New Jersey Devils: Tomas Tatar Leads Team In One Surprising Stat

New Jersey Devils left wing Tomas Tatar (90): Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
New Jersey Devils left wing Tomas Tatar (90): Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports /

The New Jersey Devils have been looking for the right line combinations all season. They’ve tried pretty much everything. Jack Hughes has played at least 10 minutes on the ice with seven different line combinations. Lindy Ruff has been a little more consistent with Nico Hischier, but he’s been with three different combinations for over 100 minutes. Ruff will constantly change lines, and that leads to interesting results.

It’s not terribly surprising that Hughes has been on the ice for the most goals against among forwards. The law of averages says Hughes’ time on ice will lead to goals against. That’s just how hockey works. however, it’s surprising that a player like Yegor Sharangovich has been on the ice for more goals against than goals scored.

When looking deeper at this stat, it was jaw-dropping to see the goals for-goals against rate had Tomas Tatar at the top of the list. According to Natural Stat Trick, Tatar has been on the ice for 15 goals against at 5v5. Meanwhile, his team scored 39 goals when his skates are down. That gives him a GF% of 72%. Yes, this is a flawed stat, but this doesn’t mean it doesn’t tell a story. The only regulars (at least 500 minutes played this season) with a better number than Tatar in the league all play for the Boston Bruins.

Tatar has been incredibly efficient this season. While he hasn’t been on the same line very often (he has eight different lines with at least 10 minutes of 5v5 play), he’s making waves no matter where he plays. Of those eight lines, Tatar has a negative goal differential on one of them. In his 15 minutes with Erik Haula and Dawson Mercer, he’s seen a goal scored and failed to be on the ice for a goal.

The numbers he has with Nico Hischier are ridiculous. With Hischier and Fabian Zetterlund, that line has been on the ice for nine goals for and three against. Replacing Zetterlund with Jesper Bratt makes them even better (nine goals for and two against in 123 minutes).

Right now, the Devils moved Tatar down to a line with Haula and Mercer. It hasn’t impacted Tatar’s numbers. In January, Tatar has seen just two goals against and has been on the ice for 11 goals.

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It’s really hard to pinpoint why this is the case. Tatar only has one goal this month. One! And yet, his line scored 11 goals. There’s something he’s doing that is keeping pucks in the offensive zone. There’s a reason Lindy Ruff trusts Tatar on the first power play unit with Jack Hughes, Jesper Bratt, Nico Hischier, and Dougie Hamilton. He seems like the odd man out on paper, but his season hasn’t played out on paper. It takes a calculator to define what Tatar is doing, and the results are incredibly positive.

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Tatar is looking for a contract extension at the end of this season. He might want to stick around the Devils for a “hometown” discount so he can stay with a winning franchise. He’s making an incredible impact on this team.