Five Burning Questions Surrounding the New Jersey Devils Early in 2013
The 2013 NHL Season is underway and the New Jersey Devils have started the shortened campaign with a 2-0 start.
David Clarkson and Travis Zajac both have two goals this season, carrying the load for an offense that is without Adam Henrique and lost Zach Parise to free agency.
With a lot of hockey to play over the next 90 days, there are still many questions that the Devils will need to answer going forward. Here are five burning questions New Jersey must answer early on.
Will David Clarkson Repeat Last Year's Scoring Success?
With two goals in his first two games, David Clarkson is on pace to score 48 goals this season.
While that is unlikely, Clarkson has certainly picked up where he left off last season when he scored 30 goals for the defending Eastern Conference Champions. Goaltender Martin Brodeur joked about Clarkson's scoring, but was still impressed with last night's wraparound goal.
Brodeur on Clarkson: "He's still on pace for 48. He's bringing back the wraparound."
— Tom Gulitti (@TGfireandice) January 23, 2013
Preseason predictions had the Devils very low in the rankings due to the amount of goals they conceded in the offseason. Clarkson may be off to a fast start, but the Devils will need this to continue all season if they want any chance to win.
We will see what happens as the season goes on, but it will be interesting to see if Clarkson can keep up this success.
Will Ilya Kovalchuk Become More of a Two-Way Forward?
Ilya Kovalchuk has always been known as an offensive weapon, but may of his critics have said he's not much of a defensive threat when the puck comes back the other way.
This fact worried some Devils fans when Kovalchuk was acquired during the 2009-2010 season mostly because New Jersey is a defensive based organization. Kovy had a catastrophic -26 rating in his first full season in 2010-2011, but he improved his defense in Peter DeBoer's new system last year, resulting in a -9 rating.
It was clear that Kovalchuk never fit into John MacLean's system in 2010. Now that he is comfortable in his role with the Devils, it is possible that Kovy will become the two-way forward that New Jersey needs to succeed.
Kovalchuk currently leads the Devils with a +3 through the team's first two games, and New Jersey will need him to continue this success as the season continues. If their number one offensive threat can become a defensive weapon on the top line, the Devils will be a hard team to beat.
Will Stefan Matteau Remain on the Roster All Season?
For a second year in a row, the New Jersey Devils have a first round pick in their starting lineup to start the season.
Stefan Matteau impressed Peter DeBoer during training camp and earned a spot on this year's roster. While he has not recorded any points through the team's first two games, Matteau has still played well and could potentially keep his spot throughout the season.
DeBoer on Stefan Matteau: "I liked the way he was playing. He did jump up (a line) in the third."
— Rich Chere (@Ledger_NJDevils) January 23, 2013
With the Devils coming in as the oldest team in the league, it would be nice to see an 18 year old skating on the third or fourth line for the remainder of the year. Matteau definitely has the potential to become a big offensive forward in this organization, but the best way for him to grow is getting more ice time as he is now.
These questions will likely be answered over the next few weeks as Adam Henrique returns from injury.
Can Martin Brodeur Keep Up His Hot Start?
Maybe the few months off did Martin Brodeur some good.
The 40 year old goaltender has started the season 2-0-0 with a GAA of 0.50, including last night's shutout of the Philadelphia Flyers. There has also been no sign of him not starting Friday's game against Washington as he tries to go for three straight wins.
Many players agreed last night's win was not their best effort, but it was the individual play of Brodeur that carried them to a 3-0 win. If Brodeur can continue to play at this level and the defense in front of him continues to play a complete game, the Devils will be hard to beat.
DeBoer: "It wasn’t our best effort from system point of view, but we got enough individual efforts, starting with our goalie."
— Tom Gulitti (@TGfireandice) January 23, 2013
Peter DeBoer said during training camp that Brodeur and Hedberg would likely split the back-to-back games as they did last year, so Brodeur will likely not be rundown toward the end of the shortened season. Brodeur with fresh legs and only 46 games to play sounds like a dream come true for the Devils, but we will see if Brodeur can carry this momentum into the month of February.
Will the Power Play Improve with Matt Shaw?
Fans were very disgruntled with Adam Oates and the Devils power play last season, but New Jersey brought in one of the better PP coaches in the league when they agreed to terms with Matt Shaw.
Shaw led San Jose to a top 3 power play each of the last two seasons and he brought his shoot first mentality to New Jersey for the 2013 season. However, the Devils are currently 1-9 (11.1 percent) in the team's first two games, and were unable to score on a 5-on-3 advantage last night against Philadelphia.
David Clarkson did manage to score the team's first power play goal last night, but the 1-9 start probably isn't what fans are looking for in a new system. It must be said though that the team didn't have much time to prepare Shaw's plan because of the lockout, and it will likely take some time to adjust before the Devils start having success.
A shortened season doesn't really give the Devils much time to get this right, but with two games under their belt the team should see more success in the future.