Thursday, February 12, 2009

Who Is On Fire and Who Is On Ice Since Shanahan's Return

It has been 10 games since Brendan Shanahan has made his debut with the New Jersey Devils in which time the Devils have gone 8-2-0 and taken control of first place in the Eastern Conference. Now with the trade deadline looming and the Devils facing their biggest challenge of the season with conference leaders the Boston Bruins and San Jose Sharks coming in to "THE ROCK" this weekend, I thought it would be a good time to look at what and who are hot and who are ice cold over the past ten games.

1. Jamie Langebrunner and Zach Parise. Langenbrunner had 8 goals in his first 44 games, he has 9 over the past 10 games. Parise has continued his great season as he has 8 goals and 7 assists over the past 10 games. He is now exactly on pace to be the first Devil to score 50 goals in a season and 100 points. Zajac has been no slouch either, he has 2 goals and 10 assists in the last 10 games as this line is becoming one of the best in the league.
2. Paul Martin. Martin has taken his game to a new level over the past 10 games. Since being paired with Oduya he has broken out and still maybe the most underrated defenseman in the league. His offense has come to the surface as he had 3 assists in the last game versus the Islanders and 7 points in the last 10 games. Martin only had 12 points in his first 40 games of the season.
3. The penalty kill. If you take away the Washington game where the Devils gave up 3 power-play goals, the Devils are killing off penalties at a 90% clip. To top it all off they are 2nd in the league in short-handed goals with 10, in which half have come in the last 11 games.
4. Patrick Elias. Despite the drastic drop off in scoring from his linemates, Patrick Elias has endured. Over the past 10 games he has 3 goals and 8 assists and remains in the NHL's Top 10 point leaders. He remains on pace to break the 90 point barrier, which would be only the second time in his career he has done that. The other time was when he set the Devils franchise record with 96 points in the 2000-2001 season.
5. The defense going on the offensive. Over the past 10 games the Devils defenseman are averaging 1.8 points per game, over the first 45 games they averaged 1.46 points per game. Colin White has 13 points so far, the most he ever had in a season was 20 in his rookie year. We already spoke of Oduya and Martin, only Andy Greene has struggled since returning from his injury. The team defense has been superb as well as they are averaging 2.10 goals against in the last 10 games.

1. Gionta and Zubrus. At one point this season I thought this line could do what the Elias-Arnott-Sykora line had accomplished. Lately this line seems to have faded, well two thirds of it at least. Zubrus who had 28 points in the first 45 games but has only managed 2 points in the past 10 games. Gionta had 38 points in the first 44 games and was on pace for a 70 point season, his most since 2005-2006. Over the last 10 games he has 4 points and is facing the possibility of being traded.
2. Bad Penalties. The Devils have taken some bad penalties early in games and have forced them to lose momentum and play from behind. Some players have been more responsible for taking bad penalties than others. The third and fourth liners (Holik, Shanahan, Clarkson, Madden, Rolston and Rupp) have taken 26 of the teams 51 minor penalties. Also in there have been 11 penalties by defenseman and 3 team bench minor penalties.
3. Andy Greene. Not as if he could of kept up the pace of a point a game all year (6pts in his first 6 games), but after coming back from his injury he has accumilated 2 points in 26 games and Sutter still has him playing on the power-play. He is even playing at a minus-1 over those 26 games and he may be the one Devils defenseman who could be moved at the trade deadline.
4. Brian Rolston. Rolston was picked up to score goals but has netted 1 goal in the last 10 games. Despite his 5 power-play goals Sutter needs to find a combination to get more offense out of Rolston, it does not seem as if him paired with Madden and Clarkson is going to cut it if the Devils want to win the Cup. A move back to center may be a possibility.
5. Jay Pandolfo. He played his first game last night since Shanahan entered the line-up, could it be to showcase him for a trade or will we see more of him in a Devils uniform. Pandolfo either needs to find a role or be shipped out for a player who will be of more use to the team.

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