Last season, the New Jersey Devils finished the regular season and did not qualify for the playoffs. Their record was 19-19-10, which was worth 48 points. Over the past few weeks (months?), we've discussed various areas the 2013 Devils have suffered in. Despite being fantastic in possession, they weren't always shooting a lot, special teams weren't all that successful to say the least, the Devils' goaltending hasn't been good, and their shooting percentage in general was just awful. So far this summer, the Devils have at least addressed their goaltending situation and they've acquired a few new forwards in the hopes they can help out in other areas. The hope is that the team's percentages will run better in 2013-14. However, there's one area from the 2013 season that also undercut the Devils: post-regulation play. They didn't just lose ten games beyond regulation; they lost ten out of thirteen.
That's a considerable amount of points left on the table. Recall that the New York Islanders took the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference Finals with a record of 24-17-7, which was worth 55 points. Also, recall that in the lockout-shortened season that teams played only within their conference. Therefore, every game that went beyond regulation meant a point would be given or taken away from someone they're directly competing with in the standings. The Devils didn't just leave ten points on the table, they gave ten additional points to others in the Eastern Conference. Half went to teams that did make the playoffs - like the Islanders - and half did not according to the schedule and results list at Hockey Reference. Had the Devils won in overtime or in the shootout more often, then the Devils could have had an outside chance at catching the Isles. They would have only needed six points, presuming they did win in their one post-regulation game against the Isles early in the season. It's a big swing to go from 3-10 to 9-4, but the possibility was there.
It's a jarring record on it's own. More so when you consider the Devils have been far, far better since the 2005 lockout. Here it is from NHL.com. I've included shootout and overtime splits. I've also included percentages of games played that went beyond regulation out of a whole season, went to a shootout out of a whole season, and went to a shootout out of all post-regulation games.
The italics indicate that the Devils won the most overtime and shootout games in the entire league in 2011-12 and 2008-09 seasons. They were very successful both in OT and SO situations, which was fortunate since around a quarter of the season went beyond sixty minutes. Aside from those seasons, the Devils have been fairly successful in other seasons. Only in the 2009-10 did the team come close to going below .500 post-regulation but even they went 8-7. This recent season really stuck out like a sore thumb for stinking it up. It also didn't help it was also the largest fraction of the regular season that went beyond regulation; but the team played quite a bit in four out of seven prior seasons.
In putting this together, I noticed a stunning split. The Devils weren't bad at home in games that went beyond regulation. They only had one season where they had a losing record at home, 2009-10, but that was only six games so they didn't leave a lot of points on the table.
However, on the road, the Devils just flopped - especially in shootouts.
The team didn't just earn a losing post-regulation record on the road, they didn't win a single game. Eight games beyond sixty minutes, only eight points earned. No bonus points earned at all. New Jersey got most of those games into a shootout situation, a situation where the Devils have been successful for the most part since 2005. If we're to understand that the shootout is akin to a coin flip, then the Devils just came up unlucky - especially on the road. It's not like the set up or the goal of the shootout changes on the road.
As far as why the Devils' post-regulation record in 2013 was so crummy compared to past seasons, I'm not quite sure. Overtime is a 4-on-4 situation for only five minutes. The majority of Devils games that go beyond sixty minutes as tied go beyond sixty-five minutes. Only in 2008-09 and 2010-11 did that not happen but even then it was a significant enough occurrence. Given that's happened with different teams and opponents, I'm inclined to think the drop in overtime records it's a coincidence. As for the shootout, well, the Devils' shooting and save percentages weren't good at all. They finished 27th with a 20.7% shooting percentage and 24th with a 55.6% save percentage. It could be that the team that shot poorly and earned a low save percentage in games continued both in shootouts. Then again, the 2013 Devils took 29 shootout attempts and allowed 27. Both are relatively high amounts in the league but it's still only 29 shots for and 27 shots against. Since these situations were also scattered throughout the season, I'm inclined to think this may be coincidence as well. For example, the tandem of Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg didn't put up a good team save percentage in 2010-11, but they were quite good in the shootout.
The hope that I have is that if shootout and overtime results are variable, then the Devils should stand to improve next season. Cory Schneider did well last season in shootouts so there's reason to believe he'll help out on the back end. As far as the shooters, I'm not sure. The new signings don't inspire confidence based on this past season. Michael Ryder only took one attempt with Montreal and missed, Jaromir Jagr only took one attempt with Dallas and scored, and Ryane Clowe took three attempts with San Jose and didn't convert either. As far as returning Devils, only three Devils from last season's team took more than one attempt: Patrik Elias (2-for-8), Travis Zajac (1-for-4), and Adam Henrique (0-for-2, who will be signed at some point). Each were better in the season prior; as was their most prolific shootout taker. Maybe they'll bounce back forward? If they can the team may not be as successful in shootouts as they were 2011-12, but they'll be far better than what they were in 2013.
Decry the shootout and how post-regulation is handled in the league as much as you'd like, but they all count in the standings. Again, the Devils missed the postseason by seven points so more success beyond sixty minutes would lead to tangible results. I know regulation wins would be best, but historically 20-25% of the Devils' season goes beyond three periods. That's a significant enough portion to pay attention to where results are concerned. I wish there was more out there - maybe there is? - to determine what makes a team truly successful beyond regulation. I would think the Devils would be a good team to explore based on seven of the last eight seasons. But if much of it is variation, then perhaps being strong season after season wasn't going to last forever. What can't last forever usually doesn't. I don't think that precludes a massive drop in results, going from the best in the league at 16-6 to 3-10. But I think it does mean we shouldn't expect the Devils to suddenly go back to among league leaders in 2013-14. I do expect some improvement if only from the back end for shootouts; we shall see whether the team can be good enough in regulation to still be good in overtime and possible have that (good play? good shooting? something else?) carry over into shootouts.
Why do you think the Devils were so bad beyond regulation last season? How come they were so especially bad in overtime and shootouts on the road? Can the Devils bounce back in 2013-14 and why? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the Devils in post-regulation situations in the comments. Thank you for reading.