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Schwei On Ice: Devils’ Record-Setting Pace

New Jersey Devils' Brian Rolston (12) is congratulated by teammates after scoring against the New York Islanders during the second period of an NHL hockey game on Sunday, March 6, 2011, in Uniondale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

New Jersey Devils’ Brian Rolston (12) is congratulated by teammates after scoring against the New York Islanders during the second period of an NHL hockey game on Sunday, March 6, 2011, in Uniondale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

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By John Schweibacher
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The Devils remain on a roll thanks to their 3-2 shootout victory over the Islanders Sunday. New Jersey came into the season having participated in 62 shootouts, just three behind the Boston Bruins for the most since the NHL began using the tie-breaker back in the 2005-06 season. But Sunday’s shootout was just the fourth for the Devils in 2010-11, tying them with Colorado for the fewest in the NHL this season. Here is a list of the fewest shootouts for a team in a single season:

· 3 Tampa Bay Lightning 2007-08 (2-1)
· 4 New Jersey Devils 2010-11 (3-1)
· 4 Colorado Avalanche 2010-11 (3-1)
· 4 San Jose Sharks 2006-07 (2-2)

Martin Brodeur began the season with 52 career shootout appearances, the most of any goaltender but Sunday’s shootout was Brodeur’s first this season. Prior to Sunday, the last time Brodeur took part in the tie-breaker was back on April 2nd, 2010, a 2-1 loss to the Blackhawks at Prudential Center. The Devils three previous shootouts this season were all at The Rock and Johan Hedberg was the goaltender.

New Jersey’s last road shootout before Sunday came almost a year ago, a 2-1 loss at Toronto with Yann Danis in goal. Brodeur had not taken part in a road shootout since January 27th, 2010, a 2-1 defeat against the Sabres in Buffalo. Brodeur and the Devils last road shootout victory prior to beating the Isles came against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, 1-0, back on January 12th, 2010.

The Devils are 12-1-0 over their last 13 games, having held their opponents to two or fewer goals in each game. It’s the longest streak of consecutive games allowing no more than two goals in franchise history, beating their 11-game stretch in November 1997. That run began and ended in between losses to the Los Angeles Kings, who were coached by Larry Robinson that season. L.A defeated the Devils, 3-0, on November 4th at the Meadowlands and 4-1 in Los Angeles on November 29th.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it’s also now the third-longest single-season streak of its kind in the last 50 years by an NHL team. The Phoenix Coyotes allowed no more than two goals in each of 17 consecutive games in October-November 1998, and the Calgary Flames had a 15-game streak in December 2003.

Sunday afternoon’s victory over the Islanders was also New Jersey’s 20th in their last 24 games. Fourteen of their 16 games since February 1 have been decided by a one-goal margin. The Devils are 14-1-1 over that stretch, with 2 three-goal wins, 12 one-goal wins (one via shootout), 1 one-goal regulation loss and one overtime loss.

Elias also tells us that the Devils broke a modern NHL record when they held the Islanders goal-less through the first 20 minutes of their game at Nassau Coliseum Sunday Afternoon. It was New Jersey’s 13th consecutive game without allowing a first-period goal, breaking the single-season record for the NHL’s “modern era” (i.e., since 1943-44, when the center-ice red line was introduced). Three other teams had recorded 12 straight over the last 67 seasons: the 1959-60 Canadiens, 1974-75 Kings and 2006-07 Blues.

The Devils posted their third consecutive 2-1 win when Ilya Kovalchuk scored with 25 seconds remaining in overtime in Friday’s game against the Penguins. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only other team in NHL history to record three straight wins, all by a 2-1 score, was the Red Wings in February 1951.

Kovalchuk’s game-winner was his league-leading fourth overtime goal of the season. It also tied the Devils record for most OT goals in one season, a mark set by Scott Niedermayer in 2001-02 and equaled by Patrik Elias in 2003-04. Only six other players in club history have had four or more overtime goals in one regular season for New Jersey:

· Patrik Elias 15
· Scott Niedermayer 8
· Zach Parise 5
· Brian Rafalski 5
· Jamie Langenbrunner 4
· Ilya Kovalchuk 4

Kovalchuk’s nine game-winning goals now trail only John MacLean (11 in 1989-90) and Brian Gionta (10 in 2005-06) for the most by a New Jersey Devils player in a single-season. Seven of Kovalchuk’s game-winners have come in one-goal victories for New Jersey, including his four OT tallies. Here is how Kovalchuk’s game-winners rank against the other Devils who have had at least nine in a single-season:

NJD Player Season GW one-goal wins OT

· MacLean 1989-90 11 6 1
· Gionta 2005-06 10 6 3
· Kovalchuk 2010-11 9 7 4
· Elias 2003-04 9 4 4
· Elias 1999-00 9 3 1
· Guerin 1996-97 9 2 0
· Richer 1993-94 9 1 0

New Jersey faces Ottawa, Atlanta and the New York Islanders this week as they play a stretch of six games against those three teams. The Devils have split their two previous meetings with both the Senators and Thrashers. Both of the losses to the two teams were on the road and before Jacques Lemaire replaced John MacLean as head coach. New Jersey and the Islanders will be playing for the fifth time in 2010-11 Saturday night at Prudential Center. New York took the first two contests but the Devils have taken each of the last two.

Schwei’s Plus/Minus:

New Jersey’s defensemen have been a key part of the club’s second-half turnaround. Here is a look at how the Devils D has turned their seasons around in the Plus-Minus column through this past Sunday:

· Henrik Tallinder: Minus-26 after January 6th. Plus-19 in 25 games since.

· Andy Greene: Minus-25 after January 4th. Plus-9 in 26 games since.

· Anton Volchenkov: Minus-9 after December 31st. Plus-10 in 23 games since.

· Colin White: Minus-14 after January 8th. Plus-9 in 22 games since.

· Mark Fayne: Minus-8 after November 1st. Plus-15 in 23 games since.

· Anssi Salmela: Minus-7 after January 8th. Plus-4 in 20 games since.

pixy Schwei On Ice: Devils Record Setting Pace