For the first three months of the New Jersey Devils 2010-11 season, the second period has been horrid seemingly over and over again. Over a month ago, I looked at the game summaries of the first 27 games of the season to see how the second periods have went for New Jersey in terms of shots and goals. It confirmed that, yes, the second period was a bad one for New Jersey so far in the season. If you felt any dread at the start of the second in a Devils game, you had good reason to be concerned.
Since that post, John MacLean was head coach for 6 more games whereupon the team went 1-5, the lone win coming in a 3-0 shutout of Phoenix. Only once did the Devils go into the second period not losing - they were up 1-0 against Phoenix). Only once did the team hold the opposition to no goals in the second period - the game against Phoenix. The Devils did outshoot the opposition in the second period except for the 3-1 loss to Nashville and that same game against Phoenix; but as noted earlier, the Devils were losing going into that period. In any case, second periods were still pretty awful under MacLean until his eventual firing in late December.
On December 23, 2010, Jacques Lemaire was named the interim head coach of the New Jersey Devils. Shortly after his first game behind the bench for this season, Lemaire has stated his goal is to get the Devils to be a competitive hockey team. He's been behind the bench for 12 games this season now - the exact amount of games played in October or November. While not as long as MacLean was coach, it's enough time to see whether there are signs of improvement within this team. Since the second period was such a problem, let's see whether the Devils have done better in that period under Lemaire. Are they losing games in the second period? Are they getting pounded as they were under MacLean?
I break it down after the jump, but let me give you a hint: there's reason to worry less about the Devils playing in the second period under Lemaire.
Just as was done in the first post about MacLean, here's a chart of the 12 second periods the Devils have played under Lemaire. If you're interested, here's the chart for all 33 second periods under MacLean's time as head coach.
Quick legend: GF is goals for; GA is goals against; SF is shots for; SA is shots against; and GWGA is game winning goal allowed.
Here are some quick facts about these 12 second periods:
The Devils have only allowed the game winning goal in 2 of these games, or 16.7%. The Devils actually scored their eventual game winning goal in the second period in their 5-2 win over the Islanders.
The Devils were out-shot in the second period 3 times, or 25%. Incidentally, the Devils were leading in the game going into the second period with a lead for 2 of those 3 games.
Speaking of leads, the Devils led going into the second period 4 times, or 33.3%. 3 out of 4 of those games led to Devils wins.
The Devils held their opposition to no goals in the second period in 4 games, or 33.3%. The team went 2-2 in those games.
The Devils put up 10 or more shots on net in the second period in 11 of these games, or 91.7%. The opposition has done so in only 4 games.
The Devils did win one game going into the second period from behind; though the Devils won that game in the third period.
You may notice the different colored rows. That's to visually differentiate months in the second. While they have only played 8 out of 12 games this month, it's looking a lot better than the past 3 months of this season.
They are actually even in goals while out-shooting their opposition. Out-shooting them enough to bring the season shot differential in New Jersey's favor. The Devils may be doomed to a negative goal differential for the season for the second period; but January is already a far sight better than October (all MacLean) or December (MacLean for 9 games, Lemaire for 4).
Since the question asks whether the Devils are doing any better under Lemaire, let's compare second periods under the two coaches. To account for the difference in games, I've included a per-game rate for each of the four stats used so far.
It's clear to me that there's definitely reason to believe the Devils are doing better in the second period under Lemaire. While the Devils are being out-scored in second periods under Lemaire, it's not by much. Moreover, the goals for rate has improved while the goals against rate is dramatically lower. The other big difference is in shots. While it may be due to score effects, the Devils have out-shot their collective opposition in the second period, whereas the opposition had the advantage under MacLean.
Of course, this is by no means definitive namely because Lemaire has been coach for a little over a third of the time MacLean has had the team this season. There's a lot more season left for the Devils to get messed up in the second period (or to mess up opponents). I do plan on returning to this issue by game #66 or so when both coaches can be judged more evenly. Hopefully, the Devils can improve further or at least sustain not getting collectively beaten on in second periods.
Plus, this isn't to say there are no other factors at play. For example, score effects. In each of the 6 games the Devils went into the second period losing, they've out-shot their opposition in 5 of those games. It's really of no surprise that the Devils would out-shoot a team while losing. Likewise, this isn't to say the Devils no longer have any problems - just that the second period hasn't gone as poorly as it did under MacLean.
Nevertheless, I believe this represents a step forward under Lemaire, and that ultimately answers the question. That the Devils have only allowed 2 game winning goals in the second under Lemaire as opposed to the 11 under MacLean (yeah, a third of his games) is a step forward. That the Devils have reduced their second period goals allowed per game rate to below 1 is a step forward. Are the Devils doing any better in the second period under Lemaire? Yes. Will it last? I don't know. But based on this month so far, there's reason for Devils fans to not dread the start of future second periods. That's improvement regardless of magnitude.
I'd like to hear your thoughts on the Devils and second periods under Lemaire. Do you dread them as you might have earlier in the season? Do you think the Devils can maintain or improve upon their current numbers? What other areas of the game would you like to see examined to determine whether the Devils got better under Lemaire? Please leave your answers and other relevant thoughts in the comments. Thanks for reading.