Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The New Jersey Devils Season Opener: What to Expect

Tonight, the New Jersey Devils will take the ice in Albany, New York in their pre-season opener against their biggest rival, the New York Rangers. After a disappointing season, the Devils will look to rebound in a big way this season. Here's a look at the Devil's major events since the end of the 2009-2010 season:
- On September 4th 2010, the Devils and 26 year old Free Agent Ilya Kovalchuk agreed to one of the most lucrative contracts in NHL History - a 15 year deal $100 million. The original deal announced on July 1st of that year was a 17 year deal worth $102 million, was rejected by the NHL because it violated the current CBA.
-Longtime Devil, John MacLean is announced Head Coach after two-time Devils coach Jacques Lemaire announces his retirement.
- In November, Zach Parise, in the final year of his contract, injures his knee and is ruled out for several months.
- After a 9-22-2 start, the Devils fire John MacLean as Jacques Lemaire comes out of retirment to resume coaching.
- In April, Jacques Lemaire announced that he will not coach the following season.
- The Devils would miss the playoffs for the first time since 1995 and would not finish at .500 for the first time since 1990 despite and astonishing 26-7-3 run. In addition, for the first time in his career, after an injury plagued season, Martin Brodeur does not finish with a .500 record. They also would finish last in goals scored (by over 2o).
- With the fourth round pick in the 2011 draft, the Devils would choose 18 year old Swedish defenseman, Adam Larrsson.
- With Lemaire's retirment, the Devils announce that former Flordia Panther's coach Peter DeBoer will be the coach.
-The Devils and Zach Parise avoid arbitration and agree to a 1 Year deal.
After a tumultous year, the Devils will look to regain their consistency. This first pre-season game will be a statement game for this club. Here are a few things to look out for:
1) Who will play on the first line?
21 year old Nick Palmeri performed extremely well on the first line last year with Ilya Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac. But, Zach Parise is healthy again and Zajac out, there are several different combinations that DeBoer could employ?
2)How many goals will the Devils score?
Yes, this is the pre-season, but for a team who's offense was misreable last season, it is extremely important to see how its offense can rebound. A shut-out is the worst case scenario for the Devils going into tonight's game.
3) Goalie Play
Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils, versus Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers, is the matchup to watch in this game. Martin Brodeur, coming off an injury plagued season had what some may consider to be, his worst career season last year. But, that is just skimming the surface. Many would base that on the misreable devils season and the fact that he lost more games than he won. But, out of goalies who started more than thrity games, Marty (and even Johan Hedburg, his backup) were ranked 11th and 8th respectively in goals against average (the average number of goals given up per 60 minutes played). Now his save percentage was below his career average of .913, but it was still above .900. He has always been good in keeping a high save percentage but he never was elite, just very,very good. His career has been built off of his goals against average. One could even argue that Marty would have been above .500 if his skaters scored more goals because he only had a 2.45 goals against average.
Henrik Lundqvist is coming off of another fine year, where he put up very solid numbers in every statistical category. He has always been very consistent during the regular season but has not been able to guide his team to a Stanley Cup. He posts a 15-20 playoff record. Both goalies will not play anywhere close to a full game, but it will be intersting to see who puts up the better stats.
4) The play of Adam Larrsson
The Devils' fourth round pick of this year's draft is being compared to Nicholas Lindstrom and other elite defenseman. He has expressed that he wants to start the year on the New Jersey Devils but has also said that he understands if the Devils place him in the minors to start. But, the rookie has impressed many in and out of the Devils organization during camp. The first test will come tonight.
After the game, I will break down both the Devils and Rangers play in their first game of the 2011-2012 season. Both teams are looking to improve after disappointing seasons last year. As always, it should be a fun game to watch tonight between these two fierce division rivals.

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