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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 2011-12 Schedule Preview: Carolina Hurricanes

August 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Mattias Tedenby played hero on the February 8 matchup, scoring two goals en route to a 3-2 overtime win over the Carolina Hurricanes. 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 Carolina Hurricanes.

The mention of the Carolina Hurricanes still paints a painful picture in the minds of every New Jersey Devils’ fan. Just two short years ago, the Carolina scored two goals in 80 seconds to knock New Jersey out of the playoffs. Since then, New Jersey hasn’t found success in the playoffs. Their meetings, however, are definitely more heated.

The ‘Canes came up just short of the playoffs last season, missing out by one point. The Devils helped hold them back, winning three of four against them. Carolina lost one of the faces of their franchise, but has another upcoming. Always a playoff contender, the Devils will once again face a tough test against their southern rivals.

The History Behind The Matchup

In 113 meetings, New Jersey is 58-41-2 with 12 ties against Carolina. They’ve averaged 3.19 goals for during the head-to-head matchup (360 total) and only allow 2.96 goals against per meeting (335 total). They’re the only opponent that’s played over 100 games against the Devils and averaged less than three goals per game.

The Devils and Canes squared off four times last season, all between January and February. Carolina took the first meeting, 6-3, on New Year’s Day in Raleigh. Tuomo Ruutu opened the scoring, finding the back of the net on the powerplay just 1:48 into the first period. Jeff Skinner made it 2-0 at 4:28 of the opening frame, and Sergei Samsonov stretched the lead to three with a powerplay tally at the eight minute mark. The goal chased Martin Brodeur, who recorded just four saves. The two teams traded scores later in the period, and Carolina entered the break ahead 4-1.

The scoring wouldn’t end there. Travis Zajac scored 49 seconds into the second period, closing the gap to 4-2. Samsonov would score another powerplay goal, this one at 8:42 of the middle frame, to put the lead back to three. The teams traded goals again in the third, ending the game in a Hurricanes win. Ruutu added insult to injury, recording four points in just that game.

The Devils evened the season series, winning 3-2 in overtime on February 8 at the Prudential Center. Skinner opened the scoring in the second period, converting on a powerplay at 9:22 for a 1-0 lead. It was a short-lived lead. Mattias Tedenby tied the game, 1-1, at 11:31 of the middle frame. Skinner put his team ahead, 2-1, on yet another powerplay goal, this at 8:37 of the third period. Another Devils rookie, Nick Palmieri, tied the game at two at 17:06 of the final frame. It would be a rookie playing hero in overtime for the win:

Johan Hedberg stopped 20 shots for the win. Cam Ward stopped 31 shots in the loss.

Just eight days later, the two teams squared off again at the Prudential Center. The Devils skated away with another 3-2 win. Ilya Kovalchuk broke a scoreless tie at 5:41 of the second period. They extended their lead quickly in the third period, with Brian Rolston and Patrik Elias scoring in the opening two minutes to push the lead to 3-0. Carolina mounted a comeback, with Samsonov ending Hedberg’s shutout at 8:17 of the final period. Ruutu scored at 19:55 to pull the teams within one. That’s as close as they would get. Hedberg stopped 25 shots in the win, and Ward stopped 19 in the loss.

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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: 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: Mattias Tedenby

Tedenby's moves made more than a few goalies look silly this season. Carey Price was one of his late season victims. Photo Credit: Paul Bereswill/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 Mattias Tedenby.

For the past few seasons, many New Jersey Devils fans heard about a short right-winger with unlimited scoring potential. Mattias Tedenby, known to many as one of the two great Swedes in the organization, finally got his chance with the Devils this season. In his first full season, we saw the Devils’ future on full display.

Tedenby immediately showed off his offensive potential, scoring a goal in only his second career game. He continued his strong play, converting his first career penalty shot against Braden Holtby and the Capitals on November 22. It continued throughout the month, with him collecting six points in November. John MacLean put him on the second line, where he drew rave reviews from Jason Arnott and Patrik Elias. But it wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine for the young Swede.

When Jacques Lemaire took over the team, Tedenby couldn’t crack the lineup. Already struggling to score, Lemaire decided to scratch him for six straight games. The right-winger needed to improve his play, including his defense, to crack the lineup. When he finally returned, on January 17 against the New York Islanders, he made his presence felt, scoring the game-winning goal.

It was a rollercoaster season for Tedenby. At times he flashed his offensive potential, but he seemed to disappear at times. He couldn’t consistently produce offense, and he rotated between the third and fourth lines. It was only his first year playing hockey in North America, so to expect him to produce like Jeff Skinner would be irrational. All in all, it was a solid debut for the Devils’ rookie.

Tedenby At Even Strength

Playing on the bottom two lines for most of the season didn’t get Tedenby much ice time. He only averaged 12:32 minutes per game, the lowest among rookies with at least 40 games played. Despite not playing much, he managed to produce 1.38 points per 60 and record a plus-0.87 rating. It helped that his quality of teammates (plus-0.069) were better than the quality of his competition (minus-0.032).

While at even strength, Tedenby became a solid offensive weapon. The Devils averaged 2.07 goals for per 60 (21 total), third among rookie skaters with at least 40 games played. He posted that number despite playing on the third and fourth lines, a testament to that offensive potential. Off the ice, the goals for per 60 dropped to 1.76. Shots for per 60 followed a similar pattern. With Tedenby on the ice, New Jersey averaged 27.1 shots per 60. Off the ice, that number dropped to 24.7.

Tedenby’s defensive improvements, coupled with his position in the lineup, helped him finish with positive even strength defensive numbers. While on the ice, teams averaged 1.77 goals against per 60 and 24.5 shots against per 60. The goal numbers rose with him off the ice. Goals against per 60 climbed to 2.34, giving Tedenby a negative off-ice plus/minus rating of minus-0.58. The shot numbers dipped slightly to 22.8 per 60.

A look at the Corsi numbers further prove Tedenby’s solid play. Tedenby’s 5.81 rating put him among the top ten of skaters with 50 or more games played.  That rating dropped to 3.91 with him off the ice. Tedenby helped his team produce offense, creating almost two more shots per shift while spending less than 13 minutes a game on the ice. It’s exciting to see him produce in limited minutes. Hopefully that production will continue to rise when he gains a more important role on the ice.

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The 2010-2011 Player Review: Travis Zajac

Travis Zajac, playing without constant linemate Zach Parise, set a career low in goals this season with 13. 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 Travis Zajac.

Travis Zajac entered this season looking to continue last year’s breakout performance. During the 2009-2010 season, Zajac recorded a career high with 67 points. He played in all 82 games, and stood on the precipice of breaking Ken Daneyko’s consecutive-games streak. He entered the season the anchor of a top line with Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise on his wings. I held pretty high expectations, believing the line could reach 150 or even 200 combined points.

That bright picture turned bleak pretty quickly. Zajac never got started offensively, ending the season with just 44 points. His 13 goals were the lowest of his career, and he took recorded just two powerplay points. He did break Daneyko’s record, a commendable feat considering the daily grind of a hockey season. Despite his lack of offense, Zajac continued his solid play this season. His offense fell way below expected levels, but the team could still count on him game after game.

Zajac At Even Strength

Zajac played in all 82 games this season, one of only two forwards to skate in every game. His time on ice per 60 sat at 14.62, tops among forwards. His plus-0.36 rating belies his point production, where he finished second with an average of 1.55 points per game. Despite playing on the first line, Behind the Net ranks Zajac’s quality of teammates at a minus-0.006. It’s a slim negative rating, and with the ratings so low for his teammates, it belies the skill the line possessed. He also faced tougher competition, with opponents holding a plus-0.014 quality of competition rating.

Zajac surprisingly turned in a solid even strength performance this season. That’s not an indictment of his skill, but rather a surprise because of the team’s abysmal start. He helped New Jersey average 2.30 goals for per 60 while on the ice (46 total), a number that dropped to 1.69 with him off. Teams averaged 2.45 goals against per 60 with him on (49 total), a number that also dropped to 2.19 with him off the ice.

Shots for/against per 60 followed the same pattern. Zajac helped generate chances, with the Devils averaging 27.1 shots for per 60 with him on the ice. Off the ice, it dropped to 25.7. He played effectively in his own end, allowing just 23.9 shots against per 60. That number dropped a miniscule 0.6 to 23.3 with him off the ice.

It’s also important to note the zone starts and how Zajac fared in the faceoff dot. Since he was the top-line center, Zajac took the bulk of the faceoffs for Jacques Lemaire. He usually started in the offensive zone, beginning 56.6 percent of his shifts in the opponents end. He also ended 52.4 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone. That’s very solid and exactly what you’d expect to see from your first line center. Zajac was on the ice for 185 offensive zone faceoff wins and 171 losses, not all of which he participated. He also finished ahead in neutral zone faceoffs, with a 232 wins 195 losses. He struggled in the defensive zone, finishing with just 134 wins and 139 losses.

Finally, we turn to the Corsi numbers. On the ice, Zajac recorded a plus-6.76 rating, which isn’t surprising considering his spot in the lineup. That only underscores his solid play throughout all three zones. Off the ice, the number drops to plus-3.02. Zajac remained a solid constant the entire season for the Devils, remaining an important part of the top line.

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IIHF World Championships Update: How The Devils Are Doing

One of the most overlooked hockey tournaments during the spring is the IIHF Worlds, taking place for the next few weeks in Slovakia. It’s understandable – mostly every hockey fan tunes into the Stanley Cup playoffs. For teams out of the race though, it provides a chance to watch some of their players still compete.

The New Jersey Devils have seven players participating in the tournament. Below are their names and how each of them are doing so far:

1. Travis Zajac, Canada (3 GP, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 pts)

Zajac ended group play with three points, a strong showing for the Devils top-line center. Canada coach Ken Hitchcock named Zajac an alternate captain before the tournament started. In today’s 4-3 win over Switzerland, Zajac recorded two assists – including the primary assist on Alex Pietrangelo’s game-winning goal. Canada finished group play with eight points and won Group B.

2. Patrik Elias, Czech Republic (2 GP, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 pts)

The Devils alternate captain still has unfinished business in international play. Despite his two Stanley Cup championships, he has yet to win a gold medal in international competition. He’s helped lead the Czechs to two wins, and they’ll finish group play against Finland tomorrow. He’s been featured in stories both on the IIHF website and NHL.com.

3. Anssi Salmela, Finland (2 GP)

Salmela has yet to record any points for Finland during this year’s world championships. If you remember, Salmela injured his ACL playing in last year’s tournament. Hopefully that won’t be his only highlight from his recent international play.

4. Ilya Kovalchuk, Russia (2 GP, 2 assists, 2 PIMS)

Kovalchuk has yet to light the lamp for Russia, but did record two assists. The Russians, who lost last year in the playoff round, 7-3, to Canada, will look to once again win the championships. They’re without Alexander Ovechkin, so Kovalchuk will be looked at to produce offensively.

5. Mattias Tedenby, Sweden (2 GP, 2 PIMS)

The Devils rookie right-winger has yet to find the lamp in this year’s world championship. In two games he’s put only three shots on net. The Swedes, 1-1 in the tournament so far, take on the US squad tomorrow. Tedenby will get to face some familiar faces in the final game of group play.

6. Nick Palmieri, United States (2 GP, 2 goals, 1 assist, 3 pts)

Palmieri is tied with both Zajac and Elias for the points lead between Devils players. He’s been a solid producer, helping the Devils climb back from a 2-0 deficit yesterday against Norway. He tallied two goals in the third period – including the game winner – to keep the US undefeated during group play.

7. Mark Fayne, United States (2 GP, 1 assist, 1 pt)

Fayne’s hasn’t been as good as Palmieri, but he’s produced for the United States. He’s averaged just over 10 minutes of ice time a game for the undefeated US squad.