When the New Jersey Devils missed the playoffs last season, coach Pete DeBoer felt his team deserved a better fate.
If they miss them again this season, he may feel exactly the same way. Or possibly even more so.
Take New Jersey’s record in the shootout — zero wins, eight losses. The only winless record in the league. If the Devils were simply .500 in the “gimmick,” they’d be in a playoff position. Alas, they go into tonight’s game in Florida on the outside looking in, with Sports Club Stats giving them a 58.8 percent chance of qualifying.
You may be surprised to hear that goaltending has been an issue for New Jersey. Martin Brodeur and Cory Schneider both rank near the bottom in even-strength save percentage, and the Devils’ overall team save percentage (.905) ranks 25th in the NHL. (The pair has also combined for the third-worst save percentage in shootouts, at .560.)
Which has to be frustrating, since no team gives up fewer shots on average than the Devils (25.5).
Based on a stat like Corsi, the Devils possess the puck more than they don’t. And while no stat tells the entire story, there’s something to be said for the teams that do well in it:
After tonight’s game in Florida, the Devils play in Tampa Bay tomorrow before returning home to take on Boston Tuesday.
If there’s one reason for optimism, it may be the remaining schedule for New Jersey. Of its 16 games, 10 are against clubs not currently in a playoff position.
Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.
Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.
“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.
The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.
Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.
There was stiff competition for the backup goaltending job in Boston, but with a signing this afternoon, it seems likely that the matter has been resolved.
The Boston Bruins announced that Jonas Gustavsson has agreed to a one-year, $700,000 deal. It’s a one-way contract, according to the Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin.
That contract is still small enough that the Bruins could bury it in the minors if they so desire, but it does set him apart from his last competitor for the goalie position, Jeremy Smith, who has a two-way deal. The fact that Boston went this route seems to imply that Gustavsson will serve as Tuukka Rask‘s understudy, although both netminders attended Sunday’s practice.
In Smith, the Bruins would be getting a 26-year-old goaltender who was dominant with the AHL’s Providence Bruins last season, but has no NHL experience. By contrast Gustavsson, 30, has played in almost 150 NHL games.
Boston sent Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban to the minors last week, but an argument could be made that either one of them is worthy of the backup job. However, both of them have a lot of potential and it’s not surprising that the Bruins felt they were better served by staying in the minors where they can play regularly and focus on honing their game.