NHL Playoffs 2012: Performance Grades for 10 New Jersey Devils

Ron Miller@@rfmiller80Contributor IIIMay 11, 2012

NHL Playoffs 2012: Performance Grades for 10 New Jersey Devils

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    After eliminating the Philadelphia Flyers, the New Jersey Devils look poised to continue their dynamic play and lengthen their already surprisingly long playoff run.

    New Jersey has received solid contribution team-wide, as many players have performed beyond expectations.

    However, the Devils could still improve their already stellar play if some other members step up their game further.

    Here are grades for 10 New Jersey Devils so far this playoff season.

Stephen Gionta

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    Grade: A

    After several years in the Devils farm system, it seems that Stephen Gionta has finally cemented himself as an extremely valuable member of this New Jersey squad.

    The younger brother of former Devil Brian Gionta, now captain of the Montreal Canadiens,  Stephen Gionta has scored twice this playoff season while dishing out two helpers.

    However, it is more than just his point production that has turned the heads of many Devils fans.

    The energy No. 11 brings to every shift is incredible.

    Averaging around 10 minutes a night, the 5'7'' right wing is also not afraid to throw his small frame around, sometimes out-muscling players six inches larger than him.

    If Gionta can continue to perform at such a high level, it will be difficult for future playoff opponents to compete with New Jersey's offensive depth. 

Marek Zidlicky

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    Grade: B

    The Devils acquired the 35-year-old defender just before the trade deadline this season, and the move has paid off mightily for New Jersey from an offensive standpoint. 

    Marek Zidlicky has provided New Jersey with an offensive threat on the blue line to go along with Ilya Kovalchuk in man-advantage situations. He has a goal and five assists this postseason and is a plus-three.

    Zidlicky could use a little fine tuning defensively; however, he has not been a liability for the Devils thus far in the playoffs.

David Clarkson

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    Grade: B-

    As David Clarkson rushed into Philadelphia's zone late in the first period of Game 5, it is safe to assume he did not think he was seconds away from scoring the game-winning goal.

    Flyers' goalie Ilya Bryzgalov sent an errant pass off Clarkson's stick and into the net, and just like that the Devils took a 2-1 lead in the game that they would not relinquish.

    Clarkson leads New Jersey with two game-winning goals this postseason. However, those two goals have been all the Mimico, Ontario native has been able to put in the back of the net.

    Clarkson has contributed well offensively with two goals, six assists and eight points. But it would mean a lot for New Jersey going forward if the 28-year-old winger could recapture the goal-scoring touch that got him a career-high 30 goals during the regular season.

Travis Zajac

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    Grade: A+

    After missing 67 games during the regular season due to an Achilles' injury, Travis Zajac has come to life like very few anticipated this postseason.

    No. 19 has 10 points in 12 games these playoffs, and he recorded at least one point a game in four of the five contests against Philadelphia. 

    Zajac is also eating up a lot of time for New Jersey—he's averaging around 20 minutes per game.

    Faceoffs have also been an area of success for Zajac—he wins 58.4 percent of his draws.

    If Zajac continues to pour it on offensively in the rounds to come, look for him to be a potential Conn Smythe candidate if the Devils go the distance.

Patrik Elias

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    Grade: C

    Patrik Elias is one of the few Devils who have performed below expectations this postseason. 

    The New Jersey veteran does have two goals and three assists thus far, but due to his past playoff prowess (122 points in 150 games), some view his play this time around as slightly disappointing.

    However, Elias has a plethora of experience when it comes to playing for Lord Stanley's cup.

    Expect the 36-year-old Czech to start putting in more goals as the playoffs carry on.

Bryce Salvador

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    Grade: A+

    Bryce Salvador has never been known for his offensive contribution.

    However, the 36-year-old assistant captain of New Jersey has two goals and four assists already this postseason.

    Salvador did not score a single goal during the regular season.

    Salvador is also performing very well defensively for New Jersey. He is averaging 23 minutes per game with a plus-seven rating.

Dainius Zubrus

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    Grade: A

    Zubrus had two multiple-point performances against Philadelphia in the second round, including a very impressive two-goal showing in Game 4.

    Playing with rookie Adam Henrique and veteran Petr Sykora on New Jersey's third line, Zubrus seems to be all over the ice during his shifts.

    He is a big body that can handle the puck very well. Also, Zubrus was the target of two dirty checks by Philadelphia players in Game 2—Claude Giroux's hit to the head and Zac Rinaldo's knee shot.

    With his size and speed, the Lithuania native can beat can opponents physically as well as athletically.

Zach Parise

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    Grade: B+

    Captain Zach has been the leader New Jersey needs this postseason.

    The positive attitude and energy he brings to every game is something very valuable to the Devils.

    Parise is third on the team with eight points this postseason. However, Parise has yet to get hot and score in heavy spurts like he did at points during the regular season.

    If Parise gets in a groove next round, look for him to have some multiple-goal games.

Ilya Kovalchuk

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    Grade: A

    With the exception of an inadequate performance in Game 1 against Philadelphia, Kovalchuk has looked unstoppable this playoff season.

    The Russian sniper leads New Jersey with 12 points in 11 games played this postseason.

    His power-play blast in the third period of Game 5 in Philadelphia basically buried the hopes of a comeback for the Flyers. 

    Kovalchuk has also silenced many critics who believed he could not perform in the playoffs. 

    After his suspect play in New Jersey's Game 1 loss to Philadelphia, Kovalchuk sat for Game 2 to get therapy for an unspecified lower-body injury.

    He came back with a vengeance in Game 3, however, scoring a goal and dishing out two assists.

    Kovalchuk may be the best pure scorer left in these playoffs.

Martin Brodeur

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    Grade: B+

    He may not be stealing games for New Jersey like he did in his younger days, but Martin Brodeur is still giving his team a chance to win every time it steps on the ice. 

    Marty's teammates fully trust their 40-year-old netminder, and he has not disappointed them at all thus far.

    Brodeur has an 8-4 record with a GAA of 2.05 and a .920 save percentage. Pretty good for a goalie who many had written off as a liability for the Devils before the season.

    Also, Brodeur's stickhandling abilities have come to the forefront this postseason. Though he has made some mistakes while playing the puck, the benefit of stopping an opponent's forecheck before it even starts far outweighs his few falters.

    If Brodeur can continue his strong play, he may be lifting his fourth Stanley Cup come early June.