An Analysis of the Devil's First Ten Games: 2007 through 2011

The first ten games of the NHL season can go by in the blink of an eye. Whether the Devils are starting out scorching hot or ice cold, the fact that hockey is back makes every win or loss an intense feeling of joy or despair. The Devils played their tenth game of the season last night against the surprisingly strong Toronto Maple Leafs.  With ten games under their belt, the Devil's are without their two best centers, Travis Zajac and Jacob Josefson.  With last season's first ten games in mind, the Devil's mediocre start this year doesn't look relatively bad... key word being relatively.  I'll take a look at the Devil's first ten starts from the 07 - 08 season through last night.

In the first ten games of each season the Devils played five home and five away games.  This will leave out any bias towards one season having more wins than another from simply being at home for more games.  First off I'll list the Devil's record through ten games to compare across seasons:

07-08: (3-6-1)

08-09: (6-2-2)

09-10: (6-4-0)

10-11: (2-7-1)

11-12: (4-5-1)

After the jump I'll break down what is going well for the Devils and what is not going well at the beginning of their last five seasons.

The first ten games can be a pretty strong predictor of the season, so from these ten games it would project around 80 points for the Devils, which will most likely leave them out of the playoffs.  Last year the Rangers squeaked into the playoffs as the eighth seed with 93 points, so the Devils need to pick up the pace if they expect to make it to 93 points, or preferably more.

The Devils have never been known to be prolific scorers, so who has been there to win games for them? In the last four years, Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise each have four game winning goals in the first ten games.  I can't think of anything that would be good for a young season other than the go-to guys getting a few important goals under their belt, not only to relieve the pressure from themselves, but to lead the team into the grueling 82 game season. 

This season Kovalchuk and Parise both have had important goals in the shootout.  I would have preferred them in OT, but a win is a win and should spark a fire under the team.  I feel, and maybe I'm missing it, that the Devils have yet to really play with a burning desire to win.  Could be the captain, could be the coach, and it could be the veterans. I'm not getting into locker room politics, just making an observation.

07 - 08 Winning Goals:  Madden, Elias, Asham

08 - 09 Winning Goals: Elias x 2, Parise x 2, Langenbrunner, Rolston,

09 - 10 Winning Goals: Langenbrunner x 2, Bergfors, Zubrus, Clarkson, Parise

10 - 11 Winning Goals: Kovalchuk, Parise

11 - 12 Winning Goals: Kovalchuk x 3, Zubrus

            Over time, the Devils are decreasing in goals for and increasing in goals against in the first ten games.  What can we attribute this to...slow starts? The marry-go-round of coaches? The lack of a "system"? Survey says: the amount of shots.  From the 2007 to the 2009 season, shots for is trending upwards and shots against is trending downwards, good; from 2010 on we see shots for decreasing a substantial amount while shots against is increasing.  This is something DeBoer needs to address.  The Devils have only taken 278 shots, or 27.8 shots per game.  This could also suggest that the Devils do not have strong puck possession and have a hard time dictating the pace of the game.  The positive side to this is that the Devils have a higher shooting percentage than last year (7% vs. 5%). 

 

 

07-08

08-09

09-10

10-11

11-12

Shots For

299

326

299

308

278

Shots Against

284

267

287

300

302

Goals For

22

31

27

17

21

Goals Against

34

25

26

35

28

The special teams data is a little more murky than the even strength data.  Over time we see power play goals decreasing. At first that may be alarming, but power play opportunities are also declining.  The short handed goals against have been steadily decreasing and for the last three years the amount of penalty kill situations has been constant.  Therefore the Devils penalty kill has been becoming more efficient over time.  This year they have only allowed four short handed goals over 38 opportunities.

 

 

07-08

08-09

09-10

10-11

11-12

PP Goals

9

6

7

3

5

PP Opportunities

50

38

41

33

32

SH Goals Against

13

10

8

6

4

Times Shorthanded

42

45

38

38

38

 

These are just trends and hopefully the Devils can prove that history doesn't have to repeat itself.  Compared to last year's start, the Devils are on pace to have a much improved season, especially considering we are missing key players down the center.  However, injuries are no excuse, look at the Penguins. Do you feel like these trends will continue? How can the Devils reverse these trends?  Thanks for reading!

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