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The Evolution of Ilya Kovalchuk


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#21 Jerrydevil

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Posted 05 February 2012 - 11:18 PM

Kovalchuk has a ton of haters, for reasons I will never understand but you cannot deny the way he has been playing lately.


He is winning me over. That give-and-go pass with Volchenkov today was a thing of beauty.
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#22 justdo3043

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Posted 05 February 2012 - 11:59 PM

he's a beast lately period
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"The $297,297 Kovalchuk missed today is money he will never, ever get back. And the more cheques he misses, the better the deal is going to have to be for the players to justify him sitting out. And unlike the owners, the players can direct their leadership to get a deal done regardless of how disadvantageous it is to them."

#23 jim777

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 01:22 AM

I love Kovy, and wear that jersey proudly :) He's the freaking man, and has committed to our team for the rest of his career. I'm thrilled and happy every single game to see him in OUR jersey. I'm glad we got him while Patty was still on the team, because he's Patty v. 2.0

WooHoo!
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#24 Neb00rs

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 02:54 AM

I'll be doing a Kovy breakdown pretty soon. I love the fans here who are saying that they are starting to come around on him... it's like how much does he fvcking owe you? who are you stfu.
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#25 Marshall

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 06:14 AM

Someone on Twitter said it best yesterday, when he/she said "Kovalchuk playing (and playing well) on the penalty kill is the New Jersey Devil-est thing to ever happen."


This is the best thing I'll read all week.
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#26 Onddeck

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 07:47 AM

The dude is an absolute beast and nobody can deny it
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#27 Colorado Rockies 1976

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 08:01 AM

Chico had pointed it out yesterday at multiple times yesterday, talking about how Ilya Kovalchuk has never played any better than he is right now. It really got me thinking. The light originally went on in my head back when he scored shorthanded on a breakaway at Winnipeg. Playing on the kill, waiting for the right time to go and steal the puck is pretty much what was the polar opposite we had expected when we traded for him. Now, plays like that are a huge reason this team is having the season they are having.

I don't know how the advanced stats look, but clearly to the naked eye he's doing the little things at the right times. His positioning has been putting him in much better positions to make plays and he has turned into somewhat of a distributor. Think of the times when he gains the zone before coming to a stop and just waiting to feed a cutter. Or the Rangers game this week where with three minutes to go on two 2-on-1's he sends the pass across rather than take the shot (regardless if it might have been a better idea to shoot). He's fully buying into the team concept. A lot has to be said about Debow getting him to buy in, and it evens extends from Lemaire, part II.

Kovalchuk has a ton of haters, for reasons I will never understand but you cannot deny the way he has been playing lately.


I don't think Kovy really had a ton of haters. I think he had a lot of doubters for a while. Deep down, anyone who's a true Devils fan wants him to succeed...it's pretty counterproductive to want him to suck.

Anyway, here's how I see Kovy's "evolution" process.

1) The trade: impossible to argue. Devils didn't give up a whole hell of a lot...not nearly as much as experts were predicting the Thrashers would get in return. They couldn't pass up that chance.

2) After the trade: put up solid numbers, but didn't seem like a great fit. It was a limited sample, but based on his Devils' body of work, I thought it was risky to sign him to a big deal (which at the time meant 7-8 years to me). Once I saw what he finally signed for, I'll be the first to admit I was like "WTF?!" Kovy's playing great now, but that is STILL an insane deal by any standards. And the whole getting-Kovy-signed process, which came off as flat-out annoying at times, made some Devils fans cool towards Kovy right then, at least initially. Hard to say how much of that process was really Kovy's fault, but it did make it hard to warm up to him initially for some. The penalities doled out for Lou attempting to circumvent the CBA didn't help either.

3) First full season: team's slow start and Kovy's slow start made it easy to point the finger at him...he wasn't playing nearly as well as expected, and though he had plenty of company in that regard, in ways it felt like the Devils had truly lost their way, from Lou doing something he had never done before in signing a star player to an all-time deal, to his acquisitions of yet more ex-Devils that weren't nearly as effective the second time around. Once Lemaire replaced MacLean, Kovy clearly allowed Lemaire to tinker with the weaknesses in Kovy's game, and to Kovy's credit, he clearly seemed committed to becoming a better player. But even with a stronger second half, he still didn't seem entirely comfortable, and something just seemed to be missing. His numbers were decent, given his bad start, but he was still a -28, and it felt like he might never live up to the superstar status of his contract...not in a Devils uniform, anyway.

4) Second full season: still prone to "WTF?!" brainfart moments (especially early), and after still looking uncomfortable (partly to playing out of position), finally found some chemistry. He seems to be being truer to himself, like a Kovy 1.5...he'll make his mistakes from time-to-time (I think Lemaire was trying to eliminate these entirely, and I think Kovy was trying his best to become what Lemaire envisioned, but I also think it was probably too much for Kovy to try to take in, at least all at once). But what I see now is Kovy being Kovy, with some of his refinements sprinkled in, and let's face it, yes, he'll do some head-scratching things now and then, but when he's putting up 80-90 points and playing with a ton of emotion, those head-scratchers are much easier to take than when he's putting up 61 points.

And all of this couldn't come at a better time, really...because even though it's Zach who wears the "C", it is really starting to feel like, slowly but surely, this is starting to become Kovy's team, and Kovy's actions not only seem like he knows this, but welcomes it as well. As far as Year 2 goes into a mega-deal like Kovy's, considering how things started, it really can't be going much better for him right now.
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#28 Onddeck

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 08:05 AM

And keep in mind this is just year two so I'm glad he looks this comfortable this early in his lengthy contract
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#29 DaneykoIsGod

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 08:55 AM

It's been so much fun to watch him evolve in a Devils uniform. He's gone from this raw man-child with all the skill in the world and none of the smarts to a man with the wits to match his talent.

It's the little things that impress me the most. It was just a few months back that I was complaining that, while his defensive zone presence had improved, his stickchecking abilities seem to vanish once he crosses the defensive blueline. Now he has these Johnny Madden moments where he strips it and almost immediately turns it into a scoring opportunity. His work on the cycle? Superb! He's working his way up there with Zubes and Parise as this team's best guys down low. A year ago, the cycle seemed like a foreign concept to him.

Best of all, I think he's learned his place in the defensive zone and his teammates have learned to utilize it. He works up high. Sometimes it leads to him stripping the puck and leading a fast break up ice. Sometimes someone else creates the turnover, and he springs out of the zone so fast that a good lead pass creates an instant breakaway. It's like he's found a way to be defensively responsible while still maintaining the advantage of cherry picking. Unreal.

Then there's that element that's always been there ... his child-like enthusiasm for the game. It's hard to see his emotion bubble over and not find it contagious. With that comes emotion, and part of that is his willingness to stick up for his teammates. We've seen him lay some monster hits, and now that KO of Schenn ... it's impossible to be a Devils fan and NOT love this guy right now!

So glad he's a Devil.
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#30 NJDevs4978

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 09:35 AM

As usual, CR1976 summed up my feelings a lot better than the extremists on both sides (Manta, and some of the people in this thread who never thought Kovy could do anything wrong). I'll only add that DeBoer deserves a lot of credit for getting through to him despite the position switch and the fact he didn't have Lemaire's credentials. Not to mention adding the PK to his responsiblilties, something even Lemaire didn't want to try.
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#31 Chuck the Duck

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 10:20 AM

When you get that kind of contract and the team plays poorly, SOME fans will take the easy way out and make you the scapegoat. Also, there are some fans that will always say, "for $100 million, he needs to scoe every night." The thing that complicates it with Kovy is the whole FA signing saga and, moreover the league imposed penalties that followed.

With him, it's more about the contract (i.e. A-Rod) than anything else. Nobody can question his commitment, compete level and determination. He makes some dumb plays sometimes when he's trying to do too much, but he brings me to the edge of my seat everytime he rushes up ice with the puck. Love having him here, and on a line with Zach.
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#32 Triumph

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 10:49 AM

As usual, CR1976 summed up my feelings a lot better than the extremists on both sides (Manta, and some of the people in this thread who never thought Kovy could do anything wrong). I'll only add that DeBoer deserves a lot of credit for getting through to him despite the position switch and the fact he didn't have Lemaire's credentials. Not to mention adding the PK to his responsiblilties, something even Lemaire didn't want to try.


Lemaire did stick Kovalchuk on the PK a little bit last year.

What shouldn't be that surprising is that by a lot of measures, Kovalchuk is the best penalty killing forward in the league - even though he typically only plays against 2nd units and rarely starts a PK shift in the D zone. For instance, Kovalchuk has been on the ice for 5 Devils goals for while shorthanded, and 1 goal against. His Corsi at around -35 is best in the league.

He uses a long stick so he has a long reach to pry pucks away from players on the boards. He's typically too aggressive 5 on 5 but this works for him on the PK. And obviously he's phenomenal at generating breakaways for himself.

It shouldn't be surprising because Kovalchuk has all these skills and yet 5 on 5 when he got here he rarely used them, and even now he's still bad at defensive zone coverage and backchecking. What I do like is that his transition defense improved both this year and last - most of the time, he will hustle back when he makes a turnover, and he's almost never totally stationary in the D zone the way he was when he got here. He'll never be a great territorial player, but he's raised himself to even - we'll see if he can progress to being better than that.
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#33 Marv4Life

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 11:12 AM

Now if only he was well-marketed because I think we have our Alex Ovechkin...

We gotta make the playoffs. Because I really want to know how he'll perform after a couple of full seasons under his belt.
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#34 ZeroGravityFat

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 11:21 AM

Second star of the week, nice.
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#35 Jerrydevil

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 11:34 AM

As usual, CR1976 summed up my feelings a lot better than the extremists on both sides (Manta, and some of the people in this thread who never thought Kovy could do anything wrong). I'll only add that DeBoer deserves a lot of credit for getting through to him despite the position switch and the fact he didn't have Lemaire's credentials. Not to mention adding the PK to his responsiblilties, something even Lemaire didn't want to try.


Kovalchuk had a lot to prove, and I didn't think he could ever tweak his game to become a player who could mesh well with a winning team. Glad to be wrong on that.
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#36 devlman

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 12:01 PM

Kovy has been absolutely fantastic lately.

I also wanna throw a little love out to Mark Fayne. He continues to perform consistently well. He was the best thing to come out of the disaster of last season.
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#37 MadDog2020

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 12:03 PM

Kovy has been absolutely fantastic lately.

I also wanna throw a little love out to Mark Fayne. He continues to perform consistently well. He was the best thing to come out of the disaster of last season.

Actually, Fayne was the second best thing to come out of the disaster that was last season. The best thing to come out of last season was Adam Larsson.
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#38 Jerrydevil

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 12:07 PM

Actually, Fayne was the second best thing to come out of the disaster that was last season. The best thing to come out of last season was Adam Larsson.


Haha! Clever point.
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