Last year, the Devils were flirting with NHL .500 for most of the begining of the year, showing flashes, but having a hard time sustaining. The season needed a defining stretch. That came, although not the way the Devils wanted, when we went 1-2-1 on a Western road trip.
This team is 11-9-1 for 23 points in 21 games. Last years team at this point was 9-9-3, for 21 points in 21 games. Last year we were 2-3 in overtime games. This year we are 5-1. So the final tally for regulation games is 6-9 this year and 7-9 last year.
So are we doomed to repeat. I think the team we've seen the last 10 days is not who this team is. I'm going to show a series of charts using war-on-ice data to show my point. Everything below is exclusively 5v5 data (our Powerplay was marginally better in the first 17 games, but it wasn't worth all the analysis).
This is the first set of things I looked at. The goals for goals against is obviously worse in this extremely small sample size, but the PDO is also pretty low, mostly due to a low Sv%. That will be expected to normalize itself, especially with a world-class goalie like Schneider. Our Zone-starts are a little bit more defensive than they were in the first 17 games which means we are starting in our zone a little more often. That resonates with what we've seen as well. So the results of the play have clearly been worse. Why is that?
Let's look into the actual scoring opportunities. (Reminder: this is war-on-ice's definition of a scoring chance, not a subjectively observed scoring opportunity). HSC means "High-Danger Scoring Chance."
Wow! As it turns out our scoring chances -- both standard and high-danger -- have actually been better in these last 4 games. The scoring chances against are stagnant, yet we are producing more. Normally this correlates well to goals for goals against. While harboring some of the optimism from these results, let's continue to look into the other areas for answers.
Based on these numbers, our possession ratio should be largely unchanged. Our Corsi is actually improved to the point that it appears we are an even team in the last 4 games. And our Fenwick has not noticeably changed. Once again, these results would imply a better result not a worse one. We press on. Lets look more directly at the results since looking for explanations isn't going well.
Shots, Blocks, Misses, Goals
Okay. The goal scoring ratio is definitely worse. And so is the shooting ratio. Since the possession stats were improved, that must mean that a lot of misses and blocks have been changing the course of these games.
These stats are the per 60 minutes. We are missing 2.5 more attempts per game, and our opponents are missing 2.8 less shots per game. The same is true for blocked shots. We have regressed, and our opponents have improved. What does this mean? Is it good? Well, kind of yeah actually. The odds that this blocks and misses for and against ratio continues to be so one-sided are likely small. This seems to me a huge reason, but again this is only even strength and our special teams have been largely the same in achievement. But what about how much time we spent there.
PN is penalties and PN- is penalties drawn. We are taking 1.4 extra penalties per game, while drawing at the same rate. This has been REALLY obvious. The last few games it has felt like we were down a man for most of the game.
To me, it seems pretty clear that the results of the last 4 games are not consistent with our play for the most part. I dug into the performance of players and everyone has either 1 or zero points except for 5 guys. Guess which 5. Even they all have 2 except for Cammalleri (5). A few of those shooting percentages may be coming back down to Earth, but for the most part everything outside of luck seems to be largely unchanged from the successful start.
I am not saying that we should expect to make the playoffs, nor am I saying that these 4 games are irrelevant. But it seems that we are a little bit closer to the team we were in the first 17 games then what we've seen the last 4. I expect us to return to form and maybe settle somewhere in the middle. This roster has "bubble team" written all over it.
So what is it? Which team are we? The team from the first 17 games? The team from the last 4? Or both?