Ilya Kovalchuk To sign With Devils: Ten Reasons He Makes Them A Stanley Cup Favorite

July 19th, 2010 1 Comment

With all the rumors pointed to Ilya Kovalchuk joining the Los Angeles Kings, the New Jersey Devils have emerged as the winner in the Kovalchuk sweepstakes.

The Devils are announcing that Kovalchuk has agreed to sign a long-term deal that will keep Kovalchuk in New Jersey. While terms and monies are yet to be announced, Kovalchuk is expected to sign a deal that will pay him between eight and nine million per season.

Clearly, the Kovalchuk signing, which is expected to be officially announced Tuesday via press conference, has every team in the East sweating right now.

While no guarantee to make the Stanley Cup Finals, the addition of Kovalchuk makes the New Jersey Devils one of the favorites to win it all in the Eastern Conference.

Let’s take a look at ten reasons Kovalchuk makes the Devils one of the favorites in the Eastern Conference and to win Lord Stanley’s mug.

Added Offense:

The New Jersey Devils finished the 2009-10 NHL regular season averaging just 2.63 goals per game, good enough for 19th overall in a 30 team league.

Needless to say, Kovalchuk has the talent to score 50 goals in any given season. If Kovalchuk scores 40 goals and the Devils match their 2009-10 offensive output, they will raise their goals per game total to around 3.15 goals per game, which would make them one of the NHL’s top offensive teams.

For the record, the Washington Capitals led the NHL in goals per game with an average of 3.82 goals per game, followed by the Vancouver Canucks (3.27), Chicago Blackhawks (3.20), San Jose Sharks (3.13) and the Pittsburgh Penguins (3.04).

A Better Power Play:

The New Jersey Devils emerged from the 2009-10 regular season with the 11th ranked power play, playing out at an 18.7% success rate.

The Devils scored a total of 51 power play goals last season, 27 at Home last season and 24 on the road.

Kovalchuk lit the lamp a total of 12 power play goals last season (Ranked 13th overall), which should help to bolster the Devils already impressive power play.

Power Play Opportunities:

The New Jersey Devils finished the 2009-10 regular season ranked 28th overall in power play opportunities with a paltry 131 power plays.

Ilya Kovalchuk’s speed necessitates opposing NHL teams to slow him down in the neutral zone, often resulting in a penalty.

Extra power play opportunities means your opponents are likely to become tired, which will likely mean more goals for not only Kovalchuk, but his teammates as well…that is as long as the coaching staff doesn’t throw Kovalchuk out there for the entire two minutes again!

The Brodeur Factor:

With Martin Brodeur getting a little long in the tooth for some people’s liking, the added offense Kovalchuk will bring to the Devils will allow Brodeur to play a little looser and allot for the odd game where Brodeur is not at his best.

Brodeur is a tremendous goalie; he’ll be that much better playing with a lead more often than not with Kovalchuk in the fold.

Further, you can expect the Devils to allow their backup to play a little more this season, which, in the end, should allow Brodeur to show up for the playoffs in tip-top shape, well rested and ready to go, something many have speculated Brodeur has been unable to do over the years.

Less Pressure for Parise:

Last season the Devils had to relay on a trio of forwards to net most of their offensive totals. At the top of the list was Zach Parise, who looked spent during the playoffs.

The addition of Kovalchuk will allow Parise to take a little pressure off himself, allowing him to work on the other areas of his game.

Team Morale:

Can you imagine if the New Jersey Devils organization had to watch as Ilya Kovalchuk signed elsewhere?

The Devils gave up a ton of talent when they made the Kovalchuk deal, including the likes of defenseman Johnny Oduya, rookie forward Niclas Bergfors, prospect Patrice Cormier and the Devils 2010 first round draft choice.

With Kovalchuk coming back to the Devils organization it helps to establish them (and general manager Lou Lamoriello) as one of the best organizations in the entire NHL, especially when it comes to acquiring talent.

Having a player of Kovalchuk’s talent in the organization sends a message to your players that you want to win now; which will ultimately give your roster a shot in the arm and increased confidence heading into the 2010-11 season.

Like I said, re-signing Kovalchuk is awesome; losing him would have been disastrous.

Game Plan:

There are very few NHL players that command the kind of pre-game attention that Ilya Kovalchuk does. With NHL teams focusing on Kovalchuk night-in, night-out, the likes of Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and Patrick Elias should have a lot more chances to score and a lot more room on the ice.

There will be several benefactors, especially Zajac and Parise, who are likely slated to see plenty of icetime alongside Kovalchuk.

Defense Gets a Break:

The New Jersey Devils have long been known as a defense-first team that likes to use its speed on the backend to help control the neutral zone.

Adding Kovalchuk to the mix will allow the Devils defense to use their outlet passes to keep opposing forwards honest in the Devils zone and, with Kovalchuk’s great speed and offensive capabilities should see the Devils spending a lot more time in the opposing teams’ zone.

The end result will be a Devils defense that will be both better rested and more confident, night-in, night-out.

The Devils defense should also benefit from all the assists they will be racking up, especially on the power play.

Shootouts:

The New Jersey Devils emerged from the 2009-10 regular season having been successful on 12 goals on 32 shots (37.5% success rate) in the shootout.

As good as the Devils were in the shootout last season, they emerged with a paltry six wins and five loses, hardly impressive.

Ilya Kovalchuk has scored a total of nine shootout goals on 37 career attempts; certainly not earth shattering totals, but decent nonetheless.

As average as Kovalchuk has been in the shootout, there are not many NHL goaltenders that look forward to facing Kovalchuk under these circumstances, a fact that can throw any goalie off their game, if only for a few seconds.

Increased Rubber:

As much as opposing defenseman fear Ilya Kovalchuk, opposing goaltenders fear him the most.

Kovalchuk posted shot totals of 323 (2005-06), 336 (2006-07), 283 (2007-08), 275 (2008-09) and 290 (2009-10), that’s a ton of rubber for opposing goaltenders to be facing, especially when you consider just how hard and accurate Kovalchuk’s shot has proven to be over the years.

Just as goaltenders can get in the shooters head, shooters can get into a goaltenders head; Kovalchuk can do just that, which is a very powerful thing for any NHL forward.

1 Comment

  1. Joe Kumpf says:

    They are not going anywhere with brodeur in the nets, he is old and it is time to retire.

    They will maybe win their division but they have not mounted a serious playoff run in years, find a new goalie!!!!!

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