Toronto Maple Leafs Eastern Conference Preview: A Look at the New Jersey Devils


Apr 13, 2014; Newark, NJ, USA; The New Jersey Devils tap their sticks for New Jersey Devils goalie

Martin Brodeur

(30) after their 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Who is the favourite to win the Eastern Conference next season? Many experts can’t answer this question. Where do the Toronto Maple Leafs fit into everything? It’s hard to answer this question, too.

A new era is upon the New Jersey Devils, since 1993-94 the New Jersey Devils had a familiar face between the pipes but that has all changed.

More from Toronto Maple Leafs

At the end of the 2013-14 season it was all but confirmed that Martin Brodeur days as the franchise goaltender for the Devils had come to an end. The 42 year old goaltender had spent his entire career with the New Jersey Devils organization which spanned 20 years as a starter. He was drafted in 1990 by the Devils and occupied the starters job in the 1993-94 season. The ultimate point came when the Devils traded for

Cory Schneider

at the 2013 NHL draft sending the 9th overall pick to Vancouver (Vancouver selected Bo Horvat with the pick). At that point Brodeur knew his time with the Devils was all but done.

Apr 10, 2014; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; New Jersey Devils goalie Cory Schneider (35) stretches prior to the start of the second period against the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre. The Senators defeated the Devils 2-1 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

The New Jersey Devils started last season on a slow pace with a 3-5-4 record in October under a new 1A, 1B goaltending tandem between Schneider and Brodeur. Their first win did not come until 8 games into the season against the New York Rangers. The team failed to make the playoffs by 5 points and it was their second straight season in which they did not qualify for the playoffs.

Mar 13, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; New Jersey Devils right wing

Ilya Kovalchuk

(17) celebrates his shorthanded goal during the first period of their game against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The last time the Devils made the playoffs they lost to the LA Kings in the Stanley Cup Finals and many changes have come to the club since then. In 2012-13 the team lost its best scorer in Zach Parise to the Minnesota Wild. After the lockout shortened season the team lost another top scorer in Ilya Kovalchuk to retirement and David Clarkson to the Toronto Maple Leafs (however I think the team did not mind losing Clarkson).

Mar 22, 2014; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks right wing

Martin Havlat

(9) shoots the puck against the Washington Capitals during the second period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

This offseason the Devils used a compliance buyout on aging defencemen Anton Volchenkov and lost Mark Fayne to the Edmonton Oilers. The team signed UFA Mike Cammalleri to a 5 year $25 million dollar contract and Martin Havlat to a 1 year $1.5 million contract. The team also brought in a familiar face in Scott Clemmensen to backup Cory Schneider. The Devils do not strike people as being the most attractive team in terms of skill and offence but they make up for their lack of offence with their strong defensive play.

Devils team stats (2013-14): 2013-2014 Record: 35-29-18 (88 points, 6th in the Metropolitan Division, 10th in Eastern Conference) Record against divisional opponents: 16-9-5

Devils were 18-24 in back-to-back games (no days off)

Devils were 10-11 in the 2nd game of a back-to-back (no days off)

Devils games were decided by 1 goal 50 times last year

Devils only won 13 games by 2 goals or more last year

Devils were winless in the shootout: (0-13 record).

Mar 23, 2014; Newark, NJ, USA; New Jersey Devils goalie Cory Schneider (35) watches a shot by Toronto Maple Leafs center

Tyler Bozak

(42) go into the net for a goal in the during second period at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Devils Stats vs. Leafs:

Devils went 1-2 vs. Leafs last season; average goals for vs. Leafs: 2; average goals against: 2.3

Devils are 3-7 in their last 10 vs. Maple Leafs

Devils have gone to overtime with the Maple Leafs in 5 of their last 10 meetings

Devils and Maple Leafs game have been decided by 1 goal in 7 of their last 10 meetings

Devils Player Stats vs. Leafs (last year):

Clowe: 2 GP, 1 G, 2 A, +1, 6 SOG, 16:30 ATOI

Henrique: 3 GP, 1 G, 1 A, +1, 6 SOG, 19:28 ATOI

Elias: 1 GP, 1 G, 0 A, +1, 1 SOG, 17:38 ATOI

Jagr: 3 GP, 0 G, 0 A, +/- 0, 10 SOG, 20:15 ATOI

Zidlicky: 3 GP, 0 G, 2 A, +1, 5 SOG, 21:07 ATOI

Greene: 3 GP, 0 G, 2 A, +/- 0, 4 SOG, 26:32 ATOI

Schedule against the Leafs:

Thursday December 4 @ Maple Leafs,  7:30PM, TV-TSN4

Wednesday January 28  @ Devils, 7:30PM, TV-Sportsnet

Friday February 6 @ Devils, 7:00PM, TV-Sportsnet

The Potential Good: The Devils had the top penalty kill in the league last year at 86.4% and were the 9th ranked powerplay at 19.5%. The team ranked 4th in corsi rating with a 54.6% rating. They also ranked 5th in their fenwick rating with a 53.9% rating.

All this is credited to Peter DeBoer and his commitment to puck possession and strong defensive play. Cory Schneider also had a remarkable year: 46 GP 16W 15L 12OTL with a 1.97 GAA amd a .921 SV%. Schneider did not have a great win-loss record but his GAA and SV% were impeccable. If Schneider can continue to produce at a stellar rate (I do expect a drop off in stats but not too bad), the Devils have a chance to squeak into the playoffs.

Mar 30, 2014; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Calgary Flames center Mike Cammalleri (13) during warmup prior to the game against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Adding Mike Cammalleri will give the Devils a boost in offence especially alongside Jaromir Jagr and Travis Zajac as possible line-mates. If Martin Havlat can remain healthy coming from the Western Conference where scoring is harder to come by he may be able to produce 15-20 goals in the right situation with some powerplay time (something he did not have with the San Jose Sharks).

The Potential Bad: They have a great defence but they had a real hard time scoring last season. The Devils ranked 27th in offence with a 2.40 GPG despite being in the top 10 in powerplay percentage.

Mar 31, 2014; Newark, NJ, USA; New Jersey Devils right wing Jaromir Jagr (68) celebrates after scoring a goal during the first period against the Florida Panthers at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

They cannot continue to rely on Jaromir Jagr to be a top goal scorer for them like they did last season (24 goals 43 assists for 67 points in 82 games). Players like Michael Ryder and Damien Brunner will have to pick up the slack especially if Cammalleri struggles out of the gate. Brunner only managed 11 goals and 14 assists in 60 games while Ryder only had 18 goals and 16 assists in 82 games.

Going winless in the shootout did not help the Devils when they were in the hunt for the playoffs. If they won half the games that went into a shootout then their chances of making the playoffs would have been higher. Part of their problem scoring in the playoffs was the lack of a elite goal scorer to rely on and if that does not change they will have a hard time getting goals in the shootout.

Writer’s Prediction: This is where advanced stats can be misleading, a team can have great possession stats but if you fail to score then you are putting a lot of pressure on your goalie to keep you in the game. If the Devils can be marginally better offensively then they can squeeze into the playoffs. The LA Kings are the only other team to be top 5 in defensive categories but produce poorly offensively. However the Devils do not have the same depth upfront as the Kings and the Eastern Conference has many high scoring teams. I predict the Devils to finish 9th if the offence is not producing at a the top 20 rate in the league but they could be the 8th team if their goaltending carries them during the season. 

Click here to read the series introduction, which includes links to the rest of the series.