Gameday Preview: Ship Wreck on the Jersey Shore

VANCOUVER, CANADA - NOVEMBER 1: Ilya Kovalchuk  of the New Jersey Devils blows a bubble while chewing bubble gum during the pre-game warm up prior to NHL action against the Vancouver Canucks on November 01, 2010 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)


Brent’s ex-team was the subject of one of the most controversial contract disputes this past off-season when they tried to sign Ilya Kovalchuk into his grey hair years. The deal was eventually re-jigged and okay’d after initially being rejected by the league, but I’m guessing the organization is starting to feel a bit like Eve after biting the forbidden fruit considering they’ve been ejected from the league’s eden of upper-echelon teams to start the year.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The Devils struggles are something that have been mentioned in this space before by Robert Cleave. I also tackled the subject for The Score in October. The issues obviously extend beyond Kovalchuk’s less than value contract, so here’s a short, bullet list:

– Cap problems resulting in the insertion of youngsters. Beyond Kovalchuk’s $6.66M (seriously, that’s the cap hit) deal extending into infiinty, the Devils are suffering from some very Darryl Sutter-esque style missteps by Lucky Lou. Brian Rolston at $5M and Jason Arnott at $4.5M spring to mind. Both were capable players for the Devils in the past and obviously guys Lamoriello has a soft spot for. Problem is they’re both on the bad side of 33 and aren’t good bets to provide the type of value their contracts demand. Dump those deals and spend the money on better value guys this summer and the club probably isn’t filling holes with the likes of Tim Sestito, Alexander Urbom, Jacob Josefson and Matthew Corrente this season

– Injuries. Some big names have spent a lot of time on the shelf for new coach John MacLean, including the aforementioned Rolston, Martin Brodeur, Anton Volchenkov, Colin White and, most significantly, Zach Parise. The latter guy has developed into one of the best heavy hitters in the league and is by far the club’s best player. He drives the bus at ES, so there’s no doubt his absence hurts.

NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 23: Zach Parise  of the New Jersey Devils warms up before a game against the Buffalo Sabres on October 23, 2010 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. The Sabres defeated the Devils 6 - 1. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

– Can’t draw penalties. The Devils have had the fewest PP opportunities in the entire with just 61 through 21 games. The only other team with under 70 thus far is the Florida Panthers (the Flames have drawn 89). As a result, Kovalchuk has been effectively neutered, because the only time he’s truly dangerous (without being a complete laibility defesensively) is the man advantage. The worst possible fate for a club paying a big whack of dough to Ilya Kovalchuk is to spend the least amount of time a man up in the league.

– Bad luck. This is the biggest issue afflicting the Devils right now. On top of everything else, their percentages have just cratered this year. Brodeur was fairly terrible before succumbing to injury, coasting along at a .904 ES SV% clip. The team as a whole has been hovering around 5.5% ES SH% so far, a scoring rate so putrid one wonders if someone is poking pins in a distinctly Devil shaped voodoo doll.

At some point the bounces are going to turn because, despite all their issues, there’s simply no way New Jersey is bottom-of-the-league bad. Their terrible first quarter will probably make the playoffs an impossible dream this season, but don’t besurprise to see theeir record improve dramatically at some point. For now, the Flames just have to hope that the Devils curse persists for just one more night.

  • They beat the caps 5-0 the other night, so I’m thinking their luck is already starting to turn.

    This is definitely a game where if the Bourque line can shut down Kovalchuk, we can win.

    We need to expose all of the rookies on their team – our third line is going to dominate tonight.

    • They did, although the Caps played horribly and the Devils scored 5 against Braden Holtby, a kid so obviously in over his head that every puck that goes past him should only be worth half a goal. So we’ll see if the Devils are really past their tough stretch or not.

  • icedawg_42

    “For now, the Flames just have to hope that the Devils curse persists for just one more night.”

    – Sadly, the Flames coming to town, and teams breaking out of skids seem to coincide more often than not lately.

  • BobB

    After my little disagreement yesterday with Tach re: how much blame the goalie deserves in a game with 4PPGA, I wanted to look at short-handed numbers for the Flames.

    What happened? We had such a good PK for a while.

    Through 20 games. We sit in 27th place in the points standings, NJ is 29th.

    We are bottom half in PMIN/game (19th), NJ is 15th

    We are bottom half in PK% @ 81% (20th), NJ is 18th

    Our Road PK is worse than home @ 76.7% (22nd), NJ is 9th @ home 86.2.

    We are 23rd in the league with GA (16) when we’re on the PK, NJ is 15th (14).

    Lastly, our PP%+PK% combined (STC) is a paltry 96.7% STC (20th). Special teams is killing us, but not as bad as NJ with a brutal 93.1% STC.

    I guess it’s extra sensitive considering in our last three losses, we’ve had 5PPGA, and in all three games the game winning goals or game tying goal came short handed.

    • PrairieStew

      Tempered a bit by the fact that we have 3 shorthanded goals, to 2 shorties against, the net is only -1; 17 special teams goals for and 18 against.

      Agree with you that this should be better, we should be in the plus in special teams, because despite perceptions that we are getting jobbed in the officiating department, 89 powerplay opportunities to 84 against.

      Before the 3 PPGA in 7 chances against in Detroit the other night, the STC was pretty close to 100. The good news is we only have Detroit once in the next 62 games ! (there’s optimism for ya !!)

    • PrairieStew

      At the risk this horse is dead:

      CGY SA/60 on the PK – 50.6; 43.9 when Kiprsuoff on the ice. 50.6 is at the league median (15th rank). 43.9 would be the 6th fewest shot against/60 allowed in the league. (All numbers from

      Kiprusoff’s 4 v 5 savepct – .853 ( The equivalent of the 5th worst shorthanded team save percentage.

      But I am sure it is all the teams fault that PK has been sub par.

      • Kipper has been soft this year. I dont get why people (me included I guess) are letting him off the hook. That second goal against in the Ranger game? Kipper should have given the Flames his game cheque back.

        But Tach at the same time the defence in front of him makes mistakes. Still, when you get paid what Kipper does it is because the expectation is he (Kipper) will make those saves when the defence makes mistakes.

      • If you’re argument is relying on PKsv% then this horse is dead.

        Go back and look at how much fluctuation there is with PKsv%

        Give me a break. There is a reason why using evsv% is the best sv% measure of a goalie, now you’re trying to rely on the worst sv% measure? Gustavsson is .788, Ward is .838, Varlamov is .667. Where is Kipper fifth worst?, check again.

        I’ve never said that Kipper is absolved from blame, and admittedly, I’m working through my own measurement process. However, Your argument is totally dubious, it relies on small sample size, pk sv%, and subjective “oh, he should have had that.”

        Dude, compile evsv% over his career in Calgary and tell me where he ranks.

        Maybe I should rely on PPsv%… .944% WOW! Kiprusoff is a really good goalie!

        You’ve obviously missed the point, or the bus. Let’s just not bother, ok? cause you don’t appear to have even an entry level grasp of the concept.

        • You pointed out that Calgary’s penalty kill has been less than stellar. I pointed out that one of the reasons for that is that Kiprusoff has been less than stellar while the Flames are killing penalties, notwithstanding that the penalty killers have limited shots to a rate that is above average on the season.

          Are you asserting that EVSV% is a good measure of a goaltender’s contribution to the team’s penalty killing?

          Is that predictive of future performance? Nope.

          Is that indicative of Kiprusoff’s prior performance or value? Nope.

          Does it record his actual performance over that actual period of time? Yep.

          Is that performance one that is a good value at a $5.8333 million cap hit? Nope.

          I said that Kiprusoff’s .853 shorthanded save percentage was equal to the fifth worst TEAM save percentage. Go to and check for yourself.

          My point has been, and continues to be, that to this point this season Kiprusoff has not played to a level commensurate to his $5.833 million cap hit and that is one of the reasons, amongst others, that Calgary has not had much success this year. I have yet to see you cite a single fact that demonstrates otherwise, although you appear to be very good at setting up strawmen and knocking them down as well as misreading what I write.

          You also appear to have some short term memory loss as you write in this thread “I’ve never said that Kipper is absolved from blame”. However, on the prior thread you wrote “Nope, maybe there is a big gap between who we are, and who we think we are, and goaltending is doing a Lion’s share of narrowing that gap” (Comment #24) and “Therefore, goaltending has been a more consistent difference maker than the forwards and d” (Comment #34) If that isn’t trying to “absolve blame” then I don’t think you know the meaning of those words.

          Those are the comments I am taking issue with because the numbers demonstrate that Kiprusoff has not been consistently better than the rest of the team over the season, and certainly not consistently better at a rate so as to justify paying him $5.833 million per season. I demonstrated that using your own QS statistic, which is dubious in and of itself.