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Devils' domination not a good sign for Penguins

Friday, 03.19.2010 / 9:28 AM / Inside the Numbers

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

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Devils' domination not a good sign for Penguins
There's far more to the Devils' season sweep of the Penguins than just six wins. NHL.com's John Kreiser takes you Inside the Numbers.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have every intention of bringing home the Stanley Cup again this spring. They probably hope the New Jersey Devils aren't on their dance card.

To say the Devils had their way with the defending champs this season would be an understatement. New Jersey's 5-2 win Wednesday at the Prudential Center completed a sweep of the six-game season series in which the Devils beat the Penguins in every way imaginable.

New Jersey outscored Pittsburgh 22-5 in the six games while becoming the first team since the adoption of the red line to sweep a defending Cup champion in a season series of six or more games. Pittsburgh scored no more than two goals in any game and was shut out twice; New Jersey scored four or more goals four times. The Penguins went 0-for-21 on the power play in the six games (they are 17-for-60 against the rest of the Atlantic Division).

The Penguins actually out-shot the Devils, 187-165, during the season series, but Martin Brodeur was brilliant (0.83 goals-against average, .973 save percentage, two shutouts) and Marc-Andre Fleury was not (0-5-0, 4.54 GAA, .838 save percentage, 18 goals allowed on 111 shots). Brodeur is the first goaltender to sweep a season series of at least six games from a defending Cup champ; no goalie had beaten a defending champ six or more times since Hall of Famer Ed Giacomin of the Rangers went 7-3 against the 1967-68 Toronto Maple Leafs.

Though no team ever has swept a season series of six or more games and lost to that club in a playoff series, Devils coach Jacques Lemaire knows beating the Penguins in the playoffs won't be easy.

Lemaire coached the Devils in 1993-94 when New Jersey was swept in six regular-season games by the New York Rangers, losing five of the six by more than one goal. When the teams met in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Devils won the opener and the series went the limit before New York won Game 7 in double overtime.

Blankety-blanks -- The Penguins did something Thursday they hadn't done all season -- pitch a shutout. Their 3-0 victory at Boston was their first shutout of the season; Pittsburgh was the last team this season to get one. Only two teams, the 1981-82 New York Islanders and 1986-87 Edmonton Oilers, won a Cup without recording a shutout -- and those teams won during a high-scoring era in which shutouts were rare. In contrast, there were 125 shutouts through the season's first 1,041 games (roughly one every eight games), making the Penguins' lack of one before Thursday all the more remarkable.

Better without Ovi? -- Alex Ovechkin is a big part of the reason the Washington Capitals are on track to score the most goals by an NHL team in 14 years. But while the Caps are averaging 3.89 goals a game this season, they're doing even better when No. 8 isn't in the lineup -- as has been the case this week, when he's been sitting out a two-game suspension.

The Caps have averaged 4.7 goals in the 10 games they've played without Ovechkin this season due to injury or suspension -- and "only" 3.8 in the 61 games in which he's played. Their 7-3 victory Tuesday against Florida marked the third time this season they've scored seven or more goals despite the absence of their top scorer (they also beat Florida 7-4 on Nov. 7 and Philadelphia 8-2 on Dec. 5). Amazingly, they've scored seven or more goals only twice with him in the lineup.

The Caps are also nothing if not consistent. They lead the NHL in total goals (276), but they've also spread the wealth -- they're tops in scoring in all three individual periods, including 99 third-period goals, the most by any team in any period this season and nearly 2-1/2 times the total amassed by the New York Islanders, who have scored just 40 times (and allowed 76) in the third period.

Who's he? -- Getting five points in a game is a big accomplishment for any rookie, even if you're the No. 1 pick in the draft like the Isles' John Tavares, who did it Tuesday in Vancouver as New York stunned the Canucks, 5-2.

Tavares became the sixth first-year Islander to get five points in a game. Three are names familiar to any hockey fan -- Hall of Famers Bryan Trottier (1975-76), Mike Bossy (1977-78) and Pat LaFontaine (1983-84). The others could win you a trivia contest -- Dave Hudson did it with the expansion Isles in 1972-73, and Mikko Makela got five in a game against Toronto in 1985-86, the last time any Islanders rookie had accomplished the feat. Makela is the only one to match Tavares' 2 goals and 3 assists.

 
Power surge -- At age 35, Montreal's Glen Metropolit has turned into a power-play sniper.

Metropolit came into this season with a total of 8 power-play goals in his career -- half of them with Atlanta in 2006-07 and no more than one in any other season. But he's become one of the main reasons for Montreal's success with the extra man. Tuesday's power-play goal against the New York Rangers was his 10th with the extra man this season, the most on the Canadiens.

Metropolit leads all Montreal players in power-play goals and is among 25 players who have reached double figures in that category. But with just 16 goals (a career high) for the season, he's the only one of the 25 who has yet to reach the 20-goal mark.

Doubling up -- Sean Avery doesn't score often, but when he does, the New York Rangers' forward likes to repeat himself.

Avery's two-goal performance in the Rangers' 3-1 defeat Sunday of the Philadelphia Flyers marked the ninth time since he first arrived in New York three years ago that he's had a multiple-goal game. No other Ranger has more than seven in that span -- even though Avery (who spent most of last season in Dallas before being reacquired) has played in just 167 of New York's 263 games during that time and scored only 39 goals, including 11 this season.


Quote of the Day

Your team is going to want to recapture the feeling. What they're going to have to figure out is they're going to have to rewrite the story. Because you're going to rewrite the story doesn't mean you want a different end. It's just that you're going to have to learn that there's different challenges to get there, and if you're going to try and tap the same feeling, it ain't going to happen.

— Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi on maintaining their success from last season