - The Canadian Press

As the trade deadline approaches, The Devils’ Den will look at previous important trades the New Jersey Devils made around the deadline. This feature will run throughout the month of February.

Last season, New Jersey Devils general manager pulled off one of the biggest blockbuster trades in franchise’s history.

Lacking scoring and turning in inconsistent efforts, Lamoriello shook up his roster. In a trade with the Atlanta Thrashers, the Devils’ general manager brought in Ilya Kovalchuk, giving the Devils a huge offensive weapon for the stretch run. In return, he traded away struggling forward Niclas Bergfors and underachieving defenseman Johnny Oduya. Other picks and players were traded as well.

The move was a bold statement from a team not known for making big moves. And while it ultimately made little difference – the team once again lost in the first round in the playoffs – it became one of the iconic trades for the franchise.

Who knew the deal would continue to reverberate today. Kovalchuk was, for all intents and purposes, a rental last season. His contract ran out after the playoff loss and immediately created speculation. Would New Jersey attempt to re-sign the left winger? Were the Los Angeles Kings really interested? And how much would it take to land Kovalchuk?

We all know what happened from there. “The Kovalchuk Saga” consumed the entire summer, dragging the Devils through the mud time after time. Every Devils’ fan became educated in arbitration hearings, and everyone thoroughly dissected the term “circumventing the cap.” The drama ended in September, with Kovalchuk signed and amendments made to the collective bargaining agreement.

So far, the deadline deal has been a push. Kovalchuk didn’t really impact the Devils offense last season, and this season he’s been inconsistent at best. He’s only in the first year of a new 15-year contract, so this end of the deal won’t be settled for quite some time. It doesn’t seem like Atlanta received a better end of the deal either. Oduya hasn’t done much (24 points in 83 games), and Bergfors continues to bounce in and out of the lineup. Patrice Cormier could become a great player, but he has yet to make an impact.

The Kovalchuk trade surprised several people, and was a bold step for this reserved franchise. The true impact won’t be felt for years, but it was one of the biggest surprises last season.

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For full coverage of tonight’s Carolina Hurricanes – New Jersey Devils game, make sure to check out SB Nation New York.

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Game 12 Preview: Dethrone The Kings

October 30, 2010 Leave a comment

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (3-7-1) face off against the Los Angeles Kings (7-3-0) tonight at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. This is the first and only meeting between the two teams this season.

Martin Brodeur and the Devils face the Kings tonight at the Staples Center. Photo Credit: William Perlman/The Star-Ledger

The Last Devils Game: The Devils defeated the Anaheim Ducks, 2-1, last night in Anaheim. The Devils, unable to capitalize on four first period power plays, fell behind 1-0 in the second period. With Jamie Langenbrunner in the box for hooking, Jason Blake attempted to stuff a puck past Martin Brodeur. The Devils goalie stopped Blake’s first attempt, but the left-winger put the rebound home for his second goal of the season.

The Devils would tie the game at 10:39 of the period. Langenbrunner came from behind the net and put a shot on Jonas Hiller from the goal line. The puck caromed off the goalie’s left pad and through his legs for Langenbrunner’s first goal of the season. Patrik Elias scored the game-winning goal at 1:54 of the period. Alexander Vasyunov and Elias broke into the Ducks’ zone, and Elias one-timed a pass from the rookie over the glove of Hiller for his second goal of the season.

The Last Kings Game: The Kings defeated the Dallas Stars, 5-2, on Thursday night. Tied 1-1 after the second period, the Kings scored three straight goals to put them ahead, 4-1. Wayne SimmondsJack Johnson and Willie Mitchell each recorded two points for L.A.·

The Last Devils – Kings Game: The Kings defeated the Devils, 3-2, January 31 at the Prudential Center. Johnny Oduya scored the first goal of the game, lighting the lamp at 4:45 of the first period to put the Devils ahead, 1-0. Travis Zajac scored at 5:56 of the second period to extend the Devils lead to 2-0, but the Kings wouldn’t go quietly into the night.

Michal Handzus cut the lead in half with his goal at 19:31 of the second period. Simmonds pulled the Kings even at 18:19 of the third period. With under a minute left, and Andy Greene in the box for tripping, Drew Doughty fired home a point shot for the game-winning powerplay goal.

For a complete look at the Devils’ complete numbers against the Kings, check out this season preview post.

For the rest of the preview, read after the jump!

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Devils 2010-2011 Schedule Preview – Detroit Red Wings

September 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will preview the Devils 2010-2011 schedule, giving you an in-depth preview of the 29 other teams the Devils will face next season. We’ve already completed several previews, all of which can be found under the “Season Preview” tab. In today’s preview, we stay in the Western Conference, taking a look at this season’s matchup with the Detroit Red Wings.

Rob Niedermayer scored to put the Devils ahead of the Red Wings, 3-1, in their matchup last season. New Jersey defeated Detroit, 4-3, in a shootout. Photo Credit: Devils.NHL.com

Red Wings vs. Devils – Historical Data

In 84 all-time regular season meetings against Detroit, the Devils are 35-37-11-1. The Devils average 3.27 goals against the Red Wings, but they allow Detroit to average 3.36 goals against them. The matchup also has some playoff history, as the Devils swept the Red Wings, 4-0, in 1995 to win their first Stanley Cup. Last season, the teams played each other once, with the Devils defeating the Red Wings in a shootout, 4-3.

Jamie Langenbrunner scored the game’s first goal, giving the Devils a lead, 1-0, at 15:29 of the first period. Johnny Oduya extended the lead, netting an extra-strength goal at 17:25 of the period. Kris Draper cut the lead in half, scoring at 9:23 of the second period to put the Red Wings on the board, 2-1. Rob Niedermayer put the lead back at two at 14:43 of the period, putting the Devils ahead, 3-1. Tomas Holmstrom cut the Devils lead to one, tallying on the powerplay at 19:30 of the period to bring the Red Wings to within one, 3-2.

The Red Wings would complete the comeback, with Patrick Eaves tying the game, 3-3, at 9:30 of the third period. The teams would stay scoreless throughout the third period and into overtime. The Devils elected to shoot second in the shootout, and Pavel Datsyuk scored on the Red Wings first attempt. Zach Parise answered back, putting one past Chris Osgood to knot up the shootout, 1-1. Both teams remained scoreless until the fourth round, when Patrik Elias scored the game-winning goal in the shootout.

Devils vs. Red Wings – This Season’s Matchup

The Devils and Red Wings will face off twice this season, with each team playing the other at home. The Red Wings signed one of the bigger free agents this season, inking veteran Mike Modano to a one-year contract. The team kept several of its own players, opting to resign Nicklas Lidstrom and Eaves, to name a few.  The team also saw Chris Chelios retire and join the front office.

The Red Wings are an aging group of stars, but they consistently put together a solid team each and every season. There’s a reason why the Red Wings have made the playoffs 19 seasons in a row. Detroit is always difficult to play, and I wouldn’t expect anything less this season.

Stat Pack

In 16 career starts against the Red Wings, Martin Brodeur is only 8-7-1 (tie) with a 2.11 goals against average and a .918 save percentage…Ex-Devil Brian Rafalski has only played one game against his former team, recording one assist.

Devils 2010-2011 Schedule Preview – Los Angeles Kings

September 2, 2010 1 comment

Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will preview the Devils 2010-2011 schedule, giving you an in-depth preview of the 29 other teams the Devils will face next season. Last season, the Devils took first place in the Atlantic Division and second in the Eastern Conference. This season, the team will look to improve on their abysmal playoff performance, which saw them bow out in the first round at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers. In today’s second preview, we take a look at this season’s matchup with the Los Angeles Kings.

Martin Brodeur makes a save against the Kings on January 31, 2010. The Devils, who lead 2-0 in the second period, would lose the game, 3-2. Photo Credit: William Perlman/The Star-Ledger

Kings vs. Devils – Historical Data

In 90 all-time regular season meetings, the Devils are 29-48-11-2 against the Kings. The Devils average 3.20 goals against the Kings, but allow the Kings to score 4.02 goals per game, most to any team New Jersey has faced. Both teams faced off on January 31 last season, with the Kings winning the game, 3-2.

Johnny Oduya scored the first goal of the game, lighting the lamp at 4:45 of the first period to put the Devils ahead, 1-0. Travis Zajac scored at 5:56 of the second period to extend the Devils lead to 2-0, but the Kings wouldn’t go quietly into the night.

Michal Handzus cut the lead in half with his goal at 19:31 of the second period. Wayne Simmonds pulled the Kings even at 18:19 of the third period. With under a minute left, and Andy Greene in the box for tripping, Drew Doughty fired home a point shot for the game-winning powerplay goal.

Devils vs. Kings – This Season’s Matchup

The Kings and Devils will square off once this season, on October 30 in Los Angeles. That game comes in the middle of a four-game road trip for the Devils, which features matchups against the Anaheim Ducks, Vancouver Canuks and Chicago Blackhawks.

The Kings and Devils have already been linked during the offseason. Los Angeles became a serious player for Ilya Kovalchuk, offering the left-winger a 15-year, $80 million contract before he signed with the Devils. Sadly, that was one of the highlights of the Kings’ off-season. The team made minor upgrades, signing Alexei Ponikarovsky and Willie Mitchell. The team also saw Alexander Frolov leave via free agency. Despite the lack of a big name signing, the Kings still reached the playoffs for the first time since 2002, and recorded 101 points, the third time in team history they cracked the century mark. The Kings are a talented group, and they shouldn’t be taken lightly at any point throughout the season.

Other Important Stats

In 14 career regular season appearances against the Kings, Martin Brodeur 8-5-0-1 with a 2.05 goals against average and .921 save percentage…In eight career games against the Kings, Kovalchuk has tallied 12 points (six goals, six assists). Now we know why the Kings wanted him…In 28 career games against the Devils, Handzus has 13 points (four goals, nine assists) and a +2 rating.

2009 – 2010 Season Recap: Kovalchuk Becomes A Devil

May 9, 2010 2 comments

Near the end of 2009, the Devils began to struggle. The team turned in lackluster performances, and several key players began to slump. That continued in 2010, and general manager Lou Lamoriello saw a need to make a big move and shake up the clubhouse.

Meanwhile, in Atlanta, Ilya Kovalchuk turned down a reported 12 year, $101 million dollar contract extension to stay with the Thrashers. He was officially available for trade, and the Devils became a dark-horse candidate to land the talented left-winger.

It seemed to be the perfect storm. Then, on February 4, Lamoriello pulled off the biggest trade since Alexander Mogilny. The team acquired Kovalchuk for struggling defenseman Johnny Oduya, rookie forward Niclas Bergfors, prospect Patrice Cormier and a first round pick in this year’s draft. The teams also exchanged second round picks. Just like that, the Devils seemed to rocket up the predictions board, and analysts handed them the trophy in February. I even praised the deal, believing he would help them surpass the Caps and Pens. And, in the end, Kovalchuk became a solid deadline acquisition.

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun/AP Photo

When Lamoriello completed the trade for Kovalchuk, he brought in what the team needed – a deadly scorer who could quarterback the powerplay. Zach Parise was clearly the offensive leader of this team. But Kovalchuk could fill the powerplay void. And Jacques Lemaire tried to fill that void immediately. Kovalchuk spent most of his 31 games playing one of the points with the man advantage, usually staying on the ice for the entire length of the advantage. But his presence didn’t vastly improve the powerplay. In 121 opportunities after the Kovalchuk trade, the team scored 20 goals, clicking at 16.53%. That percentage isn’t terrible, and the team also didn’t play up to expectations during that time. But the fact remains that Kovalchuk didn’t vastly improve the powerplay. He only collected 12 powerplay points through his 31 games in a Devils’ sweater. While he made the powerplay more dangerous, the team couldn’t capitalize on his scoring abilities.

Even though Kovalchuk couldn’t help on the powerplay, he did seem to mesh well with some of players on the team. By using Corsi statistics, we can measure the impact Kovalchuk had on his teammates. The guys over at In Lou We Trust completed this analysis for Kovalchuk, showing he meshed well with certain players. One of these forwards was Jamie Langenbrunner. The numbers show that Langenbrunner performed better with Kovalchuk on the ice. He also played well with Andy Greene. And he seemed to play better with Patrik Elias than Travis Zajac. Although the ZZ Pops line has been effective, these numbers seem to justify Lemaire’s decision to put together Kovalchuk, Elias and Langenbrunner during the playoffs.

While Kovalchuk struggled after the trade, the left-winger showed something many other Devils’ wingers couldn’t do – create his own opportunities. It always seemed that Kovalchuk could flash his offensive prowess by crossing up defenders and finding the open ice. While this sometimes led to turnovers, it made the defense concentrate on Kovalchuk, opening up the ice for his linemates. This style of play also seemed to work well with Elias. They had several nice plays throughout the season. It seemed to be a nice match, and one that could continue to grow if Kovalchuk re-signed.

Which brings me to the biggest question of last season: Would Kovalchuk be a rental, or could the Devils somehow find a way to sign him? Read after the jump to find out the answer to the question!

Read more…

2009-2010 Season Recap: Devils Finish First In Atlantic, Continue Impressive Playoff Streak

April 29, 2010 1 comment

In a first of many posts, I’ll recap the 2009-2010 Devils’ season. I’ll cover everything; the good, the bad and the ugly. Took kick off the series, I’ll look at the season achievements of the Devils.

Coming into the 2009-2010 season, the Devils had several questions throughout their lineup. Would an infusion of young talent pan out? Would Jacques Lemaire bring the team success? How would Martin Brodeur respond after missing significant time with a torn bicep injury last season? And, finally, could the Devils make a deep playoff run? The team would answer all of these questions, with some encouraging and disappointing answers.

The Devils opened the season losing two games, and the team looked disorganized and not prepared. But after those losses, the Devils took off. They corrected several problems, and finished the 2009 calendar year sitting 28-10-1. That record included a 9-2-1 record in November and an 11-4 month in December. The team played solid on all fronts, finishing 2009 with 2.77 goals per game (11th in the league) while averaging 29.8 shots on goal (tied for 15th). The powerplay stepped up, converting on 20.8% of their chances (tied for ninth). The defense took care of their end, only allowing 27.7 shots per game (tied for third), allowing 2.18 goals per game (second in the league) and killing 82.6% of penalties taken.

New Jersey Devils' Martin Brodeur makes a glove save against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh Monday, Dec. 21, 2009. Brodeur went onto shutout the Penguins for his 104th career shutout, breaking Terry Sawchuk's record. Photo Credit: Gene J. Puskar/ AP Photo

Some individual players also found success early in the season. Brodeur, coming off a serious injury in 2008, played a solid first three months of the season. He made history on December 21 when he shut out the Penguins, 4-0, at the Igloo. That shutout, number 104 of Brodeur’s career, broke a tie with Terry Sawchuk for the most career shutouts. It became another great milestone in Brodeur’s path to an eventual Hall of Fame induction. Zach Parise finished with 17 goals, 25 assists and 42 points, and those numbers came after the left-winger went through a dry spell in December. But it wasn’t all roses for the Devils.

The Devils never played with a healthy roster during the first three months. Patrik Elias missed time recovering from a groin injury early in the season. Paul Martin and Jay Pandolfo joined the injury list after a game against Pittsburgh October 24. Johnny Oduya joined that list later in the month after a game in Boston, leaving with a lower-body injury. All three of the players would go on to miss the entire month of November. Dainius Zubrus, Rob Niedermayer and David Clarkson joined that list in November, and Bryce Salvador missed time in December. Some of the players returned before the end of the year, but the Devils still had to plug holes with young players while dealing with these injures.

But the Devils couldn’t sustain their early season success in 2010. Read after the jump for the rest of the recap, including the Devils’ second half of the season.

Read more…

Game 79: Brodeur Wins 600 As Devils Down Thrashers, 3-0

It seems that every game brings another milestone for New Jersey Devils’ goalie Martin Brodeur.

Tonight was no different.

Brodeur won his 600th game, stopping 19 shots to blank the Atlanta Thrashers, 3-0.

Atlanta Thrashers defenseman Tobias Enstrom goes to the ice as he fights for the puck with David Clarkson during tonight's game. Photo Credit: Gregory Smith/AP Photo

Brodeur’s shutout was the ninth of the season and 110th of his career. It was the goalie’s second consecutive shutout. The team defeated the Carolina Hurricanes, 4-0, Saturday night.

“I knew I had a chance to hit it [600 wins], but the big one was 552 and now everything is gravy, just kind of raise the bar for everybody else,” Brodeur said. “I play a lot of games, so they expect you to win if you want to do well here in New Jersey.”

Dean McAmmond opened the scoring at 15:18 of the first period. McAmmond worked a give and go with Dainius Zubrus, dropping a pass in the right circle and heading toward the net. Zubrus put a backhanded shot on net, and McAmmond tipped it past goalie Johan Hedberg for his seventh goal of the season.

Zach Parise upped the Devils lead to two 51 seconds into the second period. Defenseman Paul Martin fired a shot on net from the point. Parise, stationed at the front of the net, tipped the shot past Hedberg’s glove for his 37th goal of the year.

Travis Zajac increased the lead to three 10 seconds into the period. Zajac won the opening faceoff and sent the puck to Martin Skoula. Skoula’s pass sent Zajac into the Thrasher’s zone on a 2-on-1 with Parise. Zajac took a shot that beat Hedberg through the pads for his 24th goal of the season.

Tonight’s game also marked the first time Ilya Kovalchuk visited Phillips Arena since his trade to the Devils. Kovalchuk and defenseman Anssi Salmela were sent to the Devils for Niclas Bergfors, Johnny Oduya and prospect Patrice Cormier. After the trade, Thrasher’s general manager Don Waddell revealed Kovalchuk declined offers of 12 years, $101 million and seven years, $70 million.

Fans held signs saying “You lie!” and “Kovalbum”. The left-winger was booed on his first shift, and the fans booed him every time he touched the puck.

“It was funny with all the signs,” Brodeur said. “I said to him, ‘People either like you or hate you here.’ He had some, ‘I love you’ and some ‘I hate you.’ I was laughing bit.”

Devils coach Jacques Lemaire could tell Kovalchuk was nervous.

“He was a little nervous. I could sense that,” Lemaire said of Kovalchuk. “That’s why I didn’t start him. It would not have been good for him.”

“Half the fans were booing, half were cheering,” Kovalchuk said. “That’s nice. It happens all the time.”

Kovalchuk failed to record a shot on goal and was held off the scoresheet in the victory.

With the win, the Devils clinched home-ice advantage in the first round. With Pittsburgh’s 6-3 loss to Washington, New Jersey moved into sole possession of the second seed in the Eastern Conference and first in the Atlantic Division.

Atlanta’s loss put an end to their fading playoff hopes. The 10-year old franchise has missed the playoffs nine times.

Game Notes:

Three of McAmmond’s seven goals this season have come against the Atlanta Thrashers…Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond picked up an assist on the first goal. It was only his second point in 25 games this season…Devils’ defenseman Mike Mottau missed the game to rest. Rookie defenseman Mark Fraser played in his place.