Halloween came one night early for the New Jersey Devils.
On Tuesday night, the Devils seemingly had the Tampa Bay Lightning dead to rights, up two goals on a projected Stanley Cup contender in the third period. But in what ended up being one of the battiest games of the opening month of the season, the entire script got flipped on New Jersey. Less than two minutes after the early third period insurance marker from the Devils’ Sami Vatanen, Anthony Cirelli scored to draw the Bolts within one, which was followed by Mathieu Joseph’s game-tying goal five minutes later and the go-ahead goal, scored by Ondrej Palat, with less than four minute remaining.
Before regulation was through, however, there was a (hat) trick in store for the Devils. With time winding down, Kyle Palmieri slotted home his third of the game to tie the score at six apiece, sending the contest to overtime. But unfortunately for New Jersey, there was no treat. Just 76 seconds into the extra frame, Tyler Johnson potted the game-winning goal as the Devils squandered their opportunity to pick up a big win.
That has been part for the course this season for New Jersey, though, as a promising summer has led to little in the way of results. As they wake up on Halloween, the Devils are tied for last in the league with seven points. And that’s a frightening sight for the New Jersey faithful, who came into this campaign ready to take a step forward.
The Devils’ seven points isn’t the only scary statistic through the opening month of the season, however. Below, boys and ghouls (sorry, had to), you’ll find one number that’s sure to frighten each NHL fanbase:
Anaheim Ducks: Everything is going as well, if not better, than the Ducks could have expected. Anaheim is in the thick of things in the Pacific Division with a solid though not unblemished 8-6-0 record. One difficulty the Ducks have had, however, is generating on the power play. At 9.4 percent, only the lowly Chicago Blackhawks and Ottawa Senators have fared worse with the extra man.
Arizona Coyotes: The Coyotes’ success is predicated upon tough defense. Coach Rick Tocchet’s team doesn’t give up a whole lot to the opposition. But the own-zone commitment has resulted in a lack of standout offensive producers, including major off-season acquisition Phil Kessel. Projected to be the Coyotes’ top offensive star, Kessel has a mere two goals in 12 games.
Boston Bruins: The trio of David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron has combined for 24 goals and 57 points through the first dozen games of the season. The other 20 skaters who have suited up for Boston this season, meanwhile, have combined to score 17 goals and 53 points. If any of the top three fall injured, that spells trouble.
Buffalo Sabres: Coach Ralph Krueger has the Sabres off to an excellent start, but the underlying numbers are cause for some minor concern. At 5-on-5, Buffalo’s expected goals for is 47.5 percent and 49.1 percent when adjusted for score and venue.
Calgary Flames: Zero goals, three points and 18 shots on goal for $5.25-million per season. The Flames were expecting Milan Lucic to be a fit on the fourth line, but he hasn’t been the bottom-six producer Calgary had hoped. He has been physical, though. So, there’s that.
Carolina Hurricanes: It’s exceptionally difficult to pick apart the Hurricanes, who have improved on last season’s performance and are getting contributions from their top players. One area they’re playing with fire, though, is the penalty kill. They’ve been good on the PK, true, but their 48 minor penalties are tied for the eighth-most in the NHL.
Chicago Blackhawks: There was once a time when the Blackhawks had the most feared attack in the NHL. Even last season, Chicago finished with the eighth-most goals in the league. But so far this season, the Blackhawks’ offense has been inept, scoring 2.27 goals per game, the second-fewest in the league.
Colorado Avalanche: Two-thirds. As in two-thirds of the top line sidelined. Mikko Rantanen remains week-to-week with a lower-body injury and Gabriel Landeskog has hit the sidelines with a lower-body injury of his own and is out indefinitely. That puts a lot of pressure on Nathan MacKinnon to keep driving the bus.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Joonas Korpisalo has an above .500 record through his first month as an NHL No. 1, but his 5-4-1 record belies his .886 save percentage. He’s won games despite performing poorly, and it’s not as though rookie backup Elvis Merzlikins has been much better. He has an .891 SP in three appearances.
Dallas Stars: The overall offensive output in Dallas is concerning – their 2.21 goals per game are the fewest in the NHL – but what’s going on with Jamie Benn? The Stars captain has one goal in 14 games this season. That puts him at risk of failing to reach the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his career. (He scored 12 during the lockout-shortened campaign but scored at a 24-goal pace.)
Detroit Red Wings: Frans Nielsen has zero points. None. Not one. And he’s been relegated to fourth-line duty. That’s not exactly an ideal situation for the goal-starved Red Wings, particularly not when Nielsen has three years at $5.25-million per season remaining on his contract.
Edmonton Oilers: Leon Draisaitl has 12 goals, James Neal has 11 and Connor McDavid has six. Why is that notable? Because the rest of the roster has 12 combined goals. Not unlike the Bruins, there are three players who are almost solely responsible for the offense in Edmonton right now. The Oilers can’t afford to lose either of their stars – and maybe not even Neal – for any length of time.
Florida Panthers: When you shell out a seven-year, $70-million pact and hand over a $7.5-million signing bonus to a two-time Vezina Trophy-winning netminder, you have expectations. Safe to say, Sergei Bobrovsky isn’t meeting them. His .873 SP is the fourth-worst among all goaltenders with at least six games played.
Los Angeles Kings: Speaking of poor goaltending, Jonathan Quick’s play sure is concerning. The Kings netminder, who had the worst season of his big-league career in 2018-19, looks as though he might take another step back this season. His .858 SP and 4.55 goals-against average are league-worst marks among netminders with at least six games played.
Minnesota Wild: Brad Hunt’s seven points are a nice feather in the late-blooming defenseman’s cap, but it’s also shocking that his production puts him third on the entire team in scoring. He’s even tied for the team lead with four goals. Good for Hunt, bad for the Wild.
Montreal Canadiens: Claude Julien’s teams are generally fairly defensive-minded, and that’s true of the Canadiens, but Montreal’s inability to defend on the penalty kill is an issue through the early stages of the season. The Canadiens’ 71 percent penalty kill rate ranks third-last in the league.
Nashville Predators: It’s a good problem to have, but Pekka Rinne continues to outplay Juuse Saros, who is supposed to be the goaltender of the future. The incumbent starter has a .937 SP in his eight appearances, while the Predators’ backup has a mere .872 SP. Saros has allowed two more goals against than Rinne despite playing in four fewer games.
New Jersey Devils: This season was supposed to represent a step forward for the Devils, who had one of the best off-seasons of any club. Instead, New Jersey has just two wins in 10 games and their seven points are tied for the fewest in the NHL. The Devils inability to stop the bleeding defensively is the biggest concern thus far. New Jersey’s 4.10 goals against per game is second-worst in the league.
New York Islanders: The Islanders’ performance last season seemingly defied all logic and one could argue, at least from a statistical standpoint, that’s the case again this season. New York has the league’s second-worst Corsi rates at 5-on-5, 44.8 percent, and are outshot on a regular basis, yet the goaltending of Thomas Greiss and Semyon Varlamov paired with timely offense has been enough to propel the team to victory.
New York Rangers: Take your pick. At 5-on-5, the Rangers rank: last in Corsi percentage (43 percent), second-last in shots percentage (45.7), third-last in expected goals percentage (43.5), last in scoring chance percentage (42.3) and third-last in high-danger chance percentage (43.1).
Ottawa Senators: There’s supposed to be some light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s difficult to see right now. Even if a few young players take considerable step forwards, there will be very little roster consistency next season. Almost half the roster – 10 players – will be eligible to walk as free agents next summer, so Ottawa is going to have to surround its youth with scraps.
Philadelphia Flyers: This list isn’t titled Let’s Pile On The Goaltenders, so let’s not mention Carter Hart here. Instead, let’s turn our attention to Nolan Patrick, who can’t catch a break. The second-overall pick in 2017 hasn’t played in a single game this season due to a migraine disorder. Statistically, his zero games played isn’t as scary as it is saddening. The poor kid can’t catch a break.
Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins were able to wriggle free from Erik Gudbranson’s cap hit by shipping the defender to the Anaheim Ducks, but Jack Johnson, who has four seasons at a $3.25-million cap hit remaining on his deal, continues to patrol the blueline. Pittsburgh needs to find a way to rid themselves of that contract.
San Jose Sharks: How about the combined .890 SP the duo of Martin Jones and Aaron Dell are sporting? Yikes.
St. Louis Blues: The Blues will spend the next five months without Vladimir Tarasenko. All right, so that’s not a traditional statistic, but next to losing Jordan Binnington for an extended period of time, the fact that Tarasenko will be on the shelf for what could be the rest of the season is awful news for the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Last season, the Lightning finished with a league-best plus-103 goal differential, a number so ridiculous that it deserves quadruple-checking. Through 12 games this season, though, Tampa Bay’s goal differential is zero. They’re tied for 24th in the NHL with 3.5 goals against per game.
Toronto Maple Leafs: If anything needed tightening up this season, it was the Maple Leafs’ defensive play. But, uh, Toronto hasn’t quite been able to show own-zone improvement through the first month of the season. Their 3.43 goals against per game is the 10th-worst total in the NHL, slightly worse than that of the Winnipeg Jets, who have a blueline that is held together by duct tape and floss.
Vancouver Canucks: Loui Eriksson has played in three games, and in his last outing, he skated 9:49. His stock hasn’t dropped. It’s plummeted. Off a cliff. And it’s still falling.
Vegas Golden Knights: It’s exceptionally difficult to pick apart the Hurricanes Golden Knights, who have improved on last season’s performance and are getting contributions from their top players. One area they’re playing with fire, though, is the penalty kill. They’ve been good on the PK, true, but their 48 minor penalties are tied for the eighth-most in the NHL.
Washington Capitals: Again, the point of this isn’t to pick on the netminders, but it’s hard to ignore Braden Holtby’s .888 SP. Intriguing about the Capitals’ crease, however, is that Holtby is being pushed to pick up his play. Ilya Samsonov is breathing down the veteran’s neck and has a .913 SP in five appearances this season.
Winnipeg Jets: The good news? Winnipeg has been one of the least penalized teams in the league, averaging little more than four minutes on the kill per game. The bad news? When they have been on the kill, the Jets have had incredible difficulty thwarting the opposition. At 65.4 percent, Winnipeg’s PK percentage is the worst in the NHL.
(All salary cap information via CapFriendly)
(All advanced statistics via NaturalStatTrick)
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