A shortened season goes by quick; it doesn’t seem like that long ago we were celebrating a 2-1 win against the Islanders. Now 12 games have gone by – we have played 1/4th of our regular season. Obviously we are all happy with an 8-1-3 record; we sit atop the eastern conference and have recorded at least one victory against our divisional foes. We are also in the midst of a 5 game winning streak. But it is pointless to boast about the Devils accomplishments because there are still 36 more games on the schedule and nothing is guaranteed. Here are some numbers regarding the first quarter of our season and how we compare to other teams:
1) Win Percentage
The Devils have amassed 19 out of a possible 24 points; that makes for a win percentage of 79.16%, which is second best in the east. The Bruins with an 8-1-1 record have an 85% win percentage to lead the east; they should have played 11 games but their game against Tampa Bay was postponed due to the blizzard. How does our win percentage compare to last year? The Rangers clinched first in the east with a win percentage of 66.46%; the Senators snuck in as the 8th seed with a 56.10% win percentage. The Devils clinched the 6th seed with 62.20%. In the last shortened season, the Nordiques clinched the top spot in the east with a win percentage of 67.71%; the Rangers with a win percentage of 48.96% were the 8th seed and the Devils clinched the 5th seed with 54.16%.
It is unrealistic that the Devils will have their current win percentage of 79.16% by the end of this season; also the data seems to suggest that a shortened season is a bit more wide open – the difference in win percentage between the first and eighth seed was nearly 20% as compared to about 10% last season.
So what would be a target win percentage for the Devils to clinch the Atlantic? If I had to make an educated guess I would say between 65 and 68%. The fact that the Devils have only one loss in regulation makes a significant difference in the standings. Of course no one is happy about losing in overtime and a shootout, but if we did not pick up those three additional points, our win percentage would drop to 66.66% (8-4-0); because there are less games, points have more value.
2) Special Teams
The Devils have had 53 power play opportunities, which is the 8th most in the league; the Red Wings are first with 61 opportunities. It is no surprise that the Devils are in the upper third of this category – they play a gritty brand of hockey that gets underneath the skin of their opponents; just look what happened to the Penguins during last Saturday’s game. Out of those 53 chances, the Devils scored 11 times – that makes for a PP percentage of 20.8%; this places them right at the middle of the league at 14th. The Blues have a staggering 36.6% PP, which is a full 8 percentage points ahead of the second place Lightning.
The Devils have the 7th ranked penalty kill in the league; they have been down at least one man 58 times and have allowed 8 goals – that makes for a 86.2% PK; the Blackhawks and the Bruins are tied for first with a 92.9% PK. On top of this, the Devils lead the league in shorthanded goals with 3, which leads the NHL, but perhaps just as important, they have not given their opponents any shorthanded goals; this was a problem at the beginning of the season last year.
I know many fans are less than impressed with our 14th ranked PP; however, this isn’t the biggest of the Devils problems regarding special teams. Our 58 times shorthanded is tied for second most in the league right behind the Oilers who have 61; the obvious statement would be that the Devils need to take less penalties. The Devils have also racked up 170 PIM, which is tenth most in the league. Luckily we mostly take minor penalties. The Canadiens lead the league with 248 PIM. Yet, if you look how effective their penalty kill is and how sometimes it can either change the momentum of the game or frustrate the opponent, perhaps taking the second most penalties isn’t such a terrible thing. That’s the only way I can justify it, but I would like to see less penalties – it burned us twice in OT against the Islanders and Canadiens, two teams that we should have beaten.
Face-offs were a weak spot for us last year and sadly they have not improved much this year; as a team we have won 320 face-offs and lost 373. This puts us at a dismal 27th in the league with a face-off win percentage of 46.2%; the Bruins lead the league in this department with 58.2%. Clearly, we need to improve upon face-offs; they are essential to maintaining offensive position or safely clearing the puck from our own end.
The Devils are not a club known for their offensive firepower; however, they are currently ranked 8th in the league with 33 goals – the struggling Lightning lead the league with 43 goals. We sit right in the middle of the league with a goals for average of 2.69. What is not surprising is our goals allowed – the Devils have let 23 pucks slip between the pipes; this ranks them tied for 6th in the league along with the Blackhawks and surprisingly enough the Avalanche. The Sharks have let in the least amount of goals with 20. We are tied for fourth with the Blackhawks with a goals allowed average of 1.87. We have 315 shots on goal, this puts us at 19th in the league – the Senators have the most with 403. A more telling number for our offense is what percent of our shots go in – 10.5%, which is good for 5th in the league. The Lightning lead the league with 14.6%.
5) The Goalies
I would be remiss if I didn’t add a section about the Devils goaltending – it is amazing how well Marty and Moose have been playing; the Devils are one of a few teams in the league that have the luxury of two very good goaltenders, which is even more crucial given the shortened season. It may sound crazy, but I would take this combo over Schneider and Luongo in Vancouver – both men understand the role that they play and are such smart goalies. Let’s look at the numbers:
The Devils have a save percentage of 92.6%, which is 8th best in the league. I can only recall one game where Marty was less than good – the 5-4 OT loss against the Islanders. Brodeur is tied for 17th with a .911 save percentage; Senator’s Craig Anderson leads all goalies with .950. Marty’s goal allowed average is 2.29, which puts him at 13th in the league. Once again, Anderson leads the league with 1.49 GAA. But the stat that matters the most is wins – Brodeur is tied for second with seven other goalies who have 6 wins.
Moose’s numbers are simply ridiculous; in 3 games he has a save percentage of .973 – he has allowed only 2 goals on 74 shots. His GAA is .065. If it wasn’t for letting in a less than stellar goal against the Bruins, he would be 3-0-0. You can make a strong argument that he is currently the best back up in the league – he gives the Devils just as much confidence when he is in the crease as when Marty pads up.
9 goals – tied for second in the league. I’ll type that again: 9 goals – tied for second in the league.
We are quarter completed and out of all of these stats, the only one that truly matters is wins. Devils play a very effective system that is based on good goaltending, solid defense, and capitalizing on offensive chances. It will be interesting to see how these stats will change over the next 12 games.
*Statistics were obtained from NHL.com and Yahoo Sports NHL