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Schwei: Devils Notes And Observations Following A Disappointing Season

Despite 8-1-3 Start, New Jersey Misses Playoffs For 2nd Time In 3 Years
Johan Hedberg (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Johan Hedberg (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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By John Schweibacher
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The New Jersey Devils packed up on Monday morning after finishing out a disappointing 2012-13 season that left them out of the playoffs for the second time in three years.

The Devils went an “NHL .500″ 19-19-10 with 48 points, a total that is just four points less than the last 48-game lockout-shortened season of 1994-95, when New Jersey went 22-18-8. Their 52 points that season were good enough for fifth in the Eastern Conference, and the Devils would go on to win their first Stanley Cup championship.

This season, New Jersey got off to an 8-1-3 start in their first 12 games, and the 19 points had them atop the Eastern Conference standings.

The Devils and Tampa Bay Lightning, who led the Southeast Division, were the only teams in the East who were in a playoff spot at that point that would ultimately fail to make the postseason.

Here is how the Devils stood at the four 12-game intervals this season:

•8-1-3: 19 points (1st)
•11-8-5: 27 points (7th)
•15-12-9: 39 points (6th)
•19-19-10: 48 points (11th)

New Jersey finished the season with 112 goals scored, tied with Florida for 28th in the NHL and one ahead of Nashville for the fewest in the league. Last week, Devils head coach Pete DeBoer talked about how the
team fared when scoring three or more goals in a game. Not counting shootout goals, New Jersey went 15-2-4 when scoring three or more goals in regulation and overtime games, but was just 4-17-6 when held to two or
fewer.

The Devils lost the final game of the season, 4-0, to the New York
Rangers, dropping their all-time record to 15-12-3 in their 30 season-closing games. It was just the second shutout loss in New Jersey’s final regular-season game. On April 15, 1992, the Devils were shut out, 7-0, by Glenn Healy and the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.

New Jersey had gone 7-0-1 in its past seven season-closers, and had not lost since April 4, 2004 vs. Boston, a 3-1 defeat at the Meadowlands. It was the first time that the Devils closed out a season on the road since April 18, 2006, at Montreal, a 4-3 win which clinched the Atlantic Division title.

New Jersey closed out the home portion of its 2012-13 schedule last Thursday night with a 3-2 win over Pittsburgh. The Devils are now 19-8-3 in their previous 30 home finales.

The Devils overcame a 2-0 deficit to beat the Penguins, 3-2, and Ilya Kovalchuk recorded the game-winning goal for New Jersey with just over six minutes remaining in the third period. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the 60th game-winning goal of Kovalchuk’s career and his 20th for the Devils. Over 22 percent of Kovalchuk’s goals have been game-winners since he was traded to New Jersey by the Thrashers in Februar of 2010 (20 of 89 goals). Only 12 percent of the goals that Kovalchuk scored for Atlanta were game-winning goals (40 of 328).

Steve Sullivan assisted on one goal and then scored what proved to be the game-winning goal for the Devils in their 3-2 victory over the Canadiens last Tuesday night.

Sullivan’s last multiple-point game for New Jersey was also against the Canadiens, but it came more than 16 years ago, during his first stint with the Devils. He scored one goal and had one assist in a 4-1 win at Montreal on February 15, 1997. Sullivan and Dave Andreychuk assisted on Bobby Holik’s goal that gave New Jersey a 1-0 lead, and Sullivan closed out a 3-1 opening period with a goal. Martin Brodeur was the winning goaltender for the Devils in both games.

Brodeur’s victory over Montreal was his final appearance of the season. Brodeur finished the year with a 2.22 goals against average, the eighth-best mark of his illustrious career and virtually the same as his 2.23 lifetime GAA.

•1996-97: 1.88
•1997-98: 1.89
•2002-03: 2.02
•2003-04: 2.03
•2001-02: 2.15
•2007-08: 2.17
•2006-07: 2.18
•2012-13: 2.22

Schwei’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: Thanks to the New Jersey Devils’ PR Department, the Elias Sports Bureau, the Hockey Summary Project, NHL.com, hockeygoalies.org, Hockey-Reference.com, Hockeydb.com and MSG Plus for their help in compiling much of the information in these columns this season.

Minus: No postseason. For the first time since 1986-87, the Devils failed to reach the NHL playoffs while both of the local rivals — the Rangers and Islanders — did.