Running With The Devils - A New Jersey Devils Blog
Devils' Notes: Pandolfo Surgery Successful, Albany Not Home To The Devils...Yet
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Tuesday, 11 May 2010 09:43

Here’s a few notes from today’s news:

Pandolfo’s Surgery A Success

Jay Pandolfo’s surgery to repair a torn labrum went well, and the left-winger will soon begin his recovery. While the recovery time will be extensive, general manager Lou Lamoriello feels the left-winger will be ready in plenty of time for training camp. Usually, these injuries take four months to heal. If that’s the case, the Devils will be unable to buy out the remaining part of his contract.

Albany Deal Close To Completion

The Devils have been in talks to move their AHL affiliate from Lowell, Massachusetts to Albany, New York. While the deal to move the team to the Time Union Center is near completion, the deal isn’t done yet. The Devils submitted a letter of intent for a five-year lease last week, and the Albany County Legislature was scheduled to meet last night to approve the deal.

Extent of Salmela’s Injury Unknown

Anssi Salmela flew back to New Jersey last week, but thee is still no word on the severity of his knee injury. Salmela injured the knee playing for Team Finland in the LG Games. Lamoriello said the team is awaiting results from doctors overseas before releasing the injury information.

2009 / 2010 Player Reviews: #7 Paul Martin
Written by Darren S   
Monday, 10 May 2010 11:49

Martin's Numbers: Paul Martin had 2 goals and 9 assists in the 22 games that he played this season. He only made one trip to the penalty box, a hooking minor against the Leafs on March 18th. In the series against the Flyers, Martin was kept off the scoresheet.

My Thoughts: It was a tough year for Paul Martin only because of an injury that seemed to take a very long time to heal. He was injured on Oct. 24 in Pittsburgh when he was hit by a shot from Penguins forward Bill Guerin. He had hoped to be back in action 4-6 weeks later, but due to a setback, he required surgery on Dec. 22 in which he had a bone graft and a titanium plate was inserted in his left forearm. The setback kept Martin out of the lineup until after the Olympics and forced Martin to give up his spot on Team USA. When Martin was in the lineup, he played like our #1 defenseman should play. In his first game back he recorded a goal and an assist.

Martin's Future: He's an Unrestricted Free Agent on July 1st and say what you will about how important it is for Lou to sign Ilya Kovalchuk to the Devils but the Devils, who still haven’t replaced Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens or Brian Rafalski can’t afford to let Martin go. Martin is the Devils best player on the backline and if this team is going to be successful moving forward, he's a piece that MUST remain.

2009 - 2010 Season Recap: Kovalchuk Becomes A Devil
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Sunday, 09 May 2010 23:26

Near the end of 2009, the Devils began to struggle. The team turned in lackluster performances, and several key players began to slump. That continued in 2010, and general manager Lou Lamoriello saw a need to make a big move and shake up the clubhouse.

Meanwhile, in Atlanta, Ilya Kovalchuk turned down a reported 12 year, $101 million dollar contract extension to stay with the Thrashers. He was officially available for trade, and the Devils became a dark-horse candidate to land the talented left-winger.

It seemed to be the perfect storm. Then, on February 4, Lamoriello pulled off the biggest trade since Alexander Mogilny. The team acquired Kovalchuk for struggling defenseman Johnny Oduya, rookie forward Niclas Bergfors, prospect Patrice Cormier and a first round pick in this year’s draft. The teams also exchanged second round picks. Just like that, the Devils seemed to rocket up the predictions board, and analysts handed them the trophy in February. I even praised the deal, believing he would help them surpass the Caps and Pens. And, in the end, Kovalchuk became a solid deadline acquisition.

When Lamoriello completed the trade for Kovalchuk, he brought in what the team needed – a deadly scorer who could quarterback the powerplay. Zach Parise was clearly the offensive leader of this team. But Kovalchuk could fill the powerplay void. And Jacques Lemaire tried to fill that void immediately. Kovalchuk spent most of his 31 games playing one of the points with the man advantage, usually staying on the ice for the entire length of the advantage. But his presence didn’t vastly improve the powerplay. In 121 opportunities after the Kovalchuk trade, the team scored 20 goals, clicking at 16.53%. That percentage isn’t terrible, and the team also didn’t play up to expectations during that time. But the fact remains that Kovalchuk didn’t vastly improve the powerplay. He only collected 12 powerplay points through his 31 games in a Devils’ sweater. While he made the powerplay more dangerous, the team couldn’t capitalize on his scoring abilities.

Even though Kovalchuk couldn’t help on the powerplay, he did seem to mesh well with some of players on the team. By using Corsi statistics, we can measure the impact Kovalchuk had on his teammates. The guys over at In Lou We Trust completed this analysis for Kovalchuk, showing he meshed well with certain players. One of these forwards was Jamie Langenbrunner. The numbers show that Langenbrunner performed better with Kovalchuk on the ice. He also played well with Andy Greene. And he seemed to play better with Patrik Elias than Travis Zajac. Although the ZZ Pops line has been effective, these numbers seem to justify Lemaire’s decision to put together Kovalchuk, Elias and Langenbrunner during the playoffs.

While Kovalchuk struggled after the trade, the left-winger showed something many other Devils’ wingers couldn’t do – create his own opportunities. It always seemed that Kovalchuk could flash his offensive prowess by crossing up defenders and finding the open ice. While this sometimes led to turnovers, it made the defense concentrate on Kovalchuk, opening up the ice for his linemates. This style of play also seemed to work well with Elias. They had several nice plays throughout the season. It seemed to be a nice match, and one that could continue to grow if Kovalchuk re-signed.

Which brings me to the biggest question of last season: Would Kovalchuk be a rental, or could the Devils somehow find a way to sign him? Read after the jump to find out the answer to the question!

2009/2010 Play Reviews: #6 Andy Greene
Written by Darren S   
Friday, 07 May 2010 11:49

Today's focus is on #6 defenseman Andy Greene who is currently in the middle of a 2 year, $1.4 million dollar contract.

Greene's Numbers: This was Andy Greene's fourth season playing for the Devils and by far his best one yet. In the 78 games that he played this season (which is a career high), he recorded 6 goals and 31 assists and only spent 14 minutes in the penalty box this season. He led all Devils defenseman in goals, assists and points (also all career highs).

My Thoughts: I look at Andy Greene like I looked at Paul Martin a few years back. This kid has great potential and with Martin's injury this past season, he really got a chance to show us that potential. Sure, he might not be the strongest defenseman in the league but he certainly seems to fit in with the Devils system.

Greene's Future: He absolutely is a keeper. He's a UFA after the 2010/2011 season so Lou will have to do some work to make sure he remains in NJ. As these player reviews go forward, you will see that when it comes the Devils defense, I am only suggesting that a few remain with the team but Greene is certainly one of those guys. As time goes on, he will become a stronger defenseman and could easily be our #2 defenseman.

Devils' TV Ratings Jump This Past Season
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Friday, 07 May 2010 09:34

The Devils enjoyed a spike in their television ratings this past season, according to a report from Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record.

Ratings on MSG Plus among viewers 24-54 jumped 78 percent from their totals in 2008-2009. Among all viewers, ratings increased by 48 percent. This was the Devils highest household rating in a decade.

The Devils’ game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 12 drew a 1.06 rating, the highest viewership ever for a non-metro New York matchup (the Devils versus the Islanders or Rangers).

Despite the team’s lackluster playoff appearance, the Devils ratings continued to jump. Their television ratings jumped 129 percent from the regular season. Among the 24-54 group, the ratings jumped 170 percent.

The Devils now rank seventh in the NHL for average number of American households.

2009 - 2010 Season Recap: Brodeur Comes Back Strong
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Thursday, 06 May 2010 21:52

Throughout the offseason, I’ll recap the Devils 2009 – 2010 season, covering the good, the bad and the ugly. I’ve already covered the Devils overall season, their solid record against the Atlantic Division, and the team’s powerplay. In this post, I’ll take a look at Martin Brodeur, who had a strong bounce-back season after last season’s torn biceps injury.

Coming into the 2009 – 2010 season, the Devils, for the first time in what seems like forever, had a question mark in goal. Brodeur, the career leader in wins, missed four months with a torn biceps injury. Despite his absence, the Devils still soared, reaching 51 wins last year. Everyone realized Brodeur would come back an excellent NHL goalie. But the injury did raise a slight red flag, and the smallest question mark loomed over Brodeur.

Whatever questions critics or fans had, Brodeur answered this past season. Brodeur started 77 games this season, going 45-25-6 with nine shutouts. The 77 games started were the first time in two years Brodeur started that many games. The 45 wins and nine shutouts were tops among NHL goaltenders. On April 19, the NHL named Brodeur a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, along with Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres and Ilya Bryzgalov of the Phoenix Coyotes. Brodeur clearly came back strong after the first major injury of his career.

Brodeur, in what seems to be normal the past few years, set several career milestones this season. On November 27, 2009, Brodeur broke the record for career minutes played by a goaltender, breaking Patrick Roy’s record of 60,275 during the second period of the team’s 2-1 shootout win. Ten days later, the Devils’ goalie tied Terry Sawchuk for first-place on the all-time shutout list with 103 in a 3-0 win over the Sabres. On December 19, Brodeur broke another Roy record, this for the most games played by a NHL goaltender. Then, on December 21, 2009, in one of the sweetest moments of the season, Brodeur shut out the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-0, to break his tie with Sawchuk for the shutout record. Brodeur also reached the 600 win plateau with a 3-0 shutout win over the Atlanta Thrashers on April 6. Brodeur, as has been commonplace the past few seasons. continued to shatter records throughout the year.

Continue reading after the jump for my take on Brodeur's playoff performance!

2009/2010 Player Reviews: #5 Colin White
Written by Darren S   
Thursday, 06 May 2010 12:04
Today we focus on #5 Colin White. Colin White has been a mainstay on the Devils defense since the 1999/2000 cup run. He's currently

White's Numbers: In 81 appearences during the regular season, White found the net twice and assisted on 10 other goals and was a +8. He recoreded 46 minutes served in the penalty box (8 Minors, 2 Majors, 1 Misconduct and 1 Game Misconduct). In the Flyers series he played in 5 games and scored 1 goal (his first since 2000) but was a -1.

My Thoughts: I'm not a tremendous fan of Colin White but truth be told, I've never been a big fan. Years ago he would get under my skin for taking stupid penalties and not controlling his temper at, what seemed. the most inopportune time. As the years have gone one, he's actually gotten better at this. Since his eye injury a few years back, I've thought his game has gone down a bit. The main argument I will make against Colin White is that I don't think he brings much to the table. He's doesn't shut down the opponents big shooters and he's not an offensive minded D-man so I am lost on what his value really is. On February 2, 2010, for the first time in nearly four years, White fought Maple Leafs defensemen, Dion Phaneuf for taking a run at Devils' star Zach Parise's head. During this fight, had White been hit in or near his previously injured eye, his career could have come to an end, which is a pretty scary scenario for any team.

White's Future: At $3 Million per, I don't think he's really worth the investment we've made in him. The problem is, he's not a UFA until July 1st, 2012 which means he could be patroling the Devils D zone for a few more season. I don't look at the Devils defense as a strong defense and White is part of that problem. To me, Colin White is nothing more than a 5th or 6th D guy and taking up a roster spot where Eckford or Corrente could fit in or even taking up playing time where Salmela could fit in. If we can deal him, I say do it, otherwise you'll be reading the same review next summer. The scary scenario to me is that if UFA Paul Martin signs elsewhere, how far up the importance chart does White climb when he doesn't belong on that chart at all?
Greene, Kovalchuk To Play In World Championships; Salmela Injured
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Wednesday, 05 May 2010 08:36

Both Andy Greene and Ilya Kovalchuk will play in this year’s International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Championships, beginning Thursday in Germany.

This is Greene’s first time representing the U.S. in the worlds. The Devils’ defenseman had a career year, finishing with six goals, 31 assists and 37 points during the 2009 – 2010 season.

Kovalchuk will be heading to the worlds for the seventh time. The Devils’ left-winger has scored 19 goals and collected 24 assists in 48 career games during the tournament. In 2008, Kovalchuk scored the game-winning, overtime goal to defeat Canada and give Russia the gold medal.

In last year’s tournament, Kovalchuk totaled five goals and nine assists in nine appearances. He was also named the tournament MVP.

Devils’ defenseman Anssi Salmela was slated to play for Team Finland, but sustained an undisclosed injury earlier this week. According to a tweet from his agent, Jay Grossman, Salmela injured himself playing for Finland in the LG Games earlier this week.

Greene and Team USA debut Thursday, when they face Germany. Kovalchuk and Team Russia open the tournament Saturday against Slovakia.

For all the news on the tournament, check out the IIHF’s website here.

2009 – 2010 Season Recap: If It’s Broke, Fix It: The Devils’ Powerplay
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Tuesday, 04 May 2010 19:27

Throughout the offseason, I’ll continue to discuss the good, bad and ugly of the Devils’ 2009 – 2010 season. While I’ve already previewed some good, including the overall season and the team’s performance against the Atlantic Division. In this post, I’ll look at the bad, possibly even the ugly, in talking about the Devils' powerplay.

The Devils powerplay finished 18.7%, good for 11th overall in the league. While that number looks successful, a deeper look at the numbers shows a dull picture. The team tied for 21st in the league in powerplay goals (51) and sat alone in 21st with powerplay assists. While Zach Parise tallied nine man-advantage goals, no one else really stood out. Niclas Bergfors, who was traded midseason, ranked second on the team with eight powerplay goals. Brian Rolston netted seven goals, but guys like Patrik Elias (11 total powerplay points) and Ilya Kovalchuk (two goals) couldn’t produce with the extra man.

When the Devils reached the postseason, the situation became dire. The team went 4-for-32 during the playoffs (12.5%), and that ranking reflects the team’s powerplay output (12th in both powerplay goals and assists). As we saw, the Devils allowed each opportunity to slip by, not making the Flyers pay for their penalties. Rolston scored two goals in game three, and that accounted for half – yes, half – of the Devils’ powerplay goals in the series. Clearly, the powerplay’s futility added to the Devils’ inability to beat the Flyers.

Throughout the season, the Devils’ powerplay operated below an efficient level. In the playoffs, it even became their Achilles heel. The Devils thoroughly struggled throughout the season, including the months of February and March, when the team went 9-for-67 (13.4%). Even the addition of Kovalchuk couldn’t spur the powerplay. The team clicked on 19.02% of their powerplay opportunities before Kovalchuk, but dropped to 16.53% after acquiring the left-winger.*

*To be fair, the team slumped when Kovalchuk joined them. He wasn’t the main reason for the powerplay not succeeding. But it didn’t work as well in the 121 opportunities since his acquisition.

All of these numbers speak for themselves. At first glance, the Devils’ powerplay looked solid. But, in actuality, the team struggled the entire season, even after the addition of Kovalchuk. The great numbers on the powerplay were dictated by the 2009, when the Devils 30-for-144 (20.8%). But as the team slumped in 2010, the powerplay slumped with it.

So the Devils are now faced with a problem. How do they fix their problem with the man advantage. You can read my solutions right after the jump.

2009/2010 Player Reviews: #2 Mark Fraser
Written by Darren S   
Tuesday, 04 May 2010 10:37

This is the first installment of my player reviews for 2009/2010. This will be a daily feature were I review a players numbers and overall contribution to the team over the past season.

After much debate, it's been decided to go in number order so without further delay, let's look at #2, defenseman Mark Fraser.

Fraser's Numbers: Mark played in 61 games this season for the Devils and had 3 goals and 3 assists and was a +3 and had 36 penalty minutes which included 4 major penalties.

My Thoughts: Fraser spent the last 3 seasons playing for Albany/Lowell so this was his first season with the big boys. Fraser started out well as he got his first NHL point/goal in the first game he appeared in which was on Oct. 24th @ Pittsburgh. He would be in an out of the lineup as the season progressed, I never really looked at Fraser as an integral part of our defense scheme. I think Lemaire looked at him the same way because Fraser only played one game in the series against the Flyers and then sat out the final 2 games of that series.

Fraser's Future: He's a young kid and probably has some decent potential. As a whole, I wasn't overly thrilled with what the Devils defense brought to the table but Fraser is a guy I would consider hanging on to. Being that he is young and has had more experience in the AHL, I do want to see how he plays with guys like Matt Corrente and Tyler Eckford, so yes, lets keep him.

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