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Why did the Devils Struggle to Start the Season?

Scoring? Goaltending? Chemistry?

Christopher Pasatieri

The New Jersey Devils had a forgettable start to the season. After their first ten games, the Devils held a record  of 1-5-4. After the slow start, the Devils have put together a nice set of games to bring them within one game of .500. There has been a lot of talk about who is to blame for the bad start. Some blame DeBoer, some blame our defense, some even say Lou Lamoriello should have done more to replace the scoring talent that departed last offseason. The Devils have since righted the ship, what has changed?

In order to put the Devils start in perspective, I compared the first nine games to the second nine games that the Devils have played. From a few basic stats, you can see that the Devils have been shooting better, converting on the power play, and starting Martin Brodeur.

If you look at the first nine games, we had only one win and that belonged to Cory Schneider. In the second nine games, Brodeur has five wins and two shutouts. Interesting enough, They are both hovering around the same GAA: 2.08 and SV%: .914. So the goaltending has been consistent thus far in the season. So perhaps the terrible start comes from a lack of goals that is supposed to doom the Devils this year.

New Jersey is tied with Nashville for 25th in goals per game. That's actually an improvement from last year where they were 28th in goals per game, down from 15th in the league during the 2011-12 season. However, if you look at the actual goals per game stat, it's not good news.

Season G/G
2011-12 2.63
2013 2.29
2013-14 2.11

The Devils have seen a decrease in goals per game by about 20% from two seasons ago. Anyways, back to this season, in the Devils first nine games they averaged 2.0 goals per game. They increased that to 2.22 during the second nine games, a much needed improvement. Where did this scoring come from? Well, the Devils power play heated up during the second nine games. They were at 13.3% PP success and dramatically improved to 21.2% over the last nine games. Even the penalty kill has gotten better, they allowed four goals in each set of nine games, but faced 11 more opportunities in the most recent nine games.

On top of hot special teams, the Devils increased their shooting percentage from 7.7% to 8.8% while taking roughly the same number of shots. This means that the Devils are taking a few less shots but that those opportunities are of higher quality. Also, the Devils were outshot by their opponents through the first nine games. In the second nine games, they had a positive shot differential, meaning that they are taking more shots than their opponents, usually a good sign of a winning team.

Comparing The Devils Season (9 games at a time)
Games Win % Points % Goal Diff G/G PP% PK% Shot Diff S%
Second Nine 56% 67% 6 2.22 21.21% 88.89% 21 8.8%
First Nine 11% 28% -10 2.00 13.33% 84.00% -4 7.7%

As you can see, the Devils have been significantly better all around after a week start to the season. After looking at all the numbers, I think that the Devils really only have one problem, scoring. When they were consistently outscored in the beginning of the season, they crumbled under their own pressure. Especially given that there are so many new faces this year compared with the last few seasons where the Devils kept bringing back a similar roster. It is much tougher for a team to get going when their roster turns over as much as it did this offseason. Perhaps DeBoer's "system" is starting to work itself out? or maybe the Devils are finally warmed up and ready to start putting more and more pucks in the net!