Kyle Palmieri’s season did not get off to the start that he wanted. He had just 8 goals in his first 29 games and missed a good chunk of time due to an injury that prevented him from finding any rhythm. Since then, he’s seen a dramatic shift in his performance as he’s turned into one of the New Jersey Devils’ top offensive threats in the second half of the season.
Palmieri Leads Comeback vs. Hurricanes
Although Stefan Noesen may have scored the game-winning goal against the Carolina Hurricanes, it was Palmieri who led the comeback. He was the difference-maker on the power play with two goals, including the game-tying goal a little more than halfway through the third period. He also fired four of his six shots on goal with the man advantage while generating three scoring chances, both of which led the team.
In addition to his power play success, Palmieri’s two-way play was a vital reason for the Devils’ big victory against the Hurricanes, evident by the two-on-one he broke up later in the third period that saved a goal.
Head coach John Hynes spoke about that play and Palmieri’s importance to the Devils after Tuesday’s win:
“He’s a big part of our team with his goal-scoring,” Hynes told Sean Farrell of The Bergen Record. “For him to be able to come through in that [2-on-1] situation, that’s what we expect for him. This time of year, you need to have plays like that. Kyle is a very competitive player. Those are the big plays. The goals are very important, but it’s his tracking back with the defensive play. We’re on the power play and if we give up one there, it’s probably a different result. That talks about his commitment to winning.”
On a night when the Devils struggled at times, Palmieri played a big part in helping the team secure two crucial points to stay ahead of the Florida Panthers. Every point matters at this juncture of the season. If he is able to keep contributing as he did against the Hurricanes, the Devils have an advantage in their final six games of the season.
Palmieri’s Production at Five-on-Five
If you were to bet on Palmieri continuing to produce offense down the stretch, you’d be in a pretty good spot. His performance against the Hurricanes was no fluke. He has 24 points in his last 28 games including 15 goals, which is good for a 43-goal pace over an 82-game stretch. A big reason for that is his play at five-on-five.
The following table lists a few individual stats at five-on-five that shows the change in Palmieri’s offensive output through his first 29 games of the season compared to his last 28.
|Stat||First 29 games||Last 28 games|
|Goals per 60 minutes||0.34||1.52|
|Shots on goal per 60 min.||7.9||9.64|
|Points per 60 min.||0.84||2.03|
|Scoring Chances per 60 min.||7.56||8.8|
The most notable stat in the table is his goals per 60 minutes (G/60). After a slow start to the season, he has seen his G/60 increase from 0.34 through his first 29 games to 1.52 in his last 28. Although Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier may grab the headlines, their eight five-on-five goals are just under Palmieri’s nine, which has led the team since Jan. 30.
There’s a couple of reasons for Palmieri’s improved play. First and foremost is that he’s finally healthy. A good part of the first half of his season was a wash due to a broken foot he suffered against the Minnesota Wild in November. Now fully healthy, he’s producing at levels we’re accustomed to seeing from him as a Devil. He’s averaging almost two more shots on goal per 60 minutes in his last 28 games as well as nearly nine scoring chances per 60 minutes, a big reason why he’s seen a significant jump in his goal and point production.
A Weapon on the Power Play
Even though his play lagged at five-on-five at the start of the season, Palmieri has been a force on the power play throughout 2017-18. He’s been the team’s second-leading point producer behind Hall (min. 20 games played). He’s also led the team in G/60 throughout the season despite having missed 19 games.
The reason for his continued success on the power play is his shot generation. In his last 28 games, Palmieri has fired 28 shots on goal, which is first on the team and is 11 more than second-place Sami Vatanen’s 17. He also has a whopping 27 individual scoring chances, first on the team by a wide margin and is 14 more than Vatanen who sits in second place again.
Palmieri’s shot hasn’t gone unnoticed, either. “He’s such a dangerous player,” Hall told Abbey Mastracco of The Bergen Record after Tuesday’s 4-3 win against the Hurricanes. “If I can ever find him – if it’s a tip or a one-timer, or even just a cross-seam pass, he’s just so dangerous with his shooting.”
Look no further than Palmieri’s first power play goal against the Hurricanes to understand what Hall means:
KYLE PALMIERI TIES IT UP AT 2 FROM A SHARP ANGLE! pic.twitter.com/AVYkAn0wB2
— Hockey Daily 365 (@HockeyDaily365) March 28, 2018
Between Hall’s play-making prowess and Palmieri’s shooting ability, the Devils have a reliable one-two punch that compliments each other well and can produce at a high-level on the power play. With a 3-point lead in the wild-card standings with six games to go, the Devils have to hope they can continue to connect on goals like the one above to ensure their spot in the postseason.
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Advanced Stats from Natural Stat Trick
Alex Chauvancy is a New Jersey Devils writer for The Hockey Writers who has a penchant for advanced stats, prospects, signings and trades. He previously wrote for Devils Army Blog, a New Jersey Devils fan blog, from 2015-2017