clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Devils Will Finish in the Top 10 in Goals Against

In an attempt to be positive, I want to look at some areas of the game where the New Jersey Devils will have a good chance at performing well. Considering that the best parts of this team are defense and goaltending, I believe one area might be goals against. Come see why.

Without these two guys, my argument is moot.
Without these two guys, my argument is moot.
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the season, no one is high on the New Jersey Devils, and that includes fan sites for the team (like this one).  I mean come on, the Hockey Writers have the Devils finishing dead last in the Eastern Conference this season.

Despite the negativity, however, I think that there will be areas where New Jersey will be better than average.  I want to go out on a little bit of a limb here and say that one of those areas will be goals against.  Between a top 10 goalie in Cory Schneider and a promising young defense led by stalwart Andy Greene, the Devils have a chance to be one of the more stingy teams in the NHL this season.  Let's look at both the goaltending and the defense to see why this could be possible.

The Goaltending

The first reason, and perhaps the main reason why New Jersey will not give up many goals is because of the goaltending situation.  Schneider is one of the better goalies in the NHL.  In terms of fantasy, Matt has him ranked as the 8th best entering the season, but the main reason he is not higher on that list is because he will not win too many games with this team.  For the purposes of this discussion, whether or not he wins a game is useless, as I still feel that he will be stout at preventing goals from being scored.  If the Devils cannot produce goals in front of him, well that is a completely different story.  If Schneider were on a winning team this season—say perhaps Pittsburgh—there is no doubt that he would be considerably higher on Matt's list.

To showcase where Cory was last season, let's look at a chart of some of the top goalies last season, looking at some of the major stats.  On this list are the top 10 goalies in terms of save percentage, who started at least half of their team's games (I'm including Dubnyk as his combined stats are sufficient).  Information for this chart comes from


Shots Against

Goals Against


Save %

Carey Price





Devan Dubnyk





Steve Mason





Cory Schneider





Corey Crawford





Braden Holtby





Pekka Rinne





Tuukka Rask





Henrik Lundqvist





Semyon Varlamov





Last year, even on a team that gave up a boat load of shots (Schneider has the 3rd most shots against on that list, behind only Holtby and Rask), Schneider still managed to produce a .925 save percentage, good for fourth in the league.  And that was playing behind defenders like Marek Zidlicky, Bryce Salvador, Peter Harrold, and Mark Fraser.  Essentially, what I am trying to argue is that last season, Cory was given a not-so-good defense in front of him, but still managed to produce the fourth best save percentage, while also keeping his goals against average on par with guys like Crawford, Holtby, Lundqvist, and Rask.  That is the sign of a great goaltender.

This year, with a (hopefully) improved defense, the shots should not come as often, and if Schneider can keep a similar save percentage as he had last year, it means that less goals will be scored.  He may in fact improve his save percentage because the defense should theoretically allow fewer high-quality scoring chances.  This would undoubtedly push the Devils into becoming one of the more stingy teams in the NHL.

The Defense

To further elaborate on the state of the defense, let's take a look at the roster of those defensemen that were on the team last year and have not returned.  These were guys that played at least a noticeable amount of minutes in front of Cory.  Next to it, I have shown their relative Corsi percentages at 5 on 5.  Information here comes from Puckalytics.


Games Played

Relative Corsi

Marek Zidlicky



Bryce Salvador



Peter Harrold



Mark Fraser



So first, Zidlicky's stats are a little skewed, as I can only find his Corsi stats for the entire season, not for just what he did while in New Jersey.  He played 63 games in Newark before being shipped off to the contending Detroit Red Wings.  The Red Wings had a team Corsi percentage of 53.5 last season, good for 3rd in the entire league at 5 on 5 play.  The Devils, on the other hand, were at 47.2%.  So undoubtedly his Corsi percentages were altered some by his time in Detroit.

Nonetheless, the chart still leaves a pretty clear indication of the level of defensive talent that is no longer on the team.  Zidlicky was an excellent distributor and helped greatly with the offense, but there was no debate that he was more of a defensive liability, and when he pinched at the wrong time, it led to odd man rushes going the other way that Cory had to stop.  Salvador, Harrold, and Fraser were all possession black holes, even on a team that was a strong net negative in possession.  Fraser had a -7.23 relative Corsi, and on a team that had a Corsi percentage of only 47.2%, that is quite bad.  Harrold at -6.75 is not much better, and anyone who watched Salvador play out the last few games of his career know that he was far from who he once was in 2011-2012.

What does this all mean?  Well, I am trying to argue that it means the defense is almost guaranteed to improve this season.  In their stead, the only new surefire name that will make the squad is John Moore, but there are others like Vojtech Mozik and the newly acquired David Schlemko who have a chance to get 3rd pairing minutes.  Also, some of the younger talent will undoubtedly get to play more, like Seth Helgeson and maybe even Raman Hrabarenka.  While these guys might not be exceptional upgrades over who I mentioned above, they are young, they should be improving, and their defensive capabilities should be able to outmatch those who left.

Then, and most importantly, the young mainstays on the squad will be a year older, more seasoned, and will better be able to aid in preventing goals.  Adam Larsson is expected to take another jump again this season as he looks to become the top pairing defenseman that the Devils drafted a few years ago.  Damon Severson will no longer be a rookie, and will have his past experiences to help him become an even better top 4 defenseman this year.  If he can stay healthy as well, having him in the lineup almost every night will be a huge improvement.  Then you have Jon Merrill and Eric Gelinas, who should hopefully have more confidence and should be better able to handle NHL competition.  And of course, the aforementioned John Moore may not be an offensive juggernaut, but he is a strong defensive defenseman who will be a huge upgrade in that department over any of the departed players listed.

What am I trying to say?  Well, if the defense can gel together, the group of Greene, Larsson, Severson, Moore, Merrill and Gelinas will work to prevent a lot more shots and goals than the defense last year was able to prevent.  There are risks with having such a young corps, of course, but if most of them are up to the challenge like I believe they are, then the Devils will give up a lot less goals than they gave up last season.


In the end, as Devils fans we need to continue to be positive about our team, even in the face of what may be a bad season.  Even in bad seasons, there are always positives that can be taken away that a team can build on for the future.  This year, I think that one of the positives will be goal prevention.  With an exceptional goalie and an up-and-coming defense, I believe that the Devils will be one of the stingier teams in the NHL.  There will be nights when they give up too many goals of course, but over the course of the entire season, I will go out on a limb and say that the Devils will end up in the top 10 in the NHL in goals against.

Your Thoughts

What are your thoughts on a matter? Do you think that the Devils will be good at preventing goals this season?  If so, how good will they be?  Do you agree with my optimism on the matter, or do you have a differing opinion?  If you do not think that NJ will be good at preventing goals, where will they be good?  What will we as fans be able to hang out hats on?  Please leave your comments in the section below, and thanks for reading.