The first thing that comes to mind during this slump may be to group the entire team int the “cold” category, but I don’t think that’s the case. Have things been bad? You bet, but the New Jersey Devils played a decent game in the loss to the Jets in Winnipeg, they should have beaten Buffalo and they played two solid periods in Toronto before falling apart. Tuesday’s game against the Lightning? Well, there’s not so much good from that one.
1. Ryan Carter- Anyone who thinks that this “fourth” line is JUST a fourth line, well, you’re wrong. When the CBGB line is together, they change the game because of their aggressive forecheck and their ability to long-shift teams in their defensive zone. Ryan Carter has been great since he came back from his concussion. His ability to dump the puck into the zone and come out with it himself and his overall ability to forecheck are great. Now, add in the fact that he’s producing points and he’s a valuable part of this team.
2. Adam Larsson – He has been the steadiest defenseman all year. The only other player you can make the case for is Andy Greene and I’d buy that. What you’re seeing from Larsson is a young player who’s logging big minutes and he’s been good. Has Larsson been playing at an All-Star defensive level? Not quite, but he has shown some very good signs. Whether it’s canceling out shots, taking the body or being in position in transition, Larsson has been pretty solid.
3. Adam Henrique – He hit a skid, but he’s been better as of late. Henrique is scoring shorthanded goals and that’s always a good thing. Has he been great? Not so much, but, amidst this slump, he hasn’t been terrible. No. 14 now has six goals and three assists on the year and he’ll need to score some big goals down the stretch if this team hopes to secure a playoff spot.
1. Johan Hedberg – I almost wanted to leave him off this list because it was such a given, but it only makes sense to put him here. Have some of the goals been at the fault of the defense? Yes. Have some of the goals been incredibly soft to the point where they should be put into the “have to be saved” category? You bet. Moose started out the season so well, but as soon as he came in after the injury to Brodeur, it has been all downhill. Hedberg has been so shaky in net, that you can almost make the case that the team is playing different around him compared to how they would with someone else in net. Whatever the case may be, Moose’s sub-par play is definitely a major part of this losing streak.
2. David Clarkson – Clarky was the hottest thing since sliced bread early on in the season, but now he has been an afterthought. Part of the Devils early season success was the fact that Clarkson was lighting the lamp on a regular basis. After scoring ten goals in the first fourteen games, Clarkson has not scored in the past nine. To make matters worse, he only has one assist over that span. If you want to look at a reason why the offense has stalled, not to blame it all on him, but to go from the sort of production he had at the beginning of the season to now, its a big drop off.
3. Ilya Kovalchuk – It really seems like Kovalchuk is worn out already. He plays so many minutes in every game and no matter how much of a freak of nature he is to be able to do that, it takes its toll. Kovalchuk has no goals in his past five games. The one knock I’ve always had on him is that he tends to disappear for stretches. He is the kind of player that as your superstar, he needs to carry the load. Where has he been during this current streak? Don’t get me wrong, he is a world-class player and I love having him in New Jersey, but he needs to be a contributor if this team is going to get it turned around in the near future.