Lack of Production from Key Players Creating Woes for New Jersey Devils
By Kristin Tullo (@K_Tullo)
It’s been the tale of two teams for the New Jersey Devils.
The team coming off a Stanley Cup run which began the shortened season with an 8-1-3 record and the team in the latter part of the season that is now riding their second six-game losing streak of the year.
Their decline began when Martin Brodeur was sidelined with a back injury and while things looked to heat up once again with his return, it came crashing down when Ilya Kovalchuk injured his right shoulder on March 23rd after falling awkwardly into the boards.
At one point this season the Devils were considered a Stanley Cup contender. At one point, David Clarkson was on pace to destroy Stephan Richer’s previous record of 23 goals and 16 assists in the 1994-1995 shortened season. After earning a point in each of the first six games and scoring seven goals in his first nine, Clarkson was on pace to score 37 goals after a breakout season in 2011-2012 where he reached 46-points for the first time in his NHL career. Now with just 10-games remaining, Clarkson will be lucky to reach 15 goals, having gone an entire month after scoring ten before reaching 13 on Saturday night. Unable to get production from their key players in the wake of fallen teammates, Clarkson and the Devils have gone from Playoff lock to Playoff hopeful.
Unfortunately for the Devils, Clarkson hasn’t been the only snake bitten player.
Without playing in their last seven contests, Ilya Kovalchuk is still the second highest point producer on the Devils with Clarkson six points behind. Even farther down the list is Adam Henrique and Travis Zajac, two players that the Devils were counting on in the wake of Zach Parise’s departure but if it’s a sophomore slump that has Henrique stuck on 14-points, it may be a Parise Slump that is hurting Zajac who spent most of his career centering the current Minnesota Wild winger.
Finding the score sheet just once in his last ten games, Henrique is a long ways removed from the rookie season he had in New Jersey last year, riding a successful season to the Stanley Cup Final and earning himself a Calder Trophy nomination for Rookie of the Year. While some players suffer, others like Ryan Carter flourish but while his career-high 12-points may be a personal best and helpful for his team, even Carter would likely agree that his name shouldn’t be near that of Zajac and Henrique when it comes to points, but with a team that has scored more than one goal just once in their last four contests, thats the way things have been for the Devils.
For a team that needs three regulation wins just to match that of the New York Rangers and Islanders who they are chasing in the playoff race, there is no easy road ahead but there is hope on the horizon as Ilya Kovalchuk begins to skate again. Whether Kovalchuk returns to the lineup or not is the be determined but it can no longer impact the outcome of the game for the Devils. The playoffs don’t wait for healing and the Devils are quickly running out of time.
Some stats courtesy of New Jersey Devils PR