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Devils First Quarter Report

Posted By Jordan DiRisio On Nov 29 2011 @ 11:43 am In New Jersey Devils | No Comments

A 12-9-1 record puts the Devils right on the fringe of the playoffs in 9th place. Given last year’s terrible first half fans can’t help but breathe a small sigh of relief that their team appears to be back to relevancy.

The first 22 games could have been much better but also much worse. No question the team has had problems scoring goals and holding leads once they’ve managed to get a few in the back of the net however the Devils have greatly benefitted from the shootout when they have let those leads slip away going 5-1 in games past regulation.

The past two weeks the team has seemed close to going on a run and really stringing together wins, without blowing a 3 goal lead against Florida and a controversial call the last game against the Islanders the Devils could be one of the hottest teams in the league right now.

Given these facts although not satisfying 12-9-1 just above .500 is right where the Devils belong. They definitely show a lot of potential to be up in the 4th and 5th place in the Eastern Conference if they play to their ability.

Quarterly grades:

Elias/Sykora/Zubrus line: A- Probably the brightest spot for the team to this point this line has been on fire and consistently providing most of the offense for the Devils. Zubrus playing the best hockey he has played as a Devil; Sykora and Elias back to their old tricks.

Zach Parise: C- The captain needs to step up his game. He isn’t finding the puck or shooting nearly as much as he has in the past. He appears to still be working hard but can’t find the back of the net with consistency. No question the frustrations showed when his goal against the Isles was called back. In a contract year Zach must play better. Hopefully reuniting with a healthy Travis Zajac will be the answer although still puzzling given Henrique’s high level of play. The harsh reality is if Zach wants to stay in NJ what is his asking price? He has to prove that he is going to be worth big money the rest of the year.

Ilya Kovalchuk: C Kovalchuk seems to be finding his game somewhat since returning from injury but still needs to score with more consistency. 9 assists are a nice surprise but scoring 4 goals in 17 games doesn’t cut it, Ilya needs to shoot and carry the puck in the offensive zone more. All fans are hoping that a healthy Zajac Parise and Kovalchuk line could be dangerous.

Adam Henrique: A Amazing play out of the rookie showing that he deserves top 2 line minutes going to be tough for Deboer when Zajac comes back to figure how to get Henrique playing time.

Adam Larsson: A+ Already looks like a seasoned veteran has played big time minutes all year and in the last 12 games has found his offensive game and now has a 5 game point streak going; by far the brightest spot in the Devils lineup so far.

David Clarkson: A Playing the best offensively he ever has a true spark plug for the team.

Martin Brodeur: B- Brodeur started kind of slow the injury didn’t help him for sure. There is no secret to Brodeur turning his game around: he needs to start consistently. Brodeur can’t be in a system where he splits starts he needs to start 3 times a week to play at a high level. All things considered I’d still be surprised if this isn’t Brodeur’s final year.

Johan Hedberg: A- Has played very well in most starts with the exception of two definitely gives the Devils a chance to win when Marty isn’t in the lineup.

Power Play: F No question the Devils PP has been awful without good reason you would have to think something would have to change with Larsson playing better but until Kovalchuk and Parise can do better I support putting Clarkson in front on the PP. But this PP is so disappointing especially because that’s why Adam Oates in on the bench to make this PP special. Furthermore Kovalchuk and Elias have both been exposed playing the point on the PP at different times; the last thing we need is for our powerplay to become liability.

Penalty Kill: A+    Never seen a more comfortable confident PK in a while it seems like no matter what players are on it the result is still the same.

Pete Deboer: B    Deboer has seemed to find the best line combinations now and as good as the PK is the PP is conversely  awful. The biggest issue I’ve had with Deboer is playing with the lead. The Devils have had issues throughout the season up by a few and when they were up by 3 in Tampa the Lightning struck twice in the third, Deboer called timeout and the Devils hung on. The next game up by 3 the Panthers scored twice and Deboer didn’t call that same timeout and the Devils blew the lead and lost. Why the change? The biggest issue I’ve seen in the Devils’ play with the lead is they back off and don’t play aggressively; Deboer needs to fix this. Overall I don’t think this will be a year when we see Lou behind the bench or Jacques Lemaire for that matter.

Overall: B- The Devils haven’t been terrible but if they can get healthy and play to ability they could be a solid playoff team.

The Devils today recalled Alexander Urbom from the AHL implying that Andy Greene may be injured for at least a few games. The Devils next game will be Wednesday night in Colorado against the Avalanche.

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