Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton, Martin Brodeur

The numbers behind the New Jersey Devils’ horrific 3-9-1 start

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My goodness, the New Jersey Devils are bad. They’re so putrid it’s almost impressive, to be honest.

Only the Chicago Blackhawks have played in more games this season (14 to New Jersey’s 13), yet the Devils only produced a league-low seven standings points. Their expensive home in Newark is no solace either; they’re an astonishing 0-4-1 in their first five games at the Prudential Center this season.

As a polar opposite study to an earlier stats-heavy glance at the incredible beginning by Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, I thought I’d take a look at some of the most shocking, disturbing and bizarre numbers from this nightmarish 13-game meltdown. Enjoy … unless you’re a Devils fan. If that’s the case you might just want to click on another story.

  • It’s not exactly as if the Devils are endlessly losing one-goal games, as they’ve been outscored 42-20 so far this season. That’s more than three goals allowed per game and less than two goals scored per game.
  • “Stat you’d like to point out if you’re writing an article unfairly bashing Ilya Kovalchuk XVII”: those 20 goals mark the lowest amount the Devils scored in the first 13 games franchise history, according to Tom Gulitti. Gulitti points out that the previous low was 29, which they reached during the 1994-95 season.
  • A fair stat for Kovalchuk-bashers: in the last seven games, the $100 million man has one goal and zero assists for one point and a -4 rating. (Gulitti reveals that Kovalchuk isn’t the only top forward producing little to nothing right now, though.)
  • This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise, but the Devils haven’t won two games in a row yet this season.
  • There is an odd pattern forming in their schedule so far. They lost three games, then won one and then lost two to start the season. After a win against the Montreal Canadiens, they went on to lose three games, win one and then two more. So if you want to be annoying like me, the Habs are the win meat while losing four of five games serves as the bread. Or something.
  • The worst part for the Devils is that they actually are putting more shots on net than they’re allowing. In 13 games, they’ve taken 405 shots while allowing 374.
  • In fact, they lost the last two games 6-1 despite putting up 70 shots and only allowing 26. That means their shooting percentage was a horrid 1.4 in the last two contests.
  • They’ve allowed eight PP goals and only scored three.
  • Martin Brodeur’s save percentage has been below 90 percent for eight of his 13 starts.
  • Two out of their three wins were shutouts and they only allowed one goal in their other win.

So those are some of the odd numbers compiled by this so-far-awful rendition of the Devils. Some of the numbers are obscure and some are illuminating, but they’re almost universally troubling.

New Jersey might be playing miserably right now, but on the bright side, the fact that they are out-shooting opponents indicates that they might start churning out wins if their effort level remains reasonable. Eventually, pucks that weren’t going in should go in over a long season.

The question is: will the team be different when they start getting a few breaks? Will John MacLean still be the coach? Perhaps GM Lou Lamoriello might trade a key component or two?

We’ll have to wait and see what happens, but in the mean time, crane your neck to bask in the horrifying glory that is this train wreck of a 13-game start to the season. Unless you’re a Devils fan, of course. (If so, then … sorry.)

Matthews to sit out preseason tilt versus Sabres, as Maple Leafs give him ‘a little break’

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Auston Matthews poses for a portrait after being selected first overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in round one during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)
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The Toronto Maple Leafs play the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. But No. 1 overall pick Auston Matthews won’t be in the lineup, according to multiple reports.

“Sooner or later, he’s going to get in, but not tonight,” said assistant coach Jim Hiller, as per the Toronto Sun.

“The lineups are day by day. They (World Cup players such as Matthews, Milan Michalek, Leo Komarov and James van Riemsdyk) went through a solid three weeks. It’s a little break, a little down time. There are tons of games coming. They’ll get a lot of ice time. They’ll get in shortly.”

(The report also notes that Matthews is not dealing with a health issue, which is obviously good news for the Leafs.)

On a night when the No. 2 overall selection Patrik Laine is slated to make his preseason debut for the Winnipeg Jets, fans wishing to see Matthews don a Maple Leafs jersey in his anticipated debut will have to wait.

Matthews played for Team North America at the World Cup held in Toronto. He had two goals and three points in three round robin games, but the young North American team was unable to advance to the semifinal round.

The Maple Leafs play the Montreal Canadiens at home on Sunday.

McLellan: Maroon’s lower-body injury not considered serious

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It appears Patrick Maroon‘s injury from Wednesday’s preseason game against the Vancouver Canucks looked worse than it is.

The Edmonton Oilers forward was in obvious pain immediately after he went hard into the boards from an awkward hit delivered by James Sheppard just past the midway point of the third period. Maroon needed help to the bench and was unable to put much, if any, pressure on his left leg.

He left the game and didn’t return.

Good news, however, from the Oilers: Head coach Todd McLellan told reporters on Friday that the injury — lower body — is not serious, as per the team’s Twitter account.

According to Mark Spector of Sportsnet, the 28-year-old Maroon is expected to be ready for Edmonton’s season opener against the rival Calgary Flames on Oct. 12.

The Oilers acquired Maroon at last season’s trade deadline, a move that certainly added size and an element of grit to their group of forwards.

In 16 games with Edmonton, he scored eight goals and 14 points. In 56 games with Anaheim that same season, he registered only 13 points before the trade.

Patrik Laine to make highly anticipated preseason debut for Jets

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Patrik Laine gives an interview after being selected second by the Winnepeg Jets during round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)
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Anticipation has been building since the Winnipeg Jets officially took Patrik Laine with the second overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft.

On Friday, Laine, the highly coveted Finnish forward, will make his preseason debut for the Jets when they play the Edmonton Oilers in Winnipeg, as the home fans get the chance to take in the occasion.

The Jets have done a nice job of amassing good young forwards in their organization. Laine, who has the gifts to be a prolific scorer in the NHL, is at the top of that prospect list.

Winnipeg’s roster tonight also includes forward prospects Kyle Connor, Nic Petan and Brandon Tanev, not to mention more NHL experienced forwards like Alex Burmistrov, Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele.

Laine enters this season with high expectations placed on him from fans and media, after coming to the NHL following a standout career in Finland as a teenager. He’s aware of the expectations, but toned down the hype with the usual statements of just playing his game.

“Just be brave on the ice and show everybody I will earn my spot on the team,” he told reporters.

Laine has already seen game action this month. Not with the Jets, but with Finland’s entry at the World Cup of Hockey.

Following offseason knee surgery, Laine wasn’t happy with his performance in Finland’s first pre-tournament game. In three tournament games, Laine failed to register a point, despite a team-best 10 shots on goal, as Finland was quickly eliminated in the round robin.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Patrik Laine

Murray: Ristolainen’s good-faith gesture unlikely to sway talks with Sabres

BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 22: Rasmus Ristolainen #55 of the Buffalo Sabres makes a pass during the game against the Detroit Red Wings on January 22, 2016 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Brenner/Getty Images)
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray tells The Associated Press he doesn’t believe defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen‘s decision to join the team for practice without a contract will have any effect on thawing negotiations.

With a big laugh, Murray on Friday said the only way Ristolainen could speed up contract talks is if “he got all lovey-dovey” and elected to take the Sabres’ latest offer.

Ristolainen is a restricted free agent whose rights were retained by the Sabres in June. After representing Finland in the World Cup of Hockey, Ristolainen reported to the Sabres on Thursday in what was regarded as a sign of good faith.

Though he’s not allowed to play because he’s not under contract, Ristolainen is practicing with the team and also taking part in meetings. Ristolainen is not making himself available to reporters.

Murray says he didn’t see anything wrong with allowing Ristolainen to practice, saying he’d rather the player be in Buffalo than working out elsewhere.

Murray says the two sides are still negotiating.

In three seasons, Buffalo’s 2013 first-round draft pick has established himself as the Sabres’ top defenseman. Last year, Ristolainen led the team in averaging more than 25 minutes of ice time per game, and led Buffalo defensemen with 41 points (nine goals, 32 assists).