The New Jersey Devils are headed to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2003, when they won the Stanley Cup. In the first round, we watched as the Devils took seven games and two extra periods to finish off the Florida Panthers. After the roller coaster ride of a series, the Devils faced the Philadelphia Flyers. Most of the pundits and media had the Flyers winning comfortably, so did I. We were all presently surprised when the Devils showed up 100% for every game and stuck it to the broad street bullies in 5 games.
In these two series we the fans saw three different Devils teams. The team that thought they could roll over the Panthers without breaking a sweat, the team that realized the Panthers were a tough team, and the team that came out fighting against an arguably better team. (The Flyers had one more regular season point, but one less win). After the jump I'll break down the two series and the playoff run as a whole.
Comparing the two series, The Devils were better in almost every aspect against the Flyers. The power play was marginally better. About two percent more efficient, the Devils only had 18 power play opportunities against the Flyers while they had 25 against the Panthers. What is this due to? I thought about it for awhile and then realized that Florida just may have a better penalty kill than the Flyers. The Devils power play didn’t seem to change from my perspective between the two series. The real impressive difference between the two series is the Devils’ penalty kill. It was 20 percent better in the second round. Twenty percent! And the fact is, the Flyers have a much better power play than the Panthers. That makes the 20% even more impressive.
As for scoring in the two series, the Devils improved there as well. The Devils increased their goals per game by 1 goal per game. The Devils made a joke of Ilya Bryzgalov all through the second round. The icing on the cake was when Bryzgalov cleared the puck into David Clarkson’s stick for the eventual game and series winning goal. The defense and goaltending was also better. The Devils allowed 2.2 goals per game against the Flyers, down from 2.6 against the Panthers. Not only does the scoring show the tale of two Devils; the shooting is abundant as well. The Devils increased their shots per game by six. Simply fantastic.
(special "Red Alert" chart colors)
So, how do the Devils stack up against the remaining teams in the playoffs? Let's start with the bad news. The Devils' faceoff percentage is the worst of the remaining teams. They also have the worst PK%. That's it for the bad news, on to the good news. The Devils lead the last five teams left in the playoffs in just about every other category. Here's a list:
Number one in:
5v5 GF/GA G/G (Tied with LA) PP% S/G SA/G
I would say that this is a pretty impressive list. Below is a screenshot of NHL's playoff stats page if you want to see the numbers.
Finally, who has been scoring for the Devils? That's a trick question; every forward except Tim Sestito (played one game) has three points or more. Every skater who has played more than one playoff game has at least one point. As for the high scorers, Kovalchuk leads the team with five goals and seven assists; followed by Travis Zajac with 5 goals and 5 assists. This doesn't surprise me because the Devils had one of the deepest teams in the Eastern Conference this season. Kovalchuk has also been clutch on the power play with three power play goals. Patrik Elias is second on the team with two power play goals. As for shot generation, Zach Parise has taken 51 shots. Kovy and Elias are second with 35 shots. Why am I telling everyone this? Because Parise generates all sorts of offense, and boy is it showing this postseason.
What has been the difference between the two playoff series in your eyes? Do you see these trends continuing for the Devils? If you haven't voted yet, vote on who you think the Devils will face next round, either the Washington Capitals or New York Rangers. Thanks for reading and enjoy the rest before cheering on the Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals!