*All stats here come before last night’s game in Edmonton
As a whole so far this year, the New Jersey Devils have played low event hockey, as it seems most iteration of New Jersey does, year in and year out. Heading into last night’s game in Edmonton, the Devils were worst in the league in CF/60 at 47.14, yet were 7th best in the league at CA/60, sitting at 52.61. The low events for are the troubling aspect here, as players are simply not getting a lot of looks at net, and that of course means less opportunities to produce goals.
Two players that have not had trouble producing shots on goal, regardless of the team’s lack of chances, have been Taylor Hall and Wayne Simmonds. Prior to last night, they were the only two Devils to have had at least 40 shots on net so far this year, Hall producing 48 and Simmonds 41. That might not be at the tops of the league, but Simmonds does rank 23rd in the league in shots per 60, and Hall sits at 32nd. Those aren’t indicative of players playing on a team dead last in producing Corsi attempts for.
However, if you aren’t looking at chances and shots, and only look at goal production, neither of those two would be anywhere near the top of your list. The leading goal scorer on the Devils heading into Edmonton? Kyle Palmieri with 6. He is followed by Jack Hughes, Nikita Gusev, and defenseman Sami Vatanen with 4. You have to keep going down the list until you eventually find Hall with 2 goals and Simmonds with 1. Not what you would expect of veteran goal scorers who have produced often in their career, Hall especially so.
Both, as it turns out, have been incredibly snake bitten to start the year. Hall has 14 points in his first 14 games, but 12 have come as assists, setting up the likes of Palmieri and Hughes. Simmonds has 6 assists to go with his goal, so both have been producing, Hall very well. But they cannot seem to get that puck into the net. Of all the forwards in the league this year who have played at least 200 minutes, 8 have a 0% shooting percentage. Including them, Simmonds has the 10th lowest shooting percentage, sitting at 2.44%. Hall has the 18th lowers shooting percentage, slightly better, at 4.17%.
Of course, these percentages are way below their career averages. Simmonds has a career 12.8% shooting percentage, while Hall is slightly lower with a 10.6% career shooting percentage. If they were shooting to their averages currently, both Hall and Simmonds would have either 5 or 6 goals currently. Take the low end and say both would be at 5 right now, that is still 7 more goals the Devils would have after 14 games. Considering some of the close losses the team has had, I’ll let you imagine what the Devils would look like now if both Simmonds and Hall were shooting to their career shooting percentages and not near the bottom of the league in that regard instead.
As an actual positive, however, if these two keep shooting like they have been, more goals will come. Regression to the mean can sometimes be a painful experience, but other times can create great boons, and here we are looking at the latter. When they finally break through and start finding twine, either or both might score a bunch over a short span as their shooting percentage climbs back to average. That would lead to some much needed wins down the road, and could help to finally propel this team out of the basement of the Metro.
Of course, those extra goals could also mean nothing if goaltending remains poor or no one else is shooting either. That in itself is a problem for New Jersey, with Palmieri being the only other forward having at least 30 shots on goal heading into Edmonton. But as long as Simmonds and Hall keep shooting, eventually they will manage to get over their snake bites, and that will be a big positive for this Devils offense moving forward.