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.
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.
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 first review, we focus on David Clarkson.
David Clarskon seemed on his way to a career year during the 2009-2010 season. The right-winger recorded 15 points in the first two months of the season, looking like the secondary scorer the New Jersey Devils needed. He produced on the powerplay, putting up six points. He continued his physical play, recording 52 hits. But that would all change on November 27, when Clarkson blocked a shot from Zdeno Chara. It fractured his fibula, derailing a promising season and limiting him to just 46 games.
This off season, Devils’ general manager Lou Lamoriello inked Clarkson to a three year, $8 million deal. It seemed a steep price for the right-winger, but the organization expected him to continue improving. He entered the season with the realistic expectation of cracking the 20-goal plateau while providing a tough, physical presence on the ice.
Clarkson brought the physical play, but left his offense behind. He led the team in hits (170) and penalty minutes (116), numbers expected from him. He never came close to reaching his expected offensive output. Clarkson finished with 18 points – the lowest total in his three-plus seasons – despite playing in every game last season. He provided a much-needed physical presence, but ultimately disappointed because of his limited production.
Clarkson At Even Strength
Clarkson managed to play every game last season, his average time on ice of 13:37 ranking him 20th among all skaters. He only averaged 0.98 points per 60, a dip from the 1.81 point per 60 he produced during his last healthy season (2008-09). His minus-0.77 rating follows the downward trend of all skaters this season. It also points to his overall lack of production. If he produced more offense at even strength, that rating would be much better. He should have produced better numbers, as his quality of competition (minus-0.070) ranked below the quality of his own teammates (plus-0.013).
Playing between the third and fourth lines somewhat hindered Clarkson’s production. He helped produce just 1.16 goals for per 60 (19 total) while allowing 2.15 goals against per 60 (35 total). On the ice, the team generated 27 shots for per 60, which isn’t a terrible number. But those numbers pale in comparison to those from his the 2008-09 season, when he produce 2.23 goals for per 60 (32 total). The third and fourth lines don’t need to hinder production, and that can’t excuse the lack of offense.
The goal production improved with Clarkson on the bench. The goals for per 60 jumped almost a full goal to 2.09. But numbers dipped in other areas, such as shots for per 60 (25.9). The defense also slipped, increasing the goals against per 60 to 2.31.
The Corsi numbers tell the ultimate story. On the ice, Clarkson finished with a plus-3.74 rating. It’s not exactly a world record pace, but it’s a nice finish. With him off the ice, the number increased to plus-4.25. Clearly, the offense slightly improved with him off the ice. The team averaged less shots but also allowed less shots against, giving it a better ratio. Against weaker competition, you’d expect him to produce more offense. But in a down season, he struggled like the rest of the team to create and bury scoring chances.
The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (2-5-1) go across the river to face off against their hated rivals, the New York Rangers (3-2-1). This is the first of six meetings this season.
The Last Devils Game: The Devils were thrashed by the Sabres, 6-1, last night at home. I’m still peeved about the loss, but here’s three things to note:
1. The Devils looked terrible in their own zone.
2. Johan Hedberg wasn’t given any support.
3. The team played lackluster and, frankly, worse than an AHL team.
The Last Rangers Game: The Rangers defeated the Boston Bruins, 3-2, last night in Boston. The Rangers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period with goals from Artem Anisimov and Alex Frolov. Zdeno Chara cut the lead to 2-1 with a powerplay tally at 19:55 of the period. The Rangers extended their lead in the second period, with Marc Staal giving the Blueshirts a 3-1 lead. Nathan Horton continued his hot start, pulling the Bruins to within a goal at 12:27 of the period. The Rangers would blank the Bruins in the third for their second straight win.
The Last Devils – Rangers Game: The Rangers defeated the Devils, 4-3, in a shootout during a late season meeting last year. The Devils once again scored first, with Ilya Kovalchuk giving New Jersey an early 1-0 lead. Brandon Dubinsky tied the game with a powerplay goal in the second period, tying the game at one. The third period followed the same script as the fourth game, with the Devils wasting leads. Patrik Elias put the Devils ahead, 2-1, early in the third period. Anisimov tied the game at 9:40 of the second period, and the scoring gates were opened. Jamie Langenbrunner gave the Devils a 3-2 lead at 12:37 of the period, but the Rangers answered that tally with one of their own. With their net open, Chris Drury scored at 19:43 to tie the game and send it to overtime. The teams remained scoreless through the extra period, and Erik Christensen was the only player to score in the shootout. (For a full recap, click here.)
For a full recap of the historical rivalry, check our preview here.
Tonight’s Matchup: The Devils looked terrible yesterday. Once again, the team didn’t put in the sixty-minute effort. They played well for seven minutes, then quit on the game. They left Hedberg out to dry, they played terrible defense, and they stopped creating scoring chances. Overall, it was a game to forget, which many of these early season games have been.
Last night’s effort was lifeless and lazy. I turned off the game after the fourth goal, and most people left the arena before the third period began. I think it’s safe to say that, heading into this matchup, the Devils are a train wreck. There’s no leadership on or off the ice, MacLean may as well be talking to a brick wall, and the players look bored and lost. None of that is a recipe for success, and it’s evident from these blowouts that the Devils players either aren’t ready or aren’t willing to give the effort needed to be a consistent force night in and night out.
Tonight’s game against the Rangers gives these Devils a chance to break out of this funk. If the team can’t get motivated or excited for this matchup, then I don’t know what MacLean can do. The Rangers have won two in a row, and they look good right now. The Devils have a chance to go into Madison Square Garden and take it to their rivals. The Devils have showed about 123 minutes of solid play, and those minutes ended up in two shutout wins. This is a deep and talented team that plays well when it wants to. Today needs to be one of those days.
We as fans may have loftier than normal expectations for this team, but we’re not seeing anything out of the Devils right now. Today gives New Jersey a chance to redeem last night’s disaster of a performance. MacLean tried to make a statement by sitting Kovalchuk, one that ultimately backfired. The Devils need to show themselves and the fans that this slow start is merely a fluke, and they can do that today against a rival. But if the team fails to show up, then the players and coaches will confirm what we all suspect – there’s a major divide in the locker room, and no one has stepped up to address it.
Game time is 7 p.m. and can be seen on MSG Plus or heard on WFAN 660 AM. Remember to check in with The Devils’ Den for a live game blog tonight! Here are tonight’s potential line combinations:
Forwards: Zach Parise – Travis Zajac – Dainius Zubrus; Rod Pelley – Jason Arnott – Jamie Langenbrunner; Patrik Elias – Jacob Josefson – Ilya Kovalchuk; Adam Mair – Tim Sestito – David Clarkson
Defenseman: Andy Greene – Olivier Magnan-Grenier; Colin White – Matt Taormina; Henrik Tallinder – Matt Corrente
Goalies: Martin Brodeur, Johan Hedberg
This offseason, the Devils have several player questions which need to be answered. Should the team pursue Ilya Kovalchuk, leaving Paul Martin to free agency? Maybe the opposite should occur. Can general manager Lou Lamoriello find a solid, second-line center? And how much would that center cost?
In the commotion over Kovalchuk and Martin, one restricted free agent has moved to the back burner in the minds of many fans. David Clarkson, the team’s skilled tough-guy, can entertain offers from other teams in the league. Which brings me to my main question – how much is Clarkson worth?
The Devils had high expectations for Clarkson this year, and many fans echoed the same thought. Clarkson played in all 82 games last year, tallying 32 points (17 goals, 15 assists). The resident tough-guy also took 164 penalty minutes. Finally, Clarkson scored four powerplay goals, showing his versatility with the extra man. But stats don’t tell the entire story. Clarkson provided the Devils with a big body, someone who wasn’t afraid to mix it up and crash the net. Clarkson’s play seemed to be endearing himself to the Devils organization and fans alike, and expectations grew.
It seemed Clarkson would take off this season, but he didn’t have the best of luck. Clarkson twice injured his ankle – the first coming after he blocked a Zdeno Chara shot. The injury set him back, and Clarkson missed significant parts of December, January and February. His absence was noticeable, as the Devils lacked a big body to mix it up in front of the net the entire season. When on the ice, Clarkson seemed to provide a spark, giving the Devils the physical presence they so desperately lacked.
This off-season, the Devils talented young winner becomes a restricted free agent, one I believe would garner some interest from teams around the league. While Clarkson has shown he can be a talented scorer, I don’t believe he’s worth breaking the bank over. In an offseason where the Devils must decide if Martin or Kovalchuk will receive a big payday, Clarkson shouldn’t expect a bank-breaking deal. The winger only made $875,000 last season, and I don’t see much of a raise coming his way. I would have to believe Lamoriello would only offer two or three million dollars for the next few years. At most, a three or four year contract for four million would be acceptable. But that would be pushing it. I think Clarkson isn’t worth that much money, especially with bigger holes to fill.
So what do you think? What is David Clarkson really worth? Make your opinions known in the comment section of the article!
In the continuing “Eastern Conference Playoff Preview” series, I’ll preview the Boston Bruins. The team, currently sitting eighth in the division, have continued to hold off the Atlanta Thrashers and the New York Rangers for the last spot in the playoffs. With injuries and a lack of scoring, the Bruins look to be one of the weakest playoff teams in the division.
One of the worst injuries for this team came when Marc Savard was concussed by Matt Cooke. Although he didn’t wow anyone with his offensive prowess, he still brought a gritty presence to the team. Without him, Boston has seemed to struggle without him. They shouldn’t have a problem scoring, with players like Patrice Bergeron, Marco Sturm, and surprise players like David Krejci. But the team ranks 30th in the league in scoring, with 182 goals scored this season. The team’s -33 plus/minus ranking isn’t great either. Both of those things show Boston’s lack of scoring depth. With the possibility of facing the Washington Capitals in the first round, that lack of scoring can really put the Bruins in a hole.
Zdeno Chara leads an average defensive squad for the Bruins. Chara leads all Bruins defenseman in goals, assists and points. He’s also the plus/minus leader. After Chara, there’s not much on the blue line. The defense, as a whole, ranks 30th in the league in goals against. A lack of scoring and a lack of defense? That doesn’t bode well for the playoffs.
Maybe one of the only bright spots for Boston is the emergence of goalie Tuukka Rask. The 6-3 Finn has solidified the number one position in Beantown, going 19-12-4 with a 1.99 goals against average. He’s far outplayed former Vezina winner Tim Thomas. His G.A.A. and save percentage (.930) are very, very good. If there’s one person keeping Boston afloat, it’s Rask. His play could lengthen a series. But without any solid scoring options or defensive play, it looks like it’ll all be on him to win them a series.
So, does Boston stand a chance in the playoffs? Like many of the lower seeds, they don’t look great. They lack a scoring offense, and the team’s defense isn’t that much better. The only bright spot, Rask, can’t steal them a playoff series. With Boston barely hanging on to the eighth seed, it might be a one-and-done year for the Bruins.
Four teams moved on to the semifinals tonight. Here’s a recap of the games:
Zach Parise (New Jersey Devils) tallied two goals in the third period as Team USA defeated Switzerland, 2-0, to move into the semifinal round of the Olympic tournament yesterday in Vancouver.
Parise broke a scoreless tie 2:08 into the third period. With Team USA on a powerplay, defenseman Brian
Rafalski (Detroit Red Wings) took a shot from the point that went into a crowd of players. Parise put a stick on the shot, and the puck went off of Jonas Hiller (Anaheim Ducks) and into the net for the goal.
Switzerland nearly tied the game at 3:40 of the period. Sandy Jeannin skated behind the defense and shot the puck from the goal line. The shot beat Ryan Miller (Buffalo Sabres), but the puck caromed off the right post and out of the net.
Parise iced the victory at 19:49 of the third period. The winger fired a shot into Switzerland’s empty net for his second goal of the game.
Hiller finished with 43 saves in the lost. Team USA will face Finland in a semifinal matchup Friday at 3 p.m.
It was 50 years since Team Canada beat the Russians in Olympic hockey.
After 24 minutes of hockey, the Canadians sealed their trip to the semifinal round.
Team Canada scored seven goals to bury Russia, 7-3, Wednesday night in Vancouver.
Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks) began the Canadian scoring 2:21 into the game. Chris Pronger (Philadelphia Flyers) and Dan Boyle (San Jose Sharks) assisted on the goal.
That goal opened the floodgates.
Canada tallied four goals in the first period and two more in the second. At 4:07 in the second period, Russian coach Slava Bykov pulled goaltender Evgeni Nabakov (San Jose Sharks). The starting goalie allowed all six goals. Ilya Brzygalov (Phoenix Coyotes) took over and allowed only one more Canadian goal.
With the win, Canada will face Slovakia in semifinal action Friday.
Niklas Hagman (Calgary Flames) and Valtteri Filppula (Detroit Red Wings) scored in the third period to lead Finland over the Czech Reupblic, 2-0, Wednesday night in quarterfinal action.
Hagman broke a scoreless tie with a powerplay goal at 13:34 of the third period. Teammate Janne Niskala assisted on the eventual game-winning goal.
Filppula iced the victory with an empty-net goal at 18:25 of the period. Mikko Koivu (Minnesota Wild) sent a pass to Filppula at the blue line. Filppula carried the puck into the Finnish zone and shot the puck into the empty net for the goal.
Slovakia scored three goals in the second period to upset Sweden, 4-3, in quarterfinal action.
Marian Gaborik (New York Rangers) broke a scoreless tie with a powerplay goal at 7:34 of the second period. Teammates Marian Hossa (Chicago Blackhawks) and Pavol Demitra (Vancouver Canucks) assisted on the goal.
Andrej Sekera extended the lead to two 37 second later. Richard Zednik (Florida Panthers) and Zigmund Palffy assisted on the goal.
Sweden’s Henrik Zetterberg (Detroit Red Wings) tied the game at two at 14:26 in the period. Tobias Enstrom (Atlanta Thrashers) assisted on the goal.
Demitra gave Slovakia back the lead at 19:12 with a powerplay goal. Zdeno Chara (Boston Bruins) and Hossa assisted on the second powerplay goal of the period for Slovakia.
Tomas Kopecky (Chicago Blackhawks) scored the eventual game-winning goal. Hossa and Demitra were credited with assists on the goal.
With the losses, two Devils should be returning to the team. Ilya Kovalchuk (Russia) and Patrik Elias (Czech Republic) were knocked out of the tournament tonight. I don’t know when they’ll rejoin the team, but I would think they’d be back by the end of the week.