NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 08: Dainius Zubrus #8 of the New Jersey Devils celebrates a goal against the Ottawa Senators during their game on December 8, 2011 at The Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
The season is 30 games old for the NHL. Last season that meant a dreadful record of 9-19-2 for the New Jersey Devils. The worst start in years. This year the Devils have turned a new leaf and have a record of 16-13-1 after the 30 game mark. The Devils have just passed the one third mark of the season and things are looking up this year.
The Devils are fourth in the Atlantic division, but the top three teams in the division are also three of the top five teams in the Eastern conference. However the Devils are only eight points out of first in the Atlantic division and 8 points out of the lead for the Eastern Conference lead. The Devils are winning 55% of the points available to them, only 0.4% lower than the league average. In order to make it into the playoffs, the Devils will want to increase their points percentage slightly, but I am confident they will do that over time. After the jump I'll cover how the Devils have gotten to this point in the season.
The Devils have split the games evenly between Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg, 15 games apiece. Let's start with the goalie that has been the worse goalie statistically, Marty. Marty has gone 7-8 with a 3.08 GAA. Marty has played a couple tough games and hasn't gotten into a rhythm quite yet. Marty has a 0.886 save percentage, which seems fitting for the games he has played.
Moose has gone 9-5-1 and has a GAA of 2.37. Moose has been playing great this year and has kept the Devils in a lot of tight games. He has also been spectacular on the shootout and is one of the main reasons the Devils are 7-1 in the shootout. Hedberg is also sporting a .913 save percentage, pretty darn good for a "back-up". If you look at the league average you can see the Devils have only allowed three more goals than the league average. The Devils also allow 2.7 goals per game; I like to believe the Devils have above average goaltending, but unfortunately the stats tell a different story.
I think we all know by now that the Devils have an atrocious power play and a stellar penalty kill. The power play is averaging 3.8 goals per 60 minutes, good for 3rd worst in the league. The Devils have even allowed 9 shorthanded goals against, worst in the league. To be frank, that statistic is extremely disturbing. By the end of the year, the Devils would have over 20 shorthanded goals against.
On the other hand, the penalty kill is #1 in the league. In 60 minutes, the penalty kill unit gives up 2.3 goals and only 43.4 shots. This sort of penalty kill can turn moment in the game. When an opposing team gets four or five power plays a game and can't cash in on any of them, they feel de-motivated, unless of course they score shorthanded. The penalty kill is succeeding at 92.86%, 10% higher than the league average. That should put a warm feeling in your belly.
Patrik Elias is the leading points scoring for the Devils with 25 points. Adam Henrique, Zach Parise, and Ilya Kovalchuk have also broke 20 points. Before the Panthers game, Elias, Parise, Kovalchuk, Dainius Zubrus, and David Clarkson all had nine goals for the team lead. This team effort could mean by the end of the regular season the Devils may have five players with 25 goals and 60 points each. With Travis Zajac hopefully coming back from injury this weekend, the Devils should see even a little more point production with the addition of their number one center back.
With the pace the Devil's are on, their projected record at the end of the season will be around 44-35-3. The Devils would have 91 points and would probably slide into 8th place in the playoffs. Consequently, the Devils have been playing some great hockey and they climbed into 8th place in the East with their win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. Do you feel the Devils will continue on this path? Get better or worse? Let everyone know what you believe in the comments below. Thanks for reading!