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By The Numbers - The First 10 Games

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Not so long ago it seems, the New Jersey Devils were getting ready to start their regular season, and we were all excited to see what would come of the changes made. Well here we are, and the season is already 10 games old! Let's look at some numbers and see what has happened exactly.

Severson has been a real bright spot in October for NJ.
Severson has been a real bright spot in October for NJ.
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Believe it or not, the New Jersey Devils have already played 10 regular season games.  For me at least, it can be amazing to realize how fast the hockey season can go.  The first month of the season is over, that burst out of the gate, where so much can be gained and lost.  Over the summer, I wrote an article about how a good start in October would be so important.  The October schedule seemed difficult, but at the time I wrote that a record of 5-3-2 would give this team ground to stand on moving into November, when the schedule provides this team with some easier stretches of opponents at times.

Well, here we are on November 1st, and the Devils are 5-3-2...I should've put money on that.  But hey, I still believe what I said back in July.  October did not provide New Jersey with easy opponents, 6 of whom made the playoffs last season.  Getting out of that month with a positive record, with more points than games played, is a real positive statement from this organization, despite its struggles.

Before New Jersey begins its November slate, I wanted to look at the team's numbers over the first 10 games.  Where were they great as compared to other teams, where were they a middling team, and where do they need some serious change if they are to move in a positive direction?  I think that the basic eye test proves a lot of these numbers, which means that most of you will already have a feel on what the numbers will tell us.  Nonetheless, actually looking at the numbers can also reveal some information that we may miss while watching the games as a fan.

Note: If this turns out to be a relevant exercise, I plan to continue this series throughout the year at key intervals in the season, perhaps every 10 games... although that may be too often.  Maybe every 15 games.  We'll see how it works out.

NHL.com Stats

The first set of stats I will bring up will be basic statistics from NHL.com, as I feel this is a good starting point.  The NHL's main website provides basic team statistics, as well as some interesting additional stats.  The following chart showcases many of the statistics found on that link.  In the bottom row of the chart, I wrote the rank that NJ falls in that category as compared to the rest of the league, 30 being the worst and 1 being the best.

Note #2: These stats were all compiled before Friday night's games, so it may be possible that the Devils have moved around some in the rankings. Also, if you need an explanation of what any stat is, a list is at the end of this article.

Team

Point %

G/GP

GA/GP

5-5 F/A

PP%

PK%

S/GP

SA/GP

FO%

NJD

.600

2.90

3.30

1.12

25.0%

68.2%

27.4

31.5

49.2

Rank

15th

9th

22nd

14th

4th

29th

26th

23rd

19th

As I mentioned above, many of these stats may already seem like they make sense to someone who has watched a majority of the Devils games this season.  The team is giving up more goals per game played (G/GP and GA/GP) than they are scoring them.  And this is scary considering that NJ was scoring over 3 goals per game for most of the month.  At the start of the season, if you told me that the Devils would score around three goals per game, I would have told you there was no way they would be giving up more than that.  3 goals per game for this team should equal amazing success.

The 5-5 F/A is a ratio analyzing the number of goals scored versus goals against at 5 on 5 play.  Anything over 1 is positive, and the Devils are just positive in that category, ranking 14th in the league.  That is not terrible, but improvement would certainly be a good thing on that front.

Another interesting development has been the power play and penalty kill conversion rates, which like the goals for and goals against stats, go against traditional Devils hockey.  The Devils, usually a bastion of strong penalty killing, have been one of the worst in the league with a 68.2% conversion rate, good for next to last in the NHL (ahead of only the Islanders).  Conversely, they are actually performing well on the power play still, with a 25% conversion rate, good for 4th in the league.  Regardless of the strong power play, however, it is clear that this team needs to improve its penalty killing, and soon, or else it will severely hurt their chances to win games.  The Devils have taken way too many penalties, and if they cannot kill them off, they will lose more often than not.

Finally, the Devils are being outshot per game, which should be of no surprise to anyone.  So much so, however, that the Devils have only won 1 game when outshooting their opponents, and that was the last game against Winnipeg.  The only teams left to not win when outshooting their opponents are Ottawa, Edmonton, and Carolina.  That is a group that NJ should strive to get far away from in the rankings.

Hockey Analysis Stats

Next up, we will look at stats from Hockey Analysis.  These stats look at 5 on 5 play only, but give us more advanced statistics to delve into than we can find simply on NHL's main webpage.  Like with the chart above, in the bottom row of the chart I rank where NJ falls in that category as compared to the rest of the league (again, stats were compiled before Friday night's games).

Team

FF

FA

FF%

CF

CA

CF%

OZFO%

DZFO%

NZFO%

PDO

NJD

285

286

49.9%

376

359

51.2%

26.3%

31.9%

41.8%

101.7

Rank

20th

11th

18th

21st

9th

14th

27th

15th

3rd

7th

Like with the chart above, the numbers here may make sense to someone who has been watching the Devils play, but definitely do not represent the style of hockey that the team usually plays.  The last few seasons has seen NJ as one of the top possession teams in the league, with Fenwick and Corsi percentages well above 50%.  This season, however, we see a team has a Fenwick under 50%, and is very average overall in possession as compared to the league.  These are atypical numbers for Peter DeBoer's system, and I would expect them to rebound at least somewhat as the season progresses.

Hockey Analysis also charts how often a team takes a faceoff in the offensive, defensive, and neutral zones.  Obviously, the more draws in the offensive zone the better, as it means better possession of the puck and more chances on net.  New Jersey, however, has had very minimal draws in the offensive zone.  They are third to last in offensive zone faceoffs in the NHL.  The team in first, Chicago, takes around 15% more of their faceoffs in the offensive zone.  Unsurprisingly, Chicago is also first in possession with an amazing Corsi percentage, as these two stats are very much related.

Of course, being near the bottom in offensive zone faceoff percentage does not mean that the Devils are always pinned back.  The team actually only takes 31.9% of their draws in the defensive zone.  Instead, the Devils take the large majority of their faceoffs in the neutral zone, ranking 3rd in the league in that category.  The only teams with a higher neutral zone faceoff % are Pittsburgh and Arizona.  So while NJ is not getting many draws at all in the attacking zone, at least they are not defending against too many in their own zone either.

What Does It All Mean?

I think that the statistics through the first 10 games are very interesting.  The Devils did not have a particularly terrible month, considering they have 12 points in 10 games.  While we would all like to see more points per game, the fact that they produced an above .500 opening month when last season they started at 0-4-3 is positive overall.  This is considering that I also believe the schedule for October was not kind to New Jersey.  They played some of the better teams in the league, yet still managed to get some points and wins.

However, despite the limited success, the statistics are not all that kind.  The Devils had one of the worst possession months that this team has had in a long time.  The ice is clearly tilted against them, as they take very few faceoffs in the offensive zone.  And they are regularly outshot, to the point where only one win came when outshooting an opponent.  Perhaps the worst part about all of this too is that this team has been marginally lucky, with a PDO over 100.  So it is not like we can say that this team has been really unlucky, and that luck has been the main culprit for poor possession and shot ratio...because it has not been the main culprit at all.

For me, I feel like this team is producing points despite some poor statistics.  And that can be seen as a positive.  If they can improve their play statistically, it should only help them in the standings.  It is not like they're playing amazing hockey and still losing.  Quite the opposite actually.

I hope that November brings improved puck possession and the Devils work to tilt the ice back in their favor.  I hope this more for the defense instead of the offense.  The offense has been producing at a good clip, but the defense has been struggling when they have to continually start shifts in the neutral or defensive zones.  Positive possession does not only help a team score, but it also prevents the other team from scoring, and this is what the Devils surely need.

Your Thoughts

Those are the numbers for the first 10 games, and my thoughts.  What are your thoughts?  Do you see similar things that I am seeing, or do you reach different conclusions?  What other statistics did I leave out that you feel are relevant to this discussion?  Please leave your comments in the section below, and thanks for reading.

Other websites with quality statistics to check out:

www.war-on-ice.com

www.behindthenet.ca

Statistics Chart:

Point% = percentage of points the Devils have gained

G/GP = goals per game played

GA/GP = goals against per game played

5-5 F/A = Ratio of goals for versus against in 5 on 5 play

PP% = power play percentage

PK% = penalty kill percentage

S/GP = shots per game played

SA/GP = shots against per game played

FO% = faceoff percentage

FF = number of Fenwick events for the Devils

FA = number of Fenwick events against the Devils

FF% = Fenwick For percentage

CF = number of Corsi events for the Devils

CA = number of Corsi events against the Devils

CF% = Corsi For percentage

OZFO% = offensive zone faceoff percentage

DZFO% = defensive zone faceoff percentage

NZFO% = neutral zone faceoff percentage

PDO = statistic to determine luck.  Add a team's shooting percentage and save percentage at even strength.  100 is the mean.