Thrashers and Devils Since the Big Trade

Since the big Kovalchuk trade to the New Jersey Devils both teams have played just a small number of games. In the short run the Thrashers appear to have been energized by the trade (or perhaps by the end of the trade rumors), while the Devils appear a bit out of sync as they try and figure out how to incorporate Ilya into their system. In the 5 post-Kovalchuk games the Thrashers Point Win % is actually up from 1.02 PPG to 1.20. Can the team sustain this 1.20 pace? Up in New Jersey the Devils have seen their Points per game drop sharply from 1.31 pre-Kovalchuk to 0.83 with Kovalchuk.

Thrashers GFA GAA PPGF PKGA ESGF ESGA PW%
Before 2.95 3.13 0.67 0.73 2.27 2.40 1.02
After 3.20 3.40 0.60 0.60 2.60 2.80 1.20
Devils GFA GAA PPGF PKGA ESGF ESGA PW%
Before 2.53 2.49 0.64 0.55 1.89 1.95 1.31
After 2.67 3.17 0.67 1.17 2.00 2.00 0.83

 

How much of this can be attributed to Ilya alone? Certainly one player cannot be account for everything in a team game. In the Thrashers case both their Goals For and Goals Against are up somewhat since Kovalchuk left. The Thrashers played 4 out of 5 on the road and 3 out of 5 against quality playoff teams (WSH, CHI, COL). For Atlanta, the big news is increased productivity at Even Strength. The power play has produced about the same number of PP goals per game but the ES Goal per game is up. The goal scoring has been a pleasant surprise considering Kovalchuk's past contributions in that area.

In the case of New Jersey, their team GAA is up sharply in the last six games. However, if you break that down into special teams and Even Strength, the problem in New Jersey is brutal a PK unit of late. The team had allowed just 0.55 PKGA but over their last six games that number has exploded to 1.17. Since Ilya doesn't play on the PK he can't take the heat for that particular team failure.

Thrashers SF SA PP% PK% ST% SV%
Before 29.49 33.29 17.5% 80.8% 10.0% 90.6%
After 33.20 34.60 13.0% 88.5% 9.6% 90.2%
Devils SF SA PP% PK% ST% SV%
Before 33.62 31.01 19.0% 83.7% 7.5% 92.0%
After 29.33 24.83 14.8% 70.8% 9.1% 87.2%

 

A quick check of the shot stats shows that the Thrashers appear to both taking and allowing more shots post-Kovalchuk. In New Jersey the opposite is true as the Devils are taking an allowing fewer shots with Ilya. Unlike Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk is much more selective about his shots. I'm uncertain how much of this can be explained by the trade. The Thrashers PP% has struggled, but perhaps with some practice time they can figure out how to incorporate rookies Bergfors and Kane into the extra man unit. The Thrashers PK has been VERY good of late nearly 90%. The goaltending has been about the same as it was before.

For New Jersey, the PP has suffered quite a bit as they attempt to merge Kovalchuk into their man advantage. The PK has been incredibly poor--just a touch over 70%--and the SV% is also way down over the last few games.

Conclusion

It is probably silly to read too much into these numbers because the sample size is so tiny, however, I did learn something from this exercise. Namely that the Devils struggles of late have more to do with their PK unit than anything else. It will be interesting to check back on this after another month passes to see what trends emerge or remain constant.

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