More Shots, Few Goals: The First & Third Periods of the 2010-11 New Jersey Devils

Yesterday, I went into detail on how bad the New Jersey Devils have performed in the second period so far this season.  While I was getting the numbers from the game summaries at NHL.com, I figured I'd take a look at the first and third periods.  We know that the second period has largely sucked for the Devils this season.   How do the other two periods look? Are the Devils really shooting more when they are going into the final period of regulation behind in the game?  How about the beginning of the game?  Are there any differences between months or different scoring situations at the start of the period?

I'm mainly looking at goals scored and shots on net for each period. Again, while it's a simple look, I think it will uncover some additional harsh realities with this squad.  As if the title didn't give one of them away (which you probably knew since, hey, the Devils aren't even averaging 2 goals per game right now).  If you're interested, please continue after the jump.

The First Periods of the 2010-11 New Jersey Devils

First_period_devils_12-8-10

Here are some quick points that I discovered while putting this chart together.

  • The Devils have been out-shot in 12 out of 27 first periods this season.
  • The Devils have ended 9 first periods with a lead, 7 first periods with a tied score, and 11 first periods where they go into the first intermission losing.   Of those 7 tied first periods, only 2 were not-scoreless first periods - and the Devils went on to lost both of them.
  • The game winning goal against was scored in 7 first periods this season. Granted, in those games, the Devils were either eventually shutout (4 times) or blown out (3 times).
  • The Devils have scored more than one goal in the first period only 4 times this season, and they only won one of those games.
  • The Devils have allowed more than one goal in the first period 4 times: 3 eventual blowouts and 1 overtime win.

Overall, the Devils have been outscored in the first period 17-21 but have out-shot their opponents 269-256.  Given that the three blowout losses (10/23 vs. Buffalo, 10/27 at San Jose, 12/2 vs. Montreal) combined to put up 8 goals in the first period, it's not as bad as it looks.  Though, after breaking it down by situation and month, I would argue it's not so good either.

First_period_devils_breakdown_12-8-10

It should surprise no one that when the period ends with the Devils leading that they are heavily outscoring their opposition and vice versa when the period ends with the Devils losing.  What should be surprising are the shooting rates between the two situations.  It suggests that the period is more controlled when the Devils do lead. It may be only a weak suggestion, we will know better with more games.  Still, it shocked me to see how big the shots per game for the first period jumped from Devils-winning to Devils-losing.   A positive to take from the situations chart is that they've been outshooting the opposition when it's tied. That's good.  That builds some momentum and establishes who's doing more with the puck.  Too bad it hasn't consistently carried over into the second period, where the Devils have been put to the proverbial sword so many times this season.

The monthly breakdown isn't as generous.  While the overall total is a positive shot differential with a not-groan-worthy goal differential, December has been unkind early.  Whereas the Devils managed +12 and +14 shot differentials in the first two months, they've been pounded in their first three games this month to a -18 differential. Ouch.  While 4 goals against may not seem like a lot, it's a higher rate of goals allowed than the other two months.   Hopefully the Devils reverse these rates in their next few games. Otherwise, you may see a headline of "Slow Starters: The Woeful First Periods of the New Jersey Devils" in mid-January 2011.

At least the Devils managed to outscore opponents in the first period in November.  It's the only time I've found across all three periods where the Devils actually outscore the opposition.  

The Third Periods of the 2010-11 New Jersey Devils 

Third_period_devils_12-8-10

As with the first period chart, here's are some additional findings:

  • The Devils have entered the third period with a lead 6 times this season, and went on to win 5 of those games.  The Devils have entered the third period tied 5 times this season, and went on to lose 3 of those games (1 in overtime, 2 in regulation).  The Devils have entered the third period losing 16 times and went on to lose all 15 of those games. The lone exception was 11/12 overtime win over Edmonton.
  • The Devils have been out-shot 12 times in the third period this season.  4 of these outshooting instances happened when the Devils were losing at the start of the third period: the 10/9 loss at Washington, the 10/16 loss to Boston, the 10/27 loss at San Jose, and the 11/2 loss to Montreal. In each of those games, the Devils lost by 3 or more goals.
  • The Devils have allowed the eventual game winning goal only 3 times in the third period.
  • The Devils only scored more than one goal in the third period once this season: 11/3 at Chicago. And that included 2 empty net goals.  The Devils won that game, which was also one of three where the Devils allowed more than one goal in the third period (the Devils lost the other two).

Overall, the Devils have been outscored 13-20 in the third period while out-shooting opponents 274-214.  No, that's not a typo.  The Devils have combined to put up 60 more shots in the third period, but have failed to get the goals they needed.  When you consider that the Devils are entering more than half of their third periods this season losing, it's no surprise that they are upping their intensity. The Devils are trying as hard as they can in many of these games to make the comeback. This even happens in games when they enter the third period tied and they allow a goal.  Only a few times did they just flop in the third period. 

But as we know, trying hard and $1 will buy you something at the dollar store.   Here's how it breaks down by end of second period situation and month:

Third_period_devils_breakdown_12-8-10

Let's talk about situation first.  The shooting numbers don't surprise me for winning situations. If the opposition is losing, they're going to take whatever steps possible to score and that means more shots.  That's fine. What's not so fine are the goals.  The Devils have only scored in third period twice when they were winning: 3 goals in the 11/3 win over Chicago and 1 in their 10/21 win over Montreal.  Twice, they allowed the equalizer but only came out with wins in the shootout (11/24 to Calgary, 11/26 to Philadelphia).   In the rare case of the Devils winning after two, they need to make a point of it to get an additional goal.  Unfortunately, with the team shooting as poorly as they are, that's asking a lot.

The situation when tied is a mixed blessing.  Yes, the Devils have out-shot the opposition and that's good for a tied situation.  Being outscored 2-4, not so much; though those 4 goals against came in eventual losses (11/20 at St. Louis, 12/5 at Philadelphia).   Where the Devils are losing after two, the Devils have repeatedly turned up the effort.  A shot differential of +76 is, well, amazing.  It's just as amazing that out of 184 shots, they only scored 7 times -  a horrid and hopefully unsustainable 3.8%.   Because the Devils have been the more prolific shooters in the tied and losing situations, the shot differential for third periods are heavy in New Jersey's favor.  Still, this has not (yet?) led to more goals, so it's nothing to really celebrate.

Breaking it down by month shows a negative trend in terms of shot differential. The Devils were decidedly more prolific in October than they were in November and ditto in November compared to December.  It's early in December, still, but it's something they should try and quell now rather than at the end of the month.  Goals are what they are.  The Devils were even in the third period in October; but they got worked in November. There were only 3 games where they didn't concede a goal in the third period in November; that's consistently bad.   The Devils remain outscored in the third period this month, but that's largely driven by the Philadelphia game.

An Attempt to Tie it All Together Overall

Here's the summary of this post and yesterday's post. The Devils aren't too bad in the first period, the Devils tend to look a lot better in the third period in terms of shooting, and that's because the Devils are usually ravaged in the second period.   Given the the widespread scoring slump on the Devils - something so bad that Jonathon Willis was bewildered at the numbers in this post at Houses of the Hockey - it is a combination that is primed for losing hockey games.

Is it getting any better as time goes on?  This was essentially the question David of Talking Red asked me. Here's a summation of the three charts broken down by month.

Devils_shooting_by_month_12-8-10_medium

November was an improvement on the scoring front, though the shooting went down for both the Devils (not as good) and the opposition (which is good).  Current trends are awful, but I'm hoping that it's more due to the fact that December is 3 games old and with more games, there will be some improvement.

So what can the Devils do about this?  Clearly, they need to cut down the number of times they enter the third period losing.  This way they aren't in too deep and they spend the last 20 minutes bombing away to no avail yet again this season.  The Devils would be helped out by having more positive first and second period efforts.   In the rare case they enter the second or third periods leading, it should be a priority to keep up the attack to get a second (or even a third) goal.  This way even if/when the opposition starts blitzing, the Devils at least have a buffer.

It's all so easy to say, but difficult to do.  With Lou's pronouncement that John MacLean is the head coach and the team we have seen will be the team we will see going forward today, it's imperative that they make some changes to their performance should they want to win some games.  While it may not necessarily lead to more goals, the Devils absolutely need to be sharper in the second period at a minimum. If it means trapping and slowing the game down to a crawl, then do it.  If it means keeping it close to .  If there's not going to be a personnel change, then it's on the current staff and players to make whatever adjustments they need to improve their lot in each of the three periods.  What's been going on has not been acceptable, and so it should not continue.

I hope it doesn't.   If the current coaching staff or the player leadership does not figure out how to address these issues and allow these trends to continue, then there will be even more losses and more reasons to change either the coach or leadership (or both).

Now, I've made my case.  Does this back up what you've seen out of the first and third periods this season?  What, besides score more goals, would you like to see them improve in both periods? Do you think the current coaching staff and players can make improvements in either of these two periods along with the second period? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this subject in the comments. Thanks for reading.

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