The Devils sport a gaudy 6-3-1 record since the calendar turned to March. They rank 10th in the League in goals scored. The offense has exploded to key several third period wins.... but they've also been held in check as often as not -- they've been shut out three times this month and held to two goals twice.
Lurking beneath the surface is a disturbing number: the Devils have received 110 of their 198 goals (55.6%) from four players: Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, David Clarkson, and Zach Parise. While there are three other players on the roster who have scored at least 10 goals for the Devils this season, the secondary scoring has largely dried up as of late. The worrisome numbers follow the jump.
Elias (5), Kovalchuk (5), Parise (5), and Clarkson (4) have remained productive even with the calendar changing over to March. On the other hand, the rest of the offense has scored a total of 6 goals this month.... and not all of it has come from the expected sources. Marek Zidlicky and Anton Volchenkov have both lit the lamp this month, leaving four goals from the other forwards on the roster. The other forwards populating the top three lines have largely gone quiet, and it isn't a trend that started when the calendar changed. Rather, some of these forwards stopped notching goals further back.
Jacob Josefson has yet to score a goal this season. While he's missed nearly half the year due to injury, he has still appeared in 32 games and has averaged better than 15:00 TOI this month.
Adam Henrique's last goal came February 17th. Since then, the rookie has a scoring drought now extended to 15 games. Alexei Ponikarovsky last scored on February 26th. While he's missed three games due to injury, he now has not scored in his last 8 games.
Dainius Zubrus has scored once between his goal against the Rangers on February 5th and today, a span of 19 games. Petr Sykora's goal against Pittsburgh today was his first since February 26th, a span of 11 games. Ryan Carter has scored once since last November 19th. While his role has been limited and he has missed 10 games due to a variety of reasons in the interim, he is up to 44 games and counting with just the lone goal.
The forwards aren't the only culprits. While the Devils' defense is not particularly expected to light up the scoreboard like an old-fashioned pinball machine, those players who were expected to chip in with goals now and again have largely not done so. Andy Greene scored his first goal of the season today. Mark Fayne last scored on February 21st.... prior to that, one has to go back to a game against Buffalo on November 16 to find a Fayne goal, and that was 55 games ago. Adam Larsson has not scored since November 26th against the Islanders -- not counting games missed due to injury, Larsson has a 38-game goalless drought.
The good news is that the Devils are unlikely to miss the playoffs due to such a one-dimensional attack. The bad news is that they're starting to look very similar to the teams on the playoff bubble fighting for the last spot or two. Like Washington or Florida, the Devils risk becoming a one-line team -- albeit one with a goaltender who has been to many a playoff series. While one hot line is capable of winning a game or perhaps a series on its own, such a team construction is ill-suited to trying to win multiple rounds of the playoffs.... a team with a hot goaltender or a strong shutdown unit can neutralize one line, particularly on home ice.
Have the Devils ridden the current line configuration as far as they can? Should Peter DeBoer use the remaining portion of the schedule to shake things up and see if he can re-kindle some of the secondary forwards whose contributions (or lack thereof) could swing a playoff series? If so, how?