February 7, 2012

Ilya’s Devils contract no longer looking like a contract from hell!

All I have heard since Ilya Kovalchuk was signed, was that the Devils mortgaged the future by signing him to a 15 year/100 million$ contract. After his 1st season with the Devils, many said that he wasn’t worth 6.6 million a year, let alone having him under contract until he is 42 years old. Kovalchuk still managed to score 30+ goals last season, so if fans were upset with his performance even when he scored 31 goals it shows just how much of a superstar he really is. But nonetheless, fans weren’t happy with Ilya’s performance, and they weren’t shy about letting him know. I guess he read the headlines and took all of the criticism to heart, because he has been playing with a HUGE chip on his shoulder this year. So far this season in 47 games, Kovalchuk has scored 22 goals and put up 50 points! Well over a point per game, and reminding us more and more of the player who has twice scored 50 goals in a season and reached 90 points. What’s makes his season so far even more impressive is that he averages nearly 25 minutes per game! He averages the 16th most time on ice (TOI) in the NHL for all skaters. What makes that so impressive is that he is the only forward in the top 60, as he averages nearly 2 and a half minutes more than any other forward in the NHL! A large reason for that is that Ilya contributes in all aspects of the game, he is dominant at even strength, lethal on the powerplay, and very dangerous shorthanded (which he has shown with his 3 shorthanded goals and 5 SH points). All of that has reminded us all why he got the contract in the first place and that he is worth every single penny of that 100 million $ contract!

However, despite having a great season all year, Kovalchuk has managed to elevate his game to an even higher level lately. The Devils have been on fire and it is largely due to Ilya who has 10 goals in his last 13 games leading the Devils to a 9-3-1 record over that span. But the last 3 games Kovalchuk has been flat out unstoppable, as he has posted 3 straight games with at least 3 points, and has played an incredibly key factor in each of those games. If those stats don’t prove to you that Kovalchuk is playing his absolute hardest, and putting everything he has on the line for the Devils, than look no further than his fight with B. Schenn. Kovalchuk came to the defense of teammate Z. Parise after he was give a slewfoot from a Flyers player after the whistle. Ilya Kovalchuk hit Schenn with one of the best right hooks I have seen outside of the UFC or boxing in a very long time, and helped send the message that Kovalchuk is and will continue to be an absolute force to be reckoned with for the Devils! And as long as he plays at this level, the Devils will continue to be a tough opponent night in and night out, and will continue to climb the standings. Not only that, but that 100 million $ contract will begin to look like a bargain if he keeps this up! In the case of Ilya Kovalchuk, the saying “making a deal with the Devil(s)” may have just turned out to be the start of something great.

Grant Robinson (@thesportsgrind)

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