Devils 2013-2014 Season Preview Part 4: Special Teams

Both Elias and Zajac will be vital on the Devils special teams this season. - USA TODAY Sports

A look at how the New Jersey Devils special teams may pan out during the upcoming season.

The New Jersey Devils did not have the most impressive special teams during the shortened 2012-2013 season. In fact, they were far from the top of the ranks in the NHL both on the man advantage and when they were shorthanded. After a record-setting penalty kill in 2011-2012, the Devils dropped fifteen spots last season and the team didn't see their power play improve, either.

With all of that said, New Jersey's special teams are going to change drastically with new coaching for both the power play and penalty kill and a complete revamp in personnel on ice. The Devils both lost and gained major pieces to the special team puzzle, and this post will look at how they may pan out this season.

First, let's take a look at how the special teams performed during the lockout shortened 2012-2013 season.

Power play:

Team

PP Opp

PPG

PP%

SHGA

NJD

176

28

15.9

6

The Devils fell from 14th overall in 2011-2012 to 21st in the NHL with the man advantage. They converted on just 15.9% of their power play opportunities compared to 17.2% during the previous season. David Clarkson lead the team with six power play goals followed by Patrik Elias with five and Adam Henrique with three (Ilya Kovalchuk had just two power play goals during his final season in red and black).

Devil's Power Play (2012 - 2013) Source - behindthenet.ca

On ice scenario

TOI (rank)

GF (rank)

GF/60 (rank)

+/- per 60 (rank)

SF/60 (rank)

5v4

261.9 (9)

23 (20)

5.3 (20)

3.9 (26)

48.8 (10)

5v3

47.4 (22)

5 (4)

23.1 (10)

23.1 (10)

83.3 (17)

4v3

6.5 (7)

0 (27)

0 (27)

0 (27)

55.7 (20)

Compared to last year, the Devils drew more penalties, but didn't improve with the man advantage. They fell from 19th to 20th in goals scored when 5v4, stayed at 4th in 5v3 situations and dropped five spots when playing 4v3.

Penalty Kill:

Team

TTSH

PPGA

PK%

SHG

NJD

169

32

81.1

11

After a record-setting penalty kill success rate of 89.6% in 2011-2012, I expected to see a less impressive number after this season - but I didn't expect it to drop so low. The Devils went from 1st overall to 16th in the league. There were times when the penalty kill was down right frustrating, as John details in a post here. While the PK wasn't nearly as exciting as the season before, the team managed to keep their shorthanded goal magic going by scoring eleven goals compared to fifteen in the full length 2011-2012 season. Kovalchuk lead the team in that category with four followed by Henrique with two and one each from Zajac, Greene, Carter, and Fayne.

Devil's Penalty Kill (2012 - 2013) Source - behindthenet.ca

On ice scenario

TOI (rank)

GA (rank)

GA/60 (rank)

+/- per 60 (rank)

SA/60 (rank)

4v5

254.6 (12)

27 (15)

6.4 (13)

-3.8 (4)

37.0 (29)

3v5

6.0 (18)

1 (22)

9.9 (24)

-9.9 (7)

19.8 (30)

3v4

5.7 (6)

3 (2)

31.6 (5)

-31.6 (26)

84.2 (12)

The team let in more goals when shorthanded during the shortened 2012-2013 season (27) than they did during the full 2011-2012 season (24). It wasn't realistic to expect another record-breaking season on the penalty kill, but the team dropped drastically in the rankings when in 4v5 situations.

Losses:

Ilya Kovalchuk - Did you hear about this one? The Devils power play revolved around Kovalchuck and he lead the team in shorthanded goals for the last two seasons. He was huge for the Devils, but his departure will leave a lot of room for new guys to step up and could make the power play more interesting, at the very least.

David Clarkson - Clarkson was a pest on the power play and was rewarded for it six times last season. Behind Kovalchuk, he had the most time with the man advantage of any forward but was used for just over one minute on the penalty kill over the entire season. He will be missed on the power play, but with the additions made, his production will hopefully be replaced.

Henrik Tallinder - Whenever Tallinder got into a game last season he was used on the penalty kill. He was never the first defender used when shorthanded, but he was used in those situations, nonetheless.

Steve Sullivan and Matt D'Agostini - both saw a good amount of time on the power play during their brief stint in New Jersey during the 2012-2013 season, though neither mad a huge impact.

Additions:

Damien Brunner - While I would not look for Brunner to be used much, if at all, on the penalty kill, he should be a big part of the power play. With the Detroit Red Wings, Brunner saw an average of 2:58 power play minutes per game and he scored three goals and added seven assists while Detroit had the man advantage. The Red Wings had the 6th ranked power play in the NHL last season.

Ryan Clowe - Clowe was used for 2:22 per game on the power play in 2012-2013 when he split time between the San Jose Sharks and the New York Rangers. He had one goal and one assist with the man advantage during his short stint with the rangers.

Jaromir Jagr - Jagr is a great asset on the power play. Between the Dallas Stars and the Boston Bruins, Jagr played an average of 2:13 per game with the man advantage. He had six power play goals during the regular season.

Michael Ryder - Ryder's eight power play goals was good enough for 7th in the NHL last season. He played an average of 2:55 per game on the power play during 2012-2013 with his season split between the Dallas Stars and the Montreal Canadiens.

Cory Schneider - Schneider will be huge for the penalty kill as he and Brodeur will share much of the season in goal. As a Canuck, Schneider had a .898 save percentage when Vancouver was short handed and let in just one short-handed goal in his thirty games last season.

Mike Foligno - Mike Foligno is the Devils' new penalty kill coach. He has experience running an NHL penalty kill from his brief time with the Anaheim Ducks from 2010-2011.

Possible Special Teams:

Power play:

The power play is going to change with the loss of both Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson. Without Kovalchuk on the point for the entire two minutes, the man advantage will see a few new faces and it's likely that no one player will be the "go-to" guy.

The Devils have let quite a few short-handed goals slip through during the last two seasons. Hopefully with a stronger tandem in goal number will shrink.

On top of that, Dave Barr is moving from running the penalty kill to the power play. He does have experience with coaching the man advantage from his time with the Minnesota Wild.

Here is a look at the possible top two power play units:

Elias - Zajac - Jagr Clowe - Henrique - Brunner

Greene - Zidlicky Ryder - Larsson

The Devils got a plethora of new players with experience on the power play. While this may not make the exact two-minute power play, each of the players listed should get time while on the man advantage.

Penalty Kill:

I think the addition of Schneider will be the biggest boost to the penalty kill. I don't expect any of the newest additions besides Schneider to be overly involved when the Devils are shorthanded.

As noted above, Mike Foligno will be running the penalty kill this season in stead of Barr.

Here are the possible top penalty killers for 2013-2014:

Zubrus - Zajac Henrique - Elias

Salvador - Greene Fayne - Volchenkov

What are your thoughts on the special teams for this coming season? Do you expect to see improvements? Who would you like to see on the ice when the Devils have the man advantage or are shorthanded? Sound off below! Thanks for reading.

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