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.
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.
The days of Devils enforcer are over for Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond.
Leblond, nicknamed “PL3,” was traded to the Calgary Flames for a 2012 fifth-round pick. The Devils banished Leblond to the minors last season after he earned an automatic one-game suspension for instigating a fight with Washington’s Marcus Johansson in the final five minutes of a 7-2 loss on October 9. He played only two NHL games last season, collecting no points and 21 penalty minutes. He had 13 points and 334 penalty minutes in 64 games with the Albany Devils. The former seventh-round pick finished his Devils career with no goals, three assists and 91 penalty minutes in 37 NHL games.
A change in Leblond’s contract could have necessitated the trade. His contract changed from a two-way to one-way deal this year, carrying a $525,000 cap hit. Earlier in the summer, I wrote that Letourneau-Leblond’s days with New Jersey were probably done. Looks like that came true.
Zharkov, Corrente, Wiseman Re-sign
Zharkov accepted his qualifying offer – a one-year, two-way deal. He’ll make $577,500 in the NHL and $62, 500 in the AHL. Zharkov played in 38 NHL games last season, recording four points. In 31 AHL games, he collected 19 points. He seemed to solidify his position in the lineup last year, fitting in the bottom two lines. His overall performance probably earned him a shot at a consistent roster spot next season.
Corrente, like Zharkov, accepted his qualifying offer. His one-year, two-way deal carries an NHL salary of $660,000. Last season, he skated in just 22 NHL games. A shoulder injury ended his season, and he returns looking to hold onto a roster spot. With some young blueliners threating to grab roster spots, this will be a big year for Corrente to prove himself. His willingness to drop the gloves will easily replace Letourneau-Leblond, and his offensive capabilities will hopefully finally develop.
Chad Wiseman re-signed as an unrestricted free agent, inking a two-year, two-way deal. He’ll carry an NHL salary of $525,000 and an AHL salary of $105,000. Wiseman collected 44 points, and matched the team record for most goals in a period with four. He hasn’t found much success in the NHL, but provides quality organization depth.
The New Jersey Devils enter the 2011 NHL Entry Draft with their left-wing depth in flux. There’s talent at the position, but it’s limited to just a few players.
Ilya Kovalchuk headlines the group of left-wingers. Despite a down season last year, he remains a premier scorer in the league. Everyone knows the skill Zach Parise can bring to the table. The restricted free agent has yet to negotiate a new deal, though, and will return from knee surgery next season. As of right now, the Devils young star can’t be considered an absolute shoe-in for the lineup. Brian Rolston rounds out the top talent on the left side. Although he experienced improved offensively last year, he can’t depend the same goal-scoring prowess he did last season.
After those three players, the talent thins considerably. Alexander Vasyunov played in 18 games last season, but didn’t make much of an impact. He also struggled in Albany, posting career lows across the board. With such talented wingers in the league right now, and the possibility of having two great ones on the team, left-wing isn’t a draft need. But if the Devils can manage to upgrade their depth with a later pick, it would help a position dying for a talented prospect.
Albany Devils (AHL)
Chad Wiseman – 48 GP, 44 points (16 G, 28 A), minus-8 rating
Wiseman can light the lamp, but hasn’t had his chance to show off in the NHL. He’s played in just nine games with NHL clubs, recording one goal and one assist. But he’s shown the ability to tear up AHL goaltending. This season, he set or tied Albany individual scoring records in one game. On March 9, he netted four goals against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in 9:03, matching the record for most goals in a single period of play. He also tied the record of most goals scored in a game. Guess that Islanders goaltending is bad throughout the system.
Plenty of guys show their stuff in the AHL, but few have the talent to make it work in the NHL. Wiseman seems like one of those players. He’s a 30-year old career AHL player, and his best opportunities may be behind him. He’s a great depth piece, but not a legitimate NHL candidate right now.
Louis Robitaille – 50 GP, 8 points (2 G, 6 A), minus-2 rating
Robitaille never found a way to move through the organization, and ended his career last season with Albany. He was an enforcer, tallying an impressive 246 penalty minutes last season. But he never rose above the AHL ranks, and would never in today’s game. Enforcers need to possess some offensive skill, which Robitaille did not. He retired after the season to coach the QJAAAHL’s Valleyfield Braves.
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.
After a loss to the Rangers on Sunday, the New Jersey Devils player’s spoke about the need to get away and build team chemistry. It was all fun and games during practice today, and the Devils felt confident coming into tonight’s matchup. When it came to the game, however, the Devils were unprepared for the onslaught of Joe Thornton. The former Bruin scored three goals in two periods to help the Sharks win their first game at home, 5-2, and extend the Devils early season struggles.
Thornton trick a treat for the Sharks
San Jose struggled at home this season, and entered Wednesday night’s game still searching for the first home victory of the season. Thornton made sure the fans would get their win.
Thornton’s goal at 9:57 of the first period put the Sharks ahead of the Devils, 1-0.
The play began with a turnover in the Devils zone. Dany Heatley scooped up the loose puck at the point, and sent a pass to Thornton in the right circle. The center’s shot deflected off of Devils’ defenseman Matt Taormina‘s stick, and the puck beat Martin Brodeur stick side for his third goal of the year.
Thornton’s second goal of the game, at 18:59 of the first period extended the Sharks lead to 3-0.
Marleau put a shot on net from the side boards that Brodeur should have stopped. But the Devils goalie was tangled with Thornton, who crashed the net, and the big center poked home the puck for his fourth goal of the season.
Thornton’s third goal of the night, a powerplay tally, came at 16:55 of the second period.
After the Devils benefitted from a awkward bounce from the boards, the Sharks received one of their own. After trying to clear it around the boards, Brodeur went behind the net, expecting the puck to come behind. But it bounced off the end boards and went to the front of the net, where Thornton came crashing down. The center fired the puck past a diving Henrik Tallinder for his fifth goal of the season.
The Thorton Line gets it going
It wasn’t only Thornton lighting the lamp in the Sharks victory. Patrick Marleau collected four points (one goal, three assists), including his 700th career NHL point after assisting on Thornton’s first goal of the night. Heatley also collected four points (one goal, three assists) on the night. In total, the Thornton Line had 13 points tonight. That’s almost as many goals the Devils have scored this season.
Brodeur told Rich Chere of the Star Ledger it looked like the Thornton Line was “playing against kids.” He wasn’t wrong.
Brodeur does all he can
There are some nights where Brodeur seems superhuman. Even if he gave one of those efforts tonight, it wouldn’t have been enough for the Devils. Brodeur faced 39 shots tonight – his second consecutive game of 30-plus shots – and made 34 difficult saves. The Sharks got a fluke goal and a soft score, but Brodeur was the usual rock in the net. But when the defense gives Brodeur no support, there’s only so much he can do.
Continue reading after the jump for the rest of the recap.
Excited for tonight’s Devils and Sabres game? Hold yourself over with today’s edition of The Devils’ Sports Page:
MacLean looking for Devils to complete a full game; still has faith in Parise – Zajac – Kovy line (Tom Gulitti/Fire and Ice blog)
Mair happy to be signed with Devils: Mair, Tallinder looking forward to return to Buffalo (Tom Gulitti/Fire and Ice blog)
Leblond assigned to Albany, Mair signed; Rolston may have sports hernia, Volchenkov out rest of the week (Tom Gulitti/Fire and Ice blog)
Devils sign Adam Mair but will remain shorthanded against Sabres due to injury (Rich Chere/NJ.com)
Geting late early for winless Devils (Mark Everson/NY Post)
Adam Mair, invited to New Jersey on a tryout contract during training camp, was waiting for his opportunity to suit up for the Devils during the regular season.
He’ll finally get his opportunity tomorrow night.
The Devils signed Mair to a one-way, one-year contract for $515,000 today after left-winger Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond cleared waivers.
“It’s exciting to be part of this team, this organization now and I’m looking forward to being able to contribute and help and I’m very happy,” Mair said to Tom Gulitti after today’s practice at Prudential Center. “My family and I are very happy.”
After not receiving a contract after training camp because of the cap situation, Mair stuck around the team’s facilities, paying his own way to continue practicing with the organization. The center, who can play all three positions, should benefit coach John MacLean as the Devils deal with injuries and cap restraints.
“He’s versatile and with what we have right now we need a guy like him,” MacLean said to Gulitti. “He’s good because of his versatility. He can play center. He can play right wing. He can play left wing. He can kill penalties. We need that right now.”
Mair will make his season debut tomorrow night, giving the Devils 16 skaters for their game against the Buffalo Sabres. Coincidentally, Mair played seven seasons for the Sabres before signing with the Devils. The new Devil believes it’ll be a good game.
“We’re in the same conference,” Mair said to Gulitti. “We’re going to play them four times. But it will be nice to go back there and see those guys. They’re a litle desperate (the Sabrtes are 1-2). We’re desperate for a win. It should be a good game.”
Mair scored two goals in five preseason games. But it wasn’t only his offensive presence that earned him praise in the locker room. Mair continually talked about winning this preseason, even though the games didn’t matter. He stepped up for teammates on the ice, even though his spot on the team was never guaranteed. It’s that type of veteran leadership the Devils, who stumbled out of the gate, need in their dressing room.
For today’s updates on some of the injured players, follow the jump!