Michael Ryder has no goals in his last five games.
We know he’s a streaky guy but outside of a post he hit on Saturday night against Philadelphia, he’s been relatively quiet. For one, he’s not shooting nearly enough. He has six shots in the team’s last five games. Even with these last five contests, he’s shooting at an 18 percent clip. That’s great.
What’s concerning is that he hasn’t scored an even-strength goal since October 7 at Edmonton. The two even-strength tallies he does have came when he was on a line with Adam Henrique and Travis Zajac. Of course, Zajac was the center and Henrique was the winger. Zajac has been out the last few games so Pete DeBoer has had to juggle lines, leaving Ryder without a cemented spot amongst the top three lines.
Even still, on his two even-strength goals, no one has assisted on Ryder’s markers. Perhaps Ryder hasn’t found his correct complementary parts yet. Newcomer Jaromir Jagr found his a few games ago, really connecting with Andrei Loktionov and Patrik Elias. Compared to other teammates he’s played with on his line for significant minutes, Henrique and Zajac remain his best options in terms of metrics. When Zajac gets healthy, he needs to consider going with two centers on that line with Ryder. Ryder was brought here to do one thing; score goals. If he’s not producing with other linemates, it might be worth sacrificing in other areas if it means No. 17 is on a line where he’ll get lots of great looks.
Where has Damien Brunner been? He has failed to record a point in seven of his last eight games. Unlike Ryder, Brunner is firing the puck a lot. In the last five games, he’s let the puck fly 15 times. After a hot start, he’s now hitting the back of the net at a 10.8 percent rate. Unfortunately for the Devils, they are still figuring out what he is. Despite playing many seasons overseas, Brunner only has one NHL season under his belt. He had 12 goals in 44 games with Detroit last year but shot 9.8 percent. Oof.
I think everyone, coaches and management, need to take more time to evaluate Brunner to better identify where he fits with this team. It should be said that one of the linemates he should be playing with is currently out with an injury, Ryane Clowe. Clowe and Brunner have been on the ice 5-on-5 for nearly a full game’s worth of ice time. They’ve created points together and have been on the plus side of the Corsi chart. He’s played away from Clowe for about half a game and the Corsi mark average during that time is a minus-16. So while Brunner is still finding his game and role, perhaps the answer is waiting in a man who will hopefully be back with the club soon.
Ryder and Brunner carried the team early in the season when they struggled to get points. They started to take a backseat to other performers when the team got on a bit of a roll. Recently, they’ve been nowhere to be found as the team may be heading towards another slide.
These numbers are of a small sample size, no question, but these guys are only going to play with a select few players all year long. These two won’t be playing with the CBGB line, so in essence, there are seven other guys to choose from that they’ll match up with and hopefully at some point, click.
So, while others like Jagr have found some chemistry and are getting more comfortable, these two guys are still in search for their security blankets. Once they have some more time and find that level of trust in others, Pete DeBoer will finally have a well-rounded stable of forwards on the ice, instead of just on paper like most thought he had in August.