A Quick Look at the New Jersey Devils Special Teams

After two games under Pete Deboer, the New Jersey Devils stand at 1-1-0. Both games are tough to compare, as one was an awful game against the Philadelphia Flyers and one was a very much sharper game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Some fans were worried after being shutout, yet they have calmed down after a much better performance. As DeBoer said in his post game on Monday, the NHL season "is a marathon," and it's going to take a little bit to fix the kinks, dots the t's and cross the i's. I mean...yeah..you got it. One problem that was shared during both games though was discipline.

One of the biggest moments last game that lead to the win against the Canes was killing a 5-on-3 powerplay around two and half minutes into the 3rd period. The game was tied at 2 apiece - Nick Palmieri was called for tripping at 1:02 and then Patrik Elias ran into Cam Ward at 2:18. A 44 second 5-on-3. Uh oh...

Yet the Devils managed to stay alive in the game for those 44 seconds - and per the play-by-play summary, the Canes barely did anything. Not even a shot attempt (I do remember a couple missed shots though). A couple minutes later, Ilya Kovalchuk sunk his own rebound and the Devils never looked back the rest of the game.

I wanted to a take a moment to look at the penalty kill, as well as the powerplay which scored a goal on Monday (Parise's empty netter). I'm aware it's only two games in and it's tough to make any type of solid conclusions, but there's been a good amount of talk around these parts about the lines, and parings - but not much about special teams. After the jump is a look at the PK lines, the PP lines, some very small sample size stats, and some thoughts on all.

 

 

Penalty Kill

I mentioned discipline and it needs to be addressed. The Devils have been known to follow the rules and have some self control in terms of committing penalties. This season so far has not been. They committed 8 minors in the first game and 7 last game - the most in the NHL at a per game rate. Throw in a fighting major by David Clarkson and two dumb game misconducts by Clarkson and Eric Boulton, and the Devils are averaging 27.5 minutes per game - second most behind the Oilers who have only played one game.

Again, it's only two games in and I'm sure the frequency of penalties will drop. Not everyone is in mid-season form with their legs and sticks which may make a player out of position or behind in a play thus are more likely to infringe. Also, their heads may not be in full hockey mode, thus not thinking everything through. Hopefully DeBoer has addressed this to the team just to make them aware of it and play smarter hockey. It hasn't cost the Devils any games, but it could have last game - and the Flyers could have easily made that game a complete routing if they capitalized.

First, the PK lines.Courtesy of leftwinglock.com, they have a line combinations tabs where you can filter teams, positions, and situations. Here's the Devils 4 man unit frequency chart:

DAINIUS ZUBRUS JACOB JOSEFSON BRYCE SALVADOR ANTON VOLCHENKOV 23.1%
DAINIUS ZUBRUS BRADLEY MILLS BRYCE SALVADOR ANTON VOLCHENKOV 15.4%
DAINIUS ZUBRUS JACOB JOSEFSON HENRIK TALLINDER MARK FAYNE 15.4%
DAINIUS ZUBRUS ADAM HENRIQUE BRYCE SALVADOR ANTON VOLCHENKOV 10.3%
BRADLEY MILLS ZACH PARISE HENRIK TALLINDER MARK FAYNE 7.7%
DAINIUS ZUBRUS ZACH PARISE HENRIK TALLINDER MARK FAYNE 5.1%
ZACH PARISE PATRIK ELIAS ANDY GREENE HENRIK TALLINDER 5.1%
NICK PALMIERI ZACH PARISE ANDY GREENE ANTON VOLCHENKOV 5.1%
JACOB JOSEFSON ZACH PARISE ANDY GREENE BRYCE SALVADOR 2.6%
BRADLEY MILLS ADAM HENRIQUE BRYCE SALVADOR ANTON VOLCHENKOV 2.6%
ZACH PARISE PATRIK ELIAS BRYCE SALVADOR ANTON VOLCHENKOV 2.6%
ZACH PARISE PATRIK ELIAS HENRIK TALLINDER MARK FAYNE 2.6%
NICK PALMIERI ZACH PARISE HENRIK TALLINDER MARK FAYNE 2.6%

 

Zubrus and Josefson have been the go-to forwards on the kill. Josefson leads all the forward with 4:46 per game TOI on the PK (Zubrus a close second at 4:27) Captain Zach is also on the kill a lot. With Travis Zajac out, it's up to these guys to play stellar hockey. I have to say so far, Josefson has done a good job on the kill and overall in the defensive zone. Someone that maybe should be up there is Patrik Elias - but he's been busy being in the box with 3 minor penalties so far, tied for most with Clarkson. Zubrus and Parise were the forwards on the 5-on-3 (not at the same time obviously) and they played great.

Also, Bradley Mills and Adam Henrique are getting some decent time. Overall, the Devils seem to have three solid forwards pairings in Zubrus, Josefson, Parise, Elias, Mills, Henrique. Also, if and when Rod Pelley gets into a game, he's also capable of playing on the PK.

It shouldn't surprise you to see Salvador and Volchenkov getting the most minutes; 6:31 and 6:14 per game respectively. They are the shut down pair at even strength and should be the first and best option on the kill. Fayne and Tallinder are the secondary options. There are used to one another from last season and should do fine. I do like how Deboer is keeping his defensive pairings between even strength and the kill. It synchronizes there rest and time on the ice when situations like these arise. Andy Greene got some time, yet Adam Larsson is not. I'm fine with this. Larsson is racking up minutes and he doesn't need to be on this PK. The rest would help, yet moreover I don't think he's ready to be in these situations. Let him excel at even strength on the PP where there is less pressure (even though that doesn't seem to bother him at all).

The PK overall has been good. With 13 times being shorthanded (total of 23:27), they are technically a perfect 100%. Matt Read's Wayne Simmonds goal came only a couple seconds after a kill was over - so it was still basically a 5-on-4. The discipline needs to be better becuase eventually it will bite them in behind.

Powerplay

Forwards:

ILYA KOVALCHUK DAVID CLARKSON ZACH PARISE PATRIK ELIAS 72.7%
ILYA KOVALCHUK NICK PALMIERI ZACH PARISE PATRIK ELIAS 9.1%
PETR SYKORA DAINIUS ZUBRUS NICK PALMIERI ILYA KOVALCHUK 9.1%
PATRIK ELIAS ZACH PARISE ILYA KOVALCHUK N/A 9.1%
Defenders:
N/A ADAM LARSSON 54.55%
N/A MARK FAYNE 27.27%
N/A MARK FAYNE 9.09%
ANDY GREENE HENRIK TALLINDER 9.09%

 

So I wonder what line is the number one PP unit? Kovy averages 7:26 per game and Larsson is just over 6. Parise and Elias are above 5 minutes per game and Clarkson averages 4:20. As for the next tier of guys, It's Petr Sykora, Nick Palmieri and Zubrus. They all hover around 2 minutes per game.

Matt E. said this was most likely going to be the first unit in the special teams portion of our season preview, and he was right. The Devils are technically 1 for 10, but it was a empty netter. They have 15:15 of time on the powerplay in the first two games. Kovalchuk is the extra forward and Larsson and Fayne share the lone defenseman role. Tallidner and Greene are mostly likely put out there towards the end of man advantages to set up for 5-on-5.

The Devils worked on their powerplay today actually. As I was writing this, Tom Gulitti put up a post about it. During games and practice, they set up in the umbrella, with the 18-year old at the set-up point. Kovy is to his left and Elias to his right. Clarkson is somewhat near the net, and usually comes out in the slot. Parise is near the net as well..roaming...waiting to strike.

One thing I noticed that I wanted to bring up. When one of the lateral point shooters (Elias or Kovy) take a shot, the weak side player does not go to the net. Last game - Elias had a couple nice shots that went to the far side of the net and off Ward's pad. If Kovy skated 10 feet towards the net, it's an easy rebound goal. I hope today they looked at video and discussed it. If the Devils are trying to set up shots from the point, they needs to react to rebounds in order to get goals.

Does Clarkson belong on the first PP unit? I'm not sure. My mind says no, but recent history has shown whatever the Devils have been doing in the past wasn't working. Clarkson on this type of unit is a change. Maybe it will work? If it doesn't, there are plenty of other guys that can play his role. Zubrus and Palmieri absolutely can.

What has bothered me a bit is the fact Mattias Tedenby hasn't got a look on the powerplay. Maybe putting him in instead of Sykora? He's a little faster than Sykora and can still shoot. Though Sykora on the powerplay is probably a reason the Devils signed him.

Overall, a big difference this season can be the powerplay. If this team is able to get into that upper tier of powerplay percentage (18 to 20%), this team can be very dangerous. Only time will tell. Goals have been an issue, and getting them on the man advantage puts less pressure to score goals at evens.

 

So Devils fans - after only a couple of games, what do you think about the special teams. What are your thoughts on the pairings and units? What would you want to change?  What do you like that shouldn't? Thanks for reading. 

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