Although the Devils are coming off of their best performance in a while (a 3-2 shootout win over Winnipeg), the concern is still there for the red and black.
One of the big reasons why I, a die-hard Devils fan, am still worried that this team is not an authentic contender in the East is because the Devils have not gotten enough scoring from the guys that are being paid and expected to score big goals.
We’ll start with Ilya Kovalchuk, even though he isn’t the only recipient of blame for the Devils. While he is coming off a two-goal game in the New Jersey’s 6-3 loss to Carolina on March 9, every Devils fan has noticed that his goal production and offensive firepower is lacking from previous years. The guy has scored only two goals in the past eight games; and that is not what the Devils are looking to get from their $100 million guy. To further exacerbate the point, Kovalchuk has played 20 minutes or more in everyone Devils’ game so far (averaging 25:34), so he’s getting plenty of chances to score.
Another quiet scorer this season has been Travis Zajac. The Devils signed Zajac to a 8-year, $46M contract extension at the beginning of the season, but he has not lived up to that contract at all. In his last five games, Travis has posted the following numbers: 0 goals; 2 assists; -7 plus/minus; 7 shots-on-goal. Not exactly numbers you’d like from a guy that is being paid to score more than four goals in 26 games. Travis clearly has to find his offensive game, and the Devils have to hope that he finds it sooner than later.
David Clarkson is another guy I’ve got to aim some criticism at, even though his ten goals at the start of the season were unexpected and came completely out-of-nowhere. But, if it is possible to go from the pinnacle to complete rock bottom, David Clarkson has done that. He is on a 12-game scoring drought, and has played 20 minutes or less for the past five games. The Devils aren’t locked into Clarkson financially, but Clarky will be a free agent at the end of this year and the Devils will need to make a decision on whether or not the 28-year-old center is worth keeping.
Lastly, and it’s hard to throw this guy under the bus because he’s only 23 and may be in the middle of the dreaded “sophomore slump,” but Adam Henrique has not been the same player as he was for most of last season. He has seven goals on the season, but only two in his last twelve games. Henrique isn’t hurting the Devils financially, but he is a guy that will be a restricted free agent next season and the Devils will need to decide what they want to do with his future.
The bottom line? The Devils need their big guns to play like their big guns, which hasn’t happened for the most part during the New Jersey’s slide. They engage in a home-and-home with the rival Philadelphia Flyers, so hopefully that wakes up their offense, but their past behavior production-wise doesn’t give much optimism.