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Devils 2013 Schedule Preview: Florida Panthers

January 17, 2013 Leave a comment
Henrique played hero in Game 7, scoring the game-winning goal to eliminate the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference Quarter-finals. Photo Credit: Joel Auerbach/Getty Images North America

Henrique played hero in Game 7, scoring the game-winning goal to eliminate the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference Quarter-finals. Photo Credit: Joel Auerbach/Getty Images North America

With the lockout done and 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 stay in the Southeast Division today for a look at the Florida Panthers.

You could the Florida Panthers’ 2011-12 season The Surprise of Sunrise.

No one figured the Panthers would contend for a playoff spot, nevertheless a division title. With rookie coach Kevin Dineen behind the bench, and a lineup featuring a collection of interesting pieces to strengthen the roster. Florida burst out of the gate, led by the trio of Kris Versteeg, Thomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss. Brian Campbell, who waived his no trade clause to come to the perennial sub-.500 club, collected 53 points along the blue line. They held off the Washington Capitals late season charge, securing the organization’s first division title and first postseason trip since 2000.

They gave New Jersey their best shot, bowing out in a seven-game Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series. With a pool of young players ready to make an impact, and the core largely intact from a season ago, the Panthers may once again be a competitive team in the Southeast Division.

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Game 14 Preview: Light At The End Of The Tunnel

November 3, 2010 Leave a comment

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (3-9-1) face off against the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks (7-6-1) at the United Center in Chicago. It’s the only meeting of the season between the two teams.

The Last Devils Game: The Devils were blanked by the Vancouver Canucks, 3-0, on Monday night at Rogers Arena. Raffi Torres put the Canucks ahead, 1-0, in the first period off of a turnover in the Devils’ zone. Vancouver increased their lead to 2-0 at 1:09 of the second period as Ryan Kesler‘s backhanded shot beat Brodeur off yet another sloppy defensive play by the Devils. Henrik Sedin capped the scoring at 6:13 of the third period, converting on a penalty shot. Roberto Luongo made 30 saves for the win.

The Last Blackhawks Game: The New York Rangers defeated the Blackhawks, 3-2, Monday night in Madison Square Garden. Tied, 1-1, in the third period, Brandon Dubinsky converted on a powerplay opportunity to put the Rangers ahead, 2-1. Patrick Kane pulled Chicago even with an even-strength goal at 6:08 of the final frame. Only 28 seconds later, Erik Christensen scored the game-winning goal to put the Rangers ahead, 3-2.

The Last Devils – Blackhawks Game: The Blackhawks defeated the Devils, 2-1, in a shootout at the Prudential Cetner. Ilya Kovalchuk gave the Devils an early first period lead, scoring his then-40th goal of the season at 5:49 of the first period. The score stood at 1-0 until the third period, when Kris Versteeg scored with 26 seconds left in the game. Jonathan Toews scored the only goal in the shootout, giving Chicago a season sweep of the Devils.

For more information about the matchup, check this post.

Tonight’s Matchup: The Devils have 70 shots over the past two games. That number is pretty impressive, considering it’s coming from New Jersey. But how many goals have they scored in that time? Just one. One measly goal on 70 shots. Clearly, this team has a problem with finishing opportunities. That will only get more difficult with the loss of the team’s best scorer, Zach Parisewho underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus and will miss three months. On paper, the Devils have one of the best offenses in the league. But they haven’t cashed in on their potential, and the team desperately needs to start scoring goals in bunches. I’ve suggested everything here, from crashing the net to mixing the lines. Maybe it’s just a bounce that needs to go the Devils way, but the scorers need confidence, and the Devils need to start depositing pucks in the back of the net.

Defensive miscues plagued the Devils Monday night, and that lead to their loss. The team needs to play solid defense tonight, especially because the Blackhawks are a dangerous offensive team. Even without some of their Stanley Cup heroes, the Blackhawks can put Duncan Keith, Kane, Toews and Brent Seabrook on the ice at once. It’s been miscue after miscue for the Devils, but hopefully New Jersey corrects these mistakes tonight. If not, they’ll be in for a long game.

The road trip hasn’t gone according to plan (1-4-0), but the Devils can still salvage a feel good win to end the trip. The team needs something – anything – that’s positive heading into Friday’s matchup against the Rangers. Hopefully, it’ll be a great win to close the trip tonight.

Game-time is 8:30 p.m., and you can catch all the action on MSG Plus. Here are the potential line combinations, based off of Monday night’s game:

FORWARDS: Ilya Kovalchuk – Travis Zajac – Jamie Langenbrunner; Patrik Elias – Rod Pelley – Alexander Vasyunov; Dainius Zubrus – Jason Arnott – David Clarkson; Adam Mair – Brad Mills – Tim Sestito

DEFENSEMEN: Colin White – Andy Greene; Henrik Tallinder – Matt Taormina; Olivier Magnan-Grenier – Tyler Eckford

GOALIES: Martin Brodeur; Johan Hedberg

Game 13: A Tough Challenge Against Luongo, Canucks

November 1, 2010 1 comment

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (3-8-1) face off against the Vancouver Canucks (4-3-2). This will be the only meeting between the two teams this season.

The Last Devils Game: The Devils fell to the Los Angeles Kings, 3-1, Saturday night at the Staples Center. While the outcome wasn’t what the Devils expected, the team received worse news than the loss. Left-winger Zach Parise left the game in the third period with a lower-body injury and flew to New Jersey on a red-eye to have the injury examined. A loss hurts, but losing Parise for an extended period of time could hurt the Devils even more.

The Last Canucks Game: The Canucks defeated the Colorado Avalanche, 4-3, in overtime on October 26 in Vancouver. With the score tied, 2-2, in the third period, the Canucks went ahead on a goal by Peter Schaefer at 4:58 of the period. Colorado came back late, with Matt Duchene tying the game with 1:30 left in the period. Mason Raymond played hero, scoring the overtime winner only 28 seconds into the extra period.

The Last Devils – Canucks Game: Vancouver defeated New Jersey, 5-2, on December 2 of last season at The Rock.

The Canucks got out to a hot start, with Alexandre Burrows giving Vancouver an early one-goal lead at 6:33 of the first period. Sami Salo extended the lead to two goals with his even-strength tally at 10:03. Daniel Sedin capped off a three-goal streak, scoring at 12:32 of the period.

Niclas Bergfors ended the Canucks run with a goal at 16:05 of the first period. Travis Zajac scored with six seconds left in the period, cutting the Canucks lead to 3-2.

The Canucks secured the win with two third period goals. Alexander Edler scored an insurance goal 1:36 into the period, and Jannik Hansen put home the dagger at 5:18.

Roberto Luongo finished the game with 27 saves. Martin Brodeur finished with 21 saves in the loss.

For a full rundown of the Devils’ historical statistics against the Canucks, check out our season preview.

A Goalie Showdown? Think Again: Two of the best goalies will face off tonight, but the stats tell you not to expect a great performance on either end of the ice. In 16 career starts against the Canucks, Brodeur is 6-10-0-0 with a 2.91 goals-against average and a .878 save percentage. He’s lost six of his last seven starts against Vancouver.

Luongo hasn’t fared much better. In 19 career starts against the Devils, Luongo is 6-13-0-0 with a 3.00 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage.

Read after the jump for the rest of the preview!

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Devils 2010-2011 Schedule Preview – Vancouver Canucks

September 3, 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. We’ve already previewed the Devils matchups against the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings. In today’s third preview, we stay in the Western Conference, taking a look at this season’s matchup with the Vancouver Canucks.

Andrew Peters skates in front of Roberto Luongo in a December 12 game at the Prudential Center. The Canucks defeated the Devils, 5-2, in the only meeting between the two teams last season. Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images North America

Canucks vs. Devils – Historical Data

In 100 all-time regular season meetings, the Devils are 31-50-17-2 against Vancouver. The Devils average 2.91 goals per game against the Canucks, but New Jersey allows 3.47 goals against when facing Vancouver. Last season, the teams met only once, on December 2. Vancouver won that matchup, 5-2, at the Prudential Center.

The Canucks got out to a hot start, with Alexandre Burrows giving Vancouver an early one-goal lead at 6:33 of the first period. Sami Salo extended the lead to two goals with his even-strength tally at 10:03. Daniel Sedin capped off a three-goal streak, scoring at 12:32 of the period.

Niclas Bergfors ended the Canucks run with a goal at 16:05 of the first period. Travis Zajac scored with six seconds left in the period, cutting the Canucks lead to 3-2.

The Canucks secured the win with two third period goals. Alexander Edler scored an insurance goal 1:36 into the period, and Jannik Hansen put home the dagger at 5:18.

Roberto Luongo finished the game with 27 saves. Martin Brodeur finished with 21 saves in the loss.

Devils vs. Canucks – This Season’s Matchup

The Devils and Canucks will meet only once this season, on November 1 in Vancouver. The game is the fourth in a four-game Western Conference swing for the Devils.

The Canucks were busy this offseason, adding most of their new players on the first day of free agency. Vancouver signed center Manny Malhotra, a faceoff specialist, to a three year contract. The team then replaced Willie Mitchell with Dan Hamhuis, inking the defenseman to a six-year contract. They also signed left-winger Jeff Tambellini to a one-year deal.

Vancouver’s offseason hasn’t been filled with just player signings and coaching moves. The team has been implicated in the league’s reluctance to allow certain long-term contracts. After arbitrator Richard Bloch upheld the league’s decision to reject Ilya Kovalchuk’s first contract with the Devils, the NHL began to investigate similar deals. Vancouver, who signed Luongo to a new 12-year deal, drew the attention of the league. The NHL is now currently investigating Luongo’s deal, and there has been no word yet on the status of the deal.

The Devils will probably have their hands full with the Canucks this season. The team returns a solid offense which can generate pressure on almost every shift. Luongo is one of the best goalies in the league, and finding holes against him could be tough. The key will be to put pressure on the Canucks defense. That proved to be the chink in their armor during their conference semifinals loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Other Important Stats

Vancouver has had Brodeur’s number throughout his career. In 16 career regular season starts against the Canucks, Brodeur is 6-10-0-0 with a 2.91 goals against average and an .878 save percentage…The Devils seem to have Luongo’s number as well. In 19 career regular season stars against New Jersey, Luongo is 6-13-0-0 with a 3.00 goals against average and a .913 save percentage…The Sedin Twins have combined for 14 points (three goals, 11 assists) against the Devils in their careers…

The Second Kovalchuk Contract: Why The Deal Should Pass

September 1, 2010 Leave a comment

The Devils organization, its fans and Ilya Kovalchuk will once again spend a day waiting to hear a definitive decision on whether or not an agreement between team and player will be accepted by the NHL.

While a general uneasiness fills this day, I believe that, by 5 p.m. today, Kovalchuk will officially be a New Jersey Devil for the next 15 years.

Why would I exude such optimism on this contract? The Devils and Kovalchuk both worked with the league during its formation, and the league differs sharply from the one rejected by the NHL and systems arbitrator Richard Bloch earlier this summer. With a better structure in place, the deal should pass the test of the league. Below are my reasons for believing the contract will pass.

Kovalchuk takes a shot against the St. Louis Blues at the Prudential Center. Today, the Devils and Kovalchuk will learn whether or not their newly submitted 15-year, $100 million contract will be accepted or rejected.

Reason 1: The “Back End”

If you remember from the first contract, one of the sticking points was the front-loaded nature of the deal. In that 17-year deal, Kovalchuk would have made 97% of his money in the first eleven years of the contract. Those final six years he would have averaged $550,000, which Bloch viewed as a substandard rate. I conceded this point to him while arguing about his rejection of the contract.

But the new 15-year , $100 million contract works out the kinks in the back end. Over the first ten years of the contract, Kovalchuk will make $90 million dollars. In the last five years, Kovalchuk still brings home $10 million. There are a few years of $1 million dollar salary, which can potentially harm the contract. But it should be noted that the Devils will pay Kovalchuk $7 million dollars over the final two years of the deal. Bloch believed that the low level of payment in the first contract created a “retirement” contract, and the Devils would save money. In this deal, when Kovalchuk is over 40, he’ll be bringing home a nice contract. I believe those final two years aren’t there just to appease the league. That $7 million serves as an incentive to play until the end of the contract.

The back-end of this deal far surpasses those of similar long-term contracts. Marian Hossa makes close to $55 million in the first seven years of his 12-year, $63 million dollar contract with the Chicago Blackhawks. In the eighth year, he makes $4 million, a clear transition point from the $7.9 million he made during the first seven seasons. In the last four years of the deal, he makes a combined $4 million.

The same occurs with Roberto Luongo, who makes $57 million in the first eight years of his 12-year, $64 million contract with the Vancouver Canucks. In the ninth year of the deal, Luongo’s salary falls to $3 million, a clear transition from the $6 million he makes from years two through seven. After that, Luongo will make about $4 million in the last three seasons combined.

The back end of Kovalchuk’s deal compares favorably to those two deals above. If anything, it promises to pay out more than those two in the final years of the deal. That in itself makes this deal better structured than others that have passed in the past.

Continue reading for more reasons why I believe the deal will pass.

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Why Bloch’s Reasons Fall Short of Satisfaction

August 10, 2010 6 comments

Yesterday, I put up my initial reaction to the ruling that Ilya Kovalchuk’s 17-year, $102 million contract had been denied. The response was posted about an hour after the initial ruling, and quotes from system arbitrator Richard Bloch’s decision were scarce.

Eventually, quotes from the decision began circulate, and now, with more information, I can give a better opinion on today’s events. And, when looking at the quotes, I’ve come to find that Bloch’s evidence for his ruling doesn’t fully satisfy me. Bloch’s reasoning, while good, doesn’t provide a solid case against the Devils or the contract.

Richard Bloch ruled that the Devils contract with Kovalchuk assumed the left-winger would play until he was 44, a stretch in the mind of the arbitrator. Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images

First Point of Contention – Age

One of the first quotes I read dealt with Kovalchuk’s age when the contract expired. Kovalchuk would be 44 when the contract ended, which is old for any professional athlete. That age, according to Bloch, made it unbelievable that Kovalchuk would play out his contract.

“…Kovalchuk is 27 years old, and the agreement contemplates his playing until just short of his 44th birthday,” Bloch wrote. “That is not impossible, but it is, at the least, markedly rare. Currently, only one player in the League has played past 43 and, over the past 20 years only 6 of some 3400 players have played to 42.”

Bloch is completely correct – it is quite rare for NHL players to continue their careers after 40. But we’ve seen this occur in recent seasons. Chris Chelios, the ageless wonder, played with the Atlanta Thrashers this season at age 48. Mike Modano, who turned 40 this summer, signed a one-year contract to play with Detroit this off-season. While it’s not common, it can be done.

One can assume that Kovalchuk may not play until he’s 44. But the left-winger has never suffered a major injury, and his style isn’t one of a power forward. There’s always a physical element in hockey, but Kovalchuk has managed to stay healthy during his career. As I said before, Kovalchuk also doesn’t play in front of the net, where players are continually cross-checked and beat up. He’s not an enforcer, and rarely does he fight. The wear and tear on Kovalchuk is significantly less than other players, and if he can continue to stay healthy then there’s no reason to assume he wouldn’t play until age 44.

Also, Bloch failed to take into account other similar deals. Marian Hossa’s contract brings him to age 42. Ditto with the contract Philadelphia gave Chris Pronger. Vancouver’s extension with Roberto Luongo brings the goalie to 43 years old. These three contracts, all front-loaded deals, were accepted despite driving the players over the 40+ plateau. What separates these players from others? One can argue that Pronger and Luongo play more physically demanding positions, lessening their chances of playing past 40. But those contracts were allowed by the league, while Bloch found age to be a reason to deny Kovalchuk’s deal.

I understand that age in this contract is a concern, but using that as a reason to disallow a contract isn’t strong evidence. With the league already approving prior deals that bring players past the age 40 plateau, age should not have been such a large determining factor in the decision.

Continue after the jump for further arguments against Bloch’s decision!

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Olympic Hockey: Crosby Clinches Gold For Canada

Canada’s assistant captain Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins) had been rather quiet in the Olympic tournament, and through three periods, hadn’t recorded a point in the gold medal game.

Crosby finally struck in overtime, scoring the game-winning goal to defeat the U.S., 3-2, and clinch the gold medal.

Crosby scored the game-winner 2:20 into the extra period. Canadian right-winger Jarome Iginla (Calgary Flames) sent a pass to Crosby, who slid a shot under the pads of Team USA goalie Ryan Miller (Buffalo Sabres) for the goal.

Sidney Crosby celebrates after winning the gold medal in men's hockey Sunday. Crosby's overtime winner clinched Canada's first Olympic hockey medal on home soil. Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

It was the second game-winning goal for Crosby in the tournament. He previously scored a shootout goal to defeat Switzerland during round robin play.

Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks) and Corey Perry (Anaheim Ducks) put Canada ahead, 2-0, in the final game of the Olympics.

Toews opened the scoring at 7:10 of the first period with his first goal of the tournament. Mike Richards (Philadelphia Flyers) stole the puck from Team USA defenseman Brian Rafalski (Detroit Red Wings) and put a shot on Miller. The rebound bounced to Toews, who put the puck into the net for the goal.

Perry increased the lead by two at 12:47 of the second. Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks) carried the puck into the U.S. zone and attempted a pass to Patrick Marleau (San Jose Sharks). The pass hit Marleau’s skate, and Perry picked up the loose puck and beat Miller for the goal.

Then the U.S. staged their comeback.

Ryan Kessler put the Americans on the board at 7:22 of the third period. Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks) shot the puck, and Kessler tipped the puck on net. Roberto Luongo (Vancouver Canucks) got a piece of it, but the puck slid across the goal line.

With the U.S. down by a goal late in the third period, Miller came to the bench for an extra attacker. With

Zach Parise, right, starts the celebration after slipping the puck by Roberto Luongo to tie the game with 24 seconds remaining in the game.

six men on the ice, Kane shot a puck that Zach Parise (New Jersey Devils) tipped on Luongo. The Canadian goalie made the first save, but Parise put home the puck for the game tying goal with 24.4 seconds left.

That set the stage for Crosby to bring home the gold.

With the win, Canada became the first host country in 30 years to capture a men’s hockey gold. Canada became the first host country other than the U.S. to win gold as the host country.

The U.S. men clinched their first medal on foreign soil since a silver medal finish in the 1972 games in Sapporo, Japan.

Luongo finished with 34 saves in the win. Miller stopped 36 shots in the loss.

After the game, Parise was named to the all-tournament team. Despite the loss, Miller took home the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.

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The NHL will resume games tomorrow night. The Red Wings will travel to Colorado to take on the Avalanche. The game will be on Versus at 9 p.m. The Devils play Tuesday night in San Jose.