The New Jersey Devils are one of the best teams at home, but they are mediocre on the road. Why?
The New Jersey Devils have managed to start the shortened season with a 10-3-4 record after last night's comeback win in Washington. This record has the Devils tied for first in the Eastern Conference with the Canadiens. The Candiens are technically in first since they have more wins; however, both teams have 24 points. I'm going to take a look at how the Devils got to this record. More specifically, I'm going to look at how he Devils play at home versus away.
Overall, the Devils have pretty similar home and road records. The Devils are 6-1-2 when playing in Newark while they are 4-2-2 when playing on the road. Overall, the Devils score 2.65 goals per game while allowing 2.24. That's a good sign for a team that is winning, it shows that the Devils aren't just the receipients of "puck luck". They are outscoring their opponents so far this season. Another interesting note is that the Devils have not allowed a single short handed goal against...take this moment to vigorously knock on wood. This is a significant improvement over last year's awful total of 13 SHGA. It was so bad last season that many Devils fans were more worried about allowing a goal on the powerplay rather than scoring one. Anyways, the Devils have also scored the most shorthanded goals this season with a total of four. There are a few teams that have half that total, but the Devils are clearly a threat, even on the penalty kill.
The Devils only have one regulation loss at the Rock. While at the Rock, the Devils score 3.11 goals per game while allowing only 2.11. This means the Devils are consistently outscoring their opponent by one goal at home. Also of note, the Devils have the third most goals for at home, following only Tampa Bay and Montreal. The Devils are also fourth in goals allowed at home, behind Chicago, Anaheim, and Philadelphia. Even though the Devils have only played 9 games at home, these numbers all point towards a strong team that is very tough to beat on home ice.
I have two hypothesis as to why the Devils are a strong team at home. The first is that the Devils kept largely the same roster as last season. Of all the players who have recorded a point this season, only three were not on the roster for last season, Andrei Loktionov, Stefan Matteau, and Bobby Butler. The Devils even brought back Alexei Ponikarovsky from last season. The Devils have fully developed chemistry on the top three lines. Much of this has carried over from last season's playoff run, which is great. This allows the players to have confidence in each other as well as the coach, Peter DeBoer. The other idea is the fact that the Devils have sold out almost every home game so far this season. When you think of lists of tough rinks to play at in the NHL, you hardly hear the Rock in that conversation. If you have a solid home team and add in a great fan base, you get a tough arena for opposing teams.
The Devils have only won 50% of their road games this season, but they have taken away a point in 75% of the contests. When on the road, the Devils score at a much lower 2.13 goals per game while also allowing slightly more goals against, 2.38. While most teams don't play as good on the road, the Devils performance drops significantly compared to their home numbers. At home, the Devils score more than their opponents, on the road they allow 0.25 goals more, on average. This is a little concerning in that the Devils might be getting lucky on the road and could have a losing record rather than a winning record. Hopefully the Devils will turn this around. However, if they can continue to win at the rate they're winning, they could get home ice advantage and the road scoring might not effect their playoff run.
Now that we've covered team performance, let's take a glance at which players we can expect to score at home and/or on the road. The highest scorer at home and on the road is Patrik Elias. Elias has 3 goals and 9 assists at home and 2 goals, 7 assists on the road. This is something I've come to expect from Elias, great play no matter where he is playing. The next two high scorers are both in the top three for the Devils at home and on the road. Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson. The only other pleyer who is in the top five in scoring at home and away is Andy Greene who has five points at home and three on the road.
Stephen Gionta is great one home ice with 6 points but can't muster up a whole lot of offense on the road. Gionta has only one point in eight road games. Also of note outside the top five scorers is Adam Henrique. Henrique is sixth for the Devils at home and away with four goals at home and 3 assists on the road.
One player I would have expected to be in the top five in scoring was Travis Zajac. He has really struggled on the road with only one goal and no assits while compiling 2 goals and 2 assists at home. Hopefully we see Zajac's performance improve as the season continues.
What do you think of the Devils performance at home? Do you think it's due to the chemistry, the atmosphere, or something different all together? Thanks for reading!