Taking a look at four New Jersey Devils players and how they're doing (in fantasy hockey).
When Ilya Kovalchuk defected to the KHL in the fallout from the last latest lockout, most of us thought that the New Jersey Devils would struggle to score goals. Well, it turns out we were right. Heading into Monday night's games, New Jersey sat 23rd in the NHL averaging 2.43 goals per game. This shouldn't come as a huge surprise as the team also struggles to record shots on goal, having the league's worst shots per game, a mere 25.8 shots per match.
They balance their lack of offense by having the 11th best goals-against, allowing an average of 2.40 goals-against per game. They do this in large part by limiting their opponents shots against to a league low 24.4 per game.
The Devils also get the job done on special teams, where they have the 11th ranked power play and the fifth best penalty kill units.
Clearly the top dog in the swamp is Jaromir Jagr. The 41-year-old is a lock for the Hockey Hall of Fame and is the straw that stirs the Devils drink on offense, unfortunately that drink is about as potent as flavored water. The old man is currently on a seven game points streak, where he has 11 points, although it came on the heels of a four game drought. He is playing a responsible game and sports an amazing plus-12 on the season.
Over his last 10 games, Jagr has lined up with Dainius Zubrus and Travis Zajac for nearly 70 per cent of his even-strength shifts He averages 19:11 minutes of ice time per game, second amongst Devils forwards, including top power play minutes. Jagr is on pace to record 73 points and play all 82 games, attesting to his level of dedication and work ethic.
Jagr is only two points back of former teammate Mario Lemieux for seventh place in NHL scoring history. Not bad for a guy who spent three seasons away from the NHL. His next goal will put him alone in seventh place all-time, ahead of Mark Messier in NHL goals.
Will he slow down over the second half of the season? Certainly the odds are against the oldtimer maintaining this pace or even staying healthy, but maybe Father Time has a soft spot for the old Devil. I wouldn't bet my soul on it though.
Dainius Zubrus is no spring chicken at 35 years of age, but he plays a key role on this team. He receives virtually no power play ice time, but does lead Devils forwards in short-handed time on ice on one of the league's better penalty killing teams and plays over 18 minutes a game. The Devils re-signed the large Lithuanian this past July to a three year deal that pays him $3.1 million per season and includes a no trade clause.
He is one of those players whose value is greater in real life than fantasy, but that doesn't mean he can't be useful in your fantasy league. Zubrus started the season with three points in his first 16 games, but since has scored 16 points in his last 21 games. He has seven points in his last seven games and is on pace for 42 points, which is about as good as can be expected for this player on this team this year. For those leagues that count plus/minus, he is a healthy plus-11.
Marek Zidlicky leads the Devils in power play ice time, averaging 3:00 minutes per game and is second in time on ice. Only fellow defenseman Andy Greene receives more ice time than the 36-year-old defender.
Five times in his nine year NHL career, Zidlicky has hit for at least 40 points, the last time coming with Minnesota in 2009-10. He is currently on pace for 38 points. but his production is trending downwards. He started the season with a bang, recording nine points in his first 11 games, but followed that up with eight points in his next 25 contests. He'll struggle to finish with 40 points by season's end.
The final Z on the team is Travis Zajac. The 28-year-old receives the most ice time amongst Devils forwards, over 20 minutes a game and plays on the top power play unit. He has seven points in his last seven games. Overall, he is on pace for 39 points, but with his recent surge, has an outside chance at 50 points. Zajac has twice hit for 60-plus points, but that was when he skated with Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner.
Finally, I want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and hope your New Year includes finishing on top of your respective fantasy leagues! 'Tis the season to enjoy World Junior Championship hockey...and family, yeah, family.
Other articles from Miller:
|Patches and a Pair of Blue Jackets|
|Surviving The Stamkos Injury|