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Devils 2011-2012 Schedule Preview: Boston Bruins

August 7, 2011 1 comment

Hedberg backstopped the Devils to their only victory over the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins. Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/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 Stanley-Cup champion Boston Bruins.

The New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins never developed that nasty New York – Boston rivalry. Maybe it’s because of the proximity of the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers. It just seems like that hatred never carried over to the Bruins. Of course, that could all change this year.

The Bruins enter this season as the defending champions, giving them the target on their backs. Every team, including the Devils, will look to give them a run for their money. But their recent success isn’t great, and they haven’t fared well throughout their history.

The History Behind The Matchup

The Devils and Bruins squared off 133 times during the Devils 35-year history, with Boston dominating the matchup. New Jersey is just 47-64-3 with 19 ties, a winning percentage of just .436. They’ve allowed 448 goals, an average of 3.37 per meeting. They’ve scored 368 times, almost a full hundred goals less. It’s an average of 2.77 goals per matchup.

Boston continued their dominance last season, winning three of four against New Jersey. The two teams first met on October 16, a 4-1 win for Boston. Dainius Zubrus opened the scoring, putting the Devils ahead, 1-0, at 3:45 of the second period. But that wouldn’t last long, as Jordan Caron tied the game at 5:38 of the period. Then, the Bruins took over.

Michael Ryder put Boston ahead, 2-1, at 10:44 of the second period. Shawn Thornton made it 3-1 at 16:43 of the middle frame. Milan Lucic capped the Bruins’ outburst, stretching the lead to 4-1 at the 18:09 mark. Tim Thomas would stop 31 shots in the win, and Martin Brodeur matched that number for the loss.

Things didn’t get much better in the second meeting, a 3-0 shutout win for the Bruins on November 15 in Boston. Ryder continued to plague the Devils, opening the scoring at 15:26 of the first period. Nathan Horton made it 2-0 just 43 seconds into the second period. Not to be outdone, Blake Wheeler scored 43 seconds into the third period to push the lead to 3-0. Thomas stopped 28 shots for the win, and Brodeur stopped 21 in the loss.

Not even a change in coaches could sway the Devils luck. Boston once again beat them, 4-1, on March 22 in Boston. Ilya Kovalchuk struck first, scoring on the powerplay to put New Jersey ahead, 1-0. Thornton tied it at 15:39, and the teams entered the second period deadlocked.

Once again, the Bruins went on a goal scoring spree. Zdeno Chara put Boston ahead, 2-0, with a powerplay tally at 8:17 of the second period. Lucic extended the lead to 3-1 at 16:13 of the third period, and Mark Recchi sealed it with an empty-netter at 19:20 for the 4-1 lead.

The Devils avoided the sweep, ending their season with a 3-2 win over the Bruins. Patrik Elias opened the scoring, putting New Jersey ahead, 1-0, at 1:47 of the first period. Richard Peverley tied the game, 1-1, at 10:04 of the period. It remained tied until the third period. Vladimir Zharkov put the Devils ahead, 2-1, four minutes into the third period. Alexander Urbom scored his first career goal at 9:10 of the period, extending the lead to 3-1. That would prove crucial, as Chris Kelly scored with four seconds in regulation to bring the score to 3-2.

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The End of PL3; Three Players Re-signed

This is the career highlight for PL3 - a marathon fight with former Devil Cam Janssen. Photo Credit: Jim McIssac/Getty Images

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

The Devils retained three of their own, re-signing Vladimir Zharkov, Matt Corrente and Chad Wiseman.

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.

Devils Qualify Nine Restricted Free Agents

Corrente, a former first round pick, was qualified by the Devils today. Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The New Jersey Devils entered today with 11 restricted free agents. Two of them may not return.

The organization sent qualifying offers to nine of their restricted free agents today. Matt Corrente, Matt Taormina, Vladimir Zharkov, Mark Fraser, Maxim Noreau, Jeff Frazee, Steve Zalewski and Nathan Perkovich all received offers.

Alexander Vasyunov, who entered the offseason as a restricted free agent, did not receive an offer. His agent informed the Devils that he signed a one-year contract for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the KHL next season.

The players can still receive offer sheets from other teams, but the Devils can match that offer.

There were a few players who were locks for qualifying offers. Taormina led defenseman in goals until a high-ankle sprain ended his season. He was one of the few bright spots during the team’s abysmal first half, and will probably get a chance to earn his spot back next season. Corrente, a former-first round pick, has the support of the organization behind him. Like Taormina, injury limited him this season.

Other players seem to be skating on thin ice. Fraser followed a strong rookie campaign with a disappointing sophomore season. The Devils qualified him, but with the defensive depth moving through the organization, he needs to put together a solid season. The same goes for Frazee. The Devils have three strong goalie prospects in Scott Wedgewood, Maxime Clermont and Keith Kinkaid. They’re still a year or two away, but Frazee doesn’t have much time to prove himself.

The organization also did not issue a qualifying offer to defenseman Anssi Salmela. He played 48 games with the Devils, but failed to really make an impression. It doesn’t necessarily mean the team won’t sign him. Two years ago, New Jersey didn’t qualify Andy Greene, but re-signed him anyway.

Zach Parise entered this offseason a restricted free agent, but did not receive an offer. Instead, New Jersey elected to take the left-winger to arbitration. That eliminates the possibility of other team’s submitting an offer sheet and guarantees he will be a Devil next season.

Evaluating The Devils Organizational Depth: Right Wing

Perkovich headlines an underwhelming group of right-wingers at the AHL leve. Photo Credit: Christian Abraham/Connecticut Post

The New Jersey Devils need depth on the wings.

The team lacks great talent along both wings, with their great prospects manning center. The organization’s two best right-wingers, Mattias Tedenby and Nick Palmieri, both figure to remain in the NHL next season. Despite struggling offensively, Vladimir Zharkov also looks to be a virtual lock as a checking line forward. That leaves a gaping hole of talent needing to be filled.

There’s plenty of talented wingers at the NHL level, so this isn’t an immediate position of need for New Jersey. If the organization feels there’s a need for a right-winger, they can shop around for a decent free agent. They don’t need to use their first-round pick on a right-winger, but should address the issue in this year’s draft.

Without further adieu, The Devils Den presents the less-than-inspiring report on the organization’s right wingers. And here we go:

Albany Devils (AHL)

Nathan Perkovich – 40 GP, 17 points (8 G, 9 A), minus-3 rating

Perkovich slipped into a sophomore slump this season, failing to improve on the potential he showed as a rookie. He collected 33 points last season, including 19 goals. A high ankle sprain severely limited his production, which helped produce those low numbers. Unfortunately, Perkovich is a 26-year old AHLer. Time is running out for him to make an impact beyond the AHL level.

Darcy Zajac – 40 GP, 9 points (4 G, 5 A), minus-9 rating

Zajac struggled to find success at the AHL level this season. He played well with Trenton, collecting 23 points and a plus-8 rating. In Albany, those numbers dipped across the board. Zajac will never be a scorer like his older brother, Travis. He’s a third or fourth line checking forward at best. There’s already a ton of these guys throughout the organization, so Zajac will need to separate himself from the pack.

Trevor Kell – 21 GP, 3 points (1 G, 2 A), minus-8 rating

Kell seems destined to remain in the ECHL for next season. In four years with the organization, he’s failed to stick at the AHL level. He’s shown his offensive potential in the ECHL, where he collected 33 points in 37 games last season. Those numbers fail to transfer to the AHL level. He’s struggled to find any openings in the AHL, and he’s entering his fifth season with the organization. I would doubt his ability to move any higher than the AHL leve.

International Skaters

Mauro Jorg (Lugano) – 50 GP, 12 points (3 G, 9 A), minus-15 rating

The Devils selected Jorg in the seventh round last season, marking the first forward they selected. He doesn’t seem like anything special, considering his limited ability to produce offensively. He may still need some time to develop, and probably won’t turn pro for a few seasons.

Ed. Note: The Trenton Devils did not list player positions on the team’s roster. You can check a review of all of their forwards in this preview.

The 2010-2011 Player Review Best Of The Rest: Offense

May 29, 2011 1 comment

Zharkov finally scored the first goal of his NHL career this season. Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

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.

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Prospect Talk With Hockey Future’s Jared Ramsden

January 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Admittedly, one of my weaker points of hockey knowledge is the prospect pool. With so many players in several countries, I haven’t had the time to catch up on the big names and the late-round steals.

Thankfully, Jared Ramsden does this all the time. Ramsden writes for Hockey’s Future, specifically covering the New Jersey Devils. He found some time to answer a few questions I sent him about the Devils’ prospects and this year’s draft. Here is the interview:

Nick Palmieri has three goals in nine games this season. Photo Credit: Julio Cortez/AP Photo

1. We’ve seen players like Nick Palmieri, Mattias Tedenby, and Mark Fayne have an impact this season. What can we expect to see from these rookies as they continue their development?

Tedenby has obviously shown flashes of what he can bring to the table, and now that Lemaire seems to be satisfied with his understanding of his system and the defensive zone, it’s going to be pretty hard to keep him out of the line-up. He’s supremely skilled and very confident with the puck on his stick, What also stands out for me is that for a guy of his stature, he is very strong on the puck. He has the makings of a 25-30 goal scorer.
It’s a little harder to get a read on Palmieri, but I think the team has high hopes for him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a little more time in the AHL this year. However, he’s really close to breaking through and sticking. He brings a different dimension than a lot of the other prospects do, in that he has power-forward potential. It might take a little longer for his development to reach full bloom, but he’s on the right path.
Fayne obviously has been somewhat of a surprise this year given that it is his first year as a pro. While he hasn’t been a stand-out and had some up’s and down’s, he’s played quite well for a guy that was playing in the NCAA last year. His upside isn’t that of a Jon Merrill or Alexander Urbom, but he’s a big kid who can skate well and he might be a prefect fit to have on the third pairing. He still has a little bit of learning to do, but he’s a guy that is likely going to get more and more confident each and every game.

After sitting for nine straight games, Tedenby has found himself back in the lineup. Photo Credit: Seth Wenig/AP Photo

2. How do you project Tedenby to develop? Could he become the next Zach Parise?
I’m not sure if he’s going to reach the status of Parise (35-40 goals, 80-90 points), but I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the team and fans alike to see him scoring 25-30 goals, 60-65 points on a fairly regular basis once he’s fully developed. He is blessed with so much natural skill, and what’s he’s shown briefly this season, is only going to magnify once he matures and gets more confident.
3. The Devils have replenished the system a bit in the past few years, but how is the overall health of the Devils’ system. Where is the organization weakest/strongest?
The health of the Devils system is vastly improved from years past, and what we are seeing now is the first wave of prospects coming from the AHL. More than half of the prospects in the system are either in their first or second years of pro hockey, and are getting to the point where the team knows what they have in certain players and if they are going to be part of the future or not. Guys like Tedenby, Vladimir Zharkov, Palmieri, Fayne and Corrente are getting chances to strut their stuff right now, and guys like Adam Henrique, Jacob Josefson, David McIntyre, Alexander Vasyunov and Urbom are right behind them.
The team could definitely use a little more top end talent at any position, and they may just get a chance to address that this year if they end up drafting in the top 5, which at this point is very likely. The goaltending depth is defintiely a weak point, but with the addition of Scott Wedgewood and Maxime Clermont last draft, this is an area that is starting to be addressed and will be continued to be addressed over the course of the next two-three years.

Tedenby’s Triumphant Return

January 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Mattias Tedenby celebrating today's goal against the Islanders, his fifth of the season. Photo Credit: Seth Wenig/AP Photo

It’s been a long six games for Mattias Tedenby.

The Devils’ rookie right-winger, who struggled in December, couldn’t crack the lineup the past six games. Head coach Jacques Lemaire decided to finally give Tedenby his shot today against the New York Islanders, and he didn’t disappoint.

Tedenby assisted on Vladimir Zharkov‘s first career NHL goal and scored his own in the second to finish with two points in a 5-2 win. He finished with two shots and plus-2 in 12:01 of ice time.

It seems that, after today’s performance, Tedenby found himself a roster spot. Hopefully he remains in the lineup, because his performance shows his ability to become a top-six forward on this team.

Only 15 days ago, it seemed Tedenby would follow the path of Niclas Bergfors. Last season, Bergfors started hot but fell out of favor with Lemaire. The Devils’ coach cited poor defensive play for benching Bergfors, and it lead to him heading to Atlanta in the Ilya Kovalchuk trade.

Lemaire echoed those same statements about Tedenby, telling the media the young forward needed to impress him in practice and improve defensively. But after today’s game, his answer changed.

“I wanted to get the guys to know the defensive game that we wanted to play and I was teaching that,” Lemaire told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. “I didn’t know him at all as a player and I felt it was easier. I liked  (Adam) Mair. I liked what he did for us. He’s really intense in practices. He wants to play. He does everything you ask him and that’s why I kept him in the lineup.

“Now that I feel that we’re past that step (with) our defensive game, although there’s always improvement you can bring, now we’re looking at a different aspect of our game.”

He also liked what Tedenby brought to the ice today.

“He played really well,” Lemaire said to Gulitti. “I’m happy the way he controls the puck, the way he skates all of that. I thought he played a real good game, real good game. Despite the fact that he scored, he was good with the puck and did some good stuff that we’re asking.”

During his six-game absence, Tedenby said he tried to learn Lemaire’s system.

“I didn’t think too much,” he told Gulitti. “I just waited and tried to look at Jacques’ system when I was scratched. I tried to take it in so when I touched the ice here today I was knew exactly what to do. So, it was actually maybe good.”

Tedenby brought speed, excitement and his offensive prowess to the ice today. His second period goal, which extended the Devils lead to 3-0, showcased all those things. Mark Fraser had his point shot knocked down in the left circle, and Tedenby wheeled around the net and grabbed the puck. He deked around Andrew MacDonald and moved into the slot. Tedenby froze Kevin Poulin with a fake shot, then beat the Isles goalie with a beautiful backhand shot. Here’s the video of the goal:

Tedenby also played a solid defensive game. He’ll never be a great defensive forward, but he needs to backcheck. We’ve already seen Kovalchuk commit to that more, and Tedenby seems to get the point.

Hopefully this will be the beginning of a great finish for the young right-winger. Tedenby leads all Devils’ rookies in points, goals and assists. He’s a threat to score each time he steps on the ice, something sorely lacking on the roster right now. More playing time will continue to help his development and, hopefully, he’ll continue to wow his coaches and teammates.

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For a recap of today’s Devils win over the Islanders, read my game recap on SB Nation New York.