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Sunday, October 19, 2008

The New Jersey Devils; Where do they stand?

Here are the standings after most teams have reached at least 5 games played. If you check my chart you will probably assume I have gone mad. Well I haven't really. I know this looks different but that's what I usually do during the season to measure the value of teams. I go by points per game, that way I don't have to worry about what team has played more game than the other. I think is really tells what the team has achieved at this point. I don't go with the usual division leader in the top 3 of the conference, that just matters for the playoffs seeding.
You might think I am not ready for the Mathematics Nobel Prize but here are some interesting facts from this chart :

The Devils are in fourth place in the East and 7th in the NHL. They are right behind the Rangers and pretty close.

There are 5 teams from each conference in the top 10, but 10 teams from the East in the top 16. If you brought the points per game number to 82 games, the cut in the West would be 82 points and 95 points in the East. I think that is just a preview of what is to come : An other close race in the East!

Some teams already in trouble:
- Tampa Bay (nice to see Melrose have success!),
- Philadelphia (they are worse than Toronto, the Isles, the Panthers),
- Dallas (nice to see how Sean Avery turned that Franchise around. Weren't they in the Conference Finals last year?),
- Anaheim (well you always feel bad when Anaheim underachieve,...NOT)

Some slow starts: Pittsburgh, and Ottawa haven't exactely impressed so far and neither have the Red Wings. Can you say Cup hangover or Jet lag? Chicago isn't living up to the expectations from the off season.

Some nice surprises: Buffalo, Minnesota, Edmonton and to some extent Los Angeles.

I hope you liked my chart, and if you don't like it, just remember that this chart is the most fair and balanced chart you will ever see. And hey the Devils gain a spot compared to the regular NHL chart.

I was going to write about the start of the season on Monday night after I wrote my season preview when I found out about Alexei Cherepanov. Needless to say that cut my post short as there isn't anything to say after finding out about this terribly sad news.

Let's take a closer look at the Devils. Say what you want but you can't deny that this is a strong start. My fair and balanced chart proves it. We are in the top 4 in the East and an inch behing the Rangers who had a strong start as well.

New Jersey 2, NY Islanders 1 : The unknown
For the home opener, we beat the Islanders, which was very good news. Remember, The Devils were 2-5-1 against the Islanders last season. What I liked in this game is that we actually beat the Islanders. One big change the Devils have to bring compared to the last few seasons is how they fare against division opponents. We won that game despite being down early in the 1st period on a power play goal by Doug Weight. Zach Parise tied it later in the 1st and Elias put us ahead for good in the second.
Pluses: - Coming from behind to win the game
- The power play connected (1 for 4)
- Devils outshot the Isles 29-26
Minuses: Too many penalties. Even though they surrendered a PP goal, they still killed most of the penalties.

New Jersey 2, Pittsburgh 1, OT : The will to win
An OT win against a Division opponent. Even if our record was not as bad against the Penguins last year as it was against the Rangers or the Isles, this win feels good. The Penguins were first in the Atlantic last year and any point we can take against our Division is huge. Remember that if it wasn't for playing and beating us so many times, the Rangers would have simply missed the playoffs. We were so close to losing this one and it was good to see the Devils being so resilient in trying to get something out of nothing. A garbage goal with less than 3 minutes to go and an OT goal by our saviour Zach Parise less than 40 seconds before the shootout lottery.
Pluses: - Resiliency: Coming from behind to tie the game and win it in overtime.
- Devils outshot the Pens 49-15. A great display of puck posession and control.
Minuses: - The power play did not connect (0 for 4) and the penalty kill let one in.

NY Rangers 4, New Jersey 1 : the test
After winning their first two games, it was off to MSG to play the Rangers. Both teams were undefeated and it was going to be a true test for the Devils. It was an opportunity to measure ouselves against our archrivals. Well, there is a lot of work remaining to overcome our problems with the Rangers. The score (4-1) is a harsh considering how things went. Sure it is a loss but I liked our reaction after being down 0-2. For about 10 minutes in the second part of the 2nd period we looked like we were going to come back. But silly penalties like the one Oduya took at the end of the second, changed the momentum. Well it is a loss and you can't win them all. I expect the Devils to turn the tide against the Rangers because they are not that impressive, and I mean it.
And it is nice to see an ex Devils draftee light the lamp like that! Come on Aaron, score as much as you'd like but don't feel like you have to do it against us.
Pluses: - reacted well for about 10 minutes but...
Minuses: - commited too many penalties
- allowed two power play goals
- Those Marty Chants are driving me crazy!

New Jersey 1, Atlanta 0: On the road again!
After a loss at MSG, The Devils headed down south to Atlanta. They came back with a win on Brian Rolston first goal of the season. Roslton scored on the power play, which is why he came to Jersey. Rolston injured himself though and hopefully he won't be out for too long. Brodeur recorded his 97th career shutout and he is now just six away from Sawchuk’s NHL record.
Pluses: - another win on the road (2 wins out of 3 games)
- Another shutout for Martin Brodeur. He almost looks like he is on a mission to win every games he starts... Wait a minute, he has done this for his entire career.
Minuses: - Rolston injury. He hasn't been lighting the lamp as much as I thought he might. Only one goal and one assist in four games but he was coming around. Hopefully
he will be back sooner than later.

New Jersey 4, Washington 3, SO : Alexander who?
The last game of the road trip before coming home saw the Devils win against a good Washington team. With Rolston out of the lineup, Vrana made his NHL debut. He scored his first goal in his first game and his lone shot to tie the game at 1-1. Zach Parise and Andy Greene also scored in regulation before the Zach and Martin show in the shootout.
Pluses: - Vrana comes in and scores
- Greene scores the first goal by a defenseman
- another win before heading back to Prudential Center.
Minuses: nothing except maybe visiting the penalty box too much.

Number's corner :
- 5 games played
- 4 wins, 1 loss
- perfect at home
- 3-1 on the road
- surrendered the 1st goal in 4 of 5 games. They won 3 and lost 1 in that case.
- outshot opponents in 5 out 5

Notes :
- Even though the Devils have shot on goal an average of 35 times per game, they have only scored 9 goals, 1.75 goals per game. Zach Parise and Patrick Elias acount for 5 of those goals.
- The Defense has allowed only 9 goals and keeps the shots pretty low (an average of 23.4 per game).
- Marty is having a great start of the season : 1.56 GAA and .931 SV%, with one shutout.

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