Writers Roundtable’s latest edition will have a particular focus on the state of New Jersey’s offense. Devils Army Blog staff writers Sam Britt, Alex Chauvancy, Brett Minieri, and Nick Papadimas look at the team’s first line, which players can build on the momentum from scoring their first goal, and All-star representatives coming out of Jersey’s team.
36 of New Jersey’s 71 goals (50.7%) have come from three players (Cammalleri, Henrique, Palmieri). While the Devils are exceeding expectations, the team’s scoring distribution throughout the roster paints the picture of a one-line offense. While this isn’t too detrimental, it makes the team’s flaws apparent. To keep their heads above the water, what must a one-line offensive team like the Devils do if they want to stay in the playoff picture?
SB: If the Devils are to continue relying on just one line to score, all of the other lines need to strive to play a strong defensive possession game. They need to take some of the tough minutes away from the Cammalleri-Henrique-Stempniak line and grind against the opponents. The other lines should still try to chip in a goal when they can, but their main objective should be to stay responsible defensively. If the Devils are not scoring a lot, it is imperative to keep pucks out of their own net. Also having Corey Schneider play like Corey Schneider always helps.
AC: They’ll need secondary scoring, but the biggest thing is goaltending. They’ll need Schneider to maintain his high level of play. He’s had a .920 save percentage or better in 13 of his last 15 starts. The Devils will need him to have those performances on most (if not every) nights. That goes for Keith Kinkaid as well. They’ll need him to have quality starts when Hynes decides to give him the nod.
BM: As of today, Mike Cammalleri, Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieri have more points than Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos and John Tavares collectively…Let that sink in a minute. While this is something of a pleasant anomaly for Devils fans, the fact that they account for half their scoring is not. While the big 3 have 13, 11 and 11 goals respectively, only two other players (Stepniak, Zajac) have 6, and one other has 3 (the legendary Bobby Farhnam). No one else has more than 2. That’s some serious disparity. Zajac’s overall play has been very solid, Stempniak has been a valuable bargain, and Elias’s return is much welcomed—but the rest of the Devils roster is (apologies to Colin Campbell) an interchangeable flock of (really ordinary) forwards. In other words, the Devils are in need of a lot more contributions from their bottom 6 (let’s call it 7). While acquiring a goal scorer would provide a significant boost to the offense, here’s the bad news—most of these guys are either on one-way deals or simply untradeable (in that they wouldn’t garner much in return). Let’s hope the big 3 can stay healthy as well as productive.
NP: To stay in the playoff picture, the Devils need offensive contributions from all four of their lines. Cammalleri, Henrique, and Palmieri are contributing well for the team, but I would like to see forwards from each line (including Kalinin, Josefson, and Kennedy) contribute on the score sheet on a nightly basis. Injuries are going to happen during the season, so if the Devils have support from all four lines for goal scoring, I remain confident that they will stay in the playoff picture.
With the All-star game approaching, this might be the first season in what feels like a long time where a few Devils are deserving of participating. If the Devils wound up sending two representatives to the 2016 ASG, who do you think they should be?
SB: The easy choice would be to say Schneider should attend this years All-star game. The only problem is two goalies named Holtby and Lundqvist. I personally think Schneider has been better than Lundqvist, but there is no way the NHL is going to allow one of their premier players to miss the All-star game, if it came down to either of them. My next two picks would obviously be Cammalleri because as of writing this (12/7) he has the 5th-most points in the league. He has been remarkable this season and is easily one of the best scoring forwards in the Metropolitan division. Next I would probably go with Adam Henrique. He’s returned to producing the way he did in his rookie, and in the 2013-2014 season. He is one of the top offensive players on the Devils and probably the next likeliest pick after Mike Cammalleri.
AC: Mike Cammalleri has to be a lock for the All-Star game. He’s on pace for around 90 points this year, which would be the best season he’s ever had in his career. My other choice would be Adam Henrique. He’s also having a career year and is on pace for almost 40 goals, which would easily be the best mark of his career.
BM: Without a doubt-Cammalleri and Cory Schneider. The reason for Cams’ inclusion is obvious (top 6 in NHL points), but for all the Devils surprising team success, it’s #35 that continues to be the anchor behind most of it. He’s arguably a top-5 goalie in the NHL and maintains this elite level of play on an offensively challenged team. Here’s the tough part; at this moment, the top 8 goaltenders in the NHL (statistically) are all in the Eastern Conference with the top-3 (Holtby, Lundquist) in the Metropolitan Division. That’s going to make for some tough choices for the “league officials” who pick the rosters. Sadly, I think Schneider’s probably going to get screwed by the numbers here.
NP: Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieri.
After what feels like an endless wait, Stephen Gionta, Jacob Josefson, and Stefan Matteau all recently scored their first goals of the season. Which of these players do you think is the most capable of starting to contribute more on the score sheet now that they’ve lifted the burden of getting that first goal out of the way?
SB: I’ve been waiting for Josefson to get going for a while now. There are times during games where he exhibits great offensive skills but never seems to find the twine with any consistency. Adding Elias or Kalinin to his line will be a big help and hopefully open up some space for him to work. Now that Josefson doesn’t have the dead weight of Tootoo and Tlusty on his wings I think it is time for him to finally start to produce.
AC: I’d have to go with Jacob Josefson. For now, he’ll be playing with Patrik Elias and Kyle Palmieri until Travis Zajac returns to the lineup, so he’ll get the chance to play with some of the Devils’ skill players. Playing with those two gives Josefson a chance to build his confidence because once Zajac returns, he’ll be back to playing a bottom-six role. They’ll need Josefson to produce as the season goes, especially in a bottom-6 role where the scoring hasn’t come as easily as it has in the top-6.
BM: Yikes. I think it’s Gionta simply because he’s been here before. Matteau is young and still learning how to (or if he can) contribute at the NHL level and, sadly, Josefson hasn’t really realized his full potential—and is running out of time to do so. Keep in mind that neither Gio nor JaJo have scored more than 6 goals in a season, so I’m hoping the success of the Devils bottom-6 isn’t pinned on the performance of any of these guys.
NP: I believe that Jacob Josefson is most capable of contributing on the score sheet after scoring his first goal of the year against Carolina last week. Being that he is also one of the go-to guys on the team for shootouts, Josefson can contribute in that department as well and his stats in the shootout clearly show he can do so.