The New Jersey Devils will continue their road trip in Florida by taking on the Panthers tonight.
GAMETIME: 7:30 PM, EST
Local TV: MSG
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils Record Vs. Panthers: 2-0-0NHL.com Preview
BUT FIRST: I made an error in last night's post-game review. Commenter Iain T pointed out that the win last night made it eleven consecutive seasons where Martin Brodeur has won at least 30 games. The AP via NHL.com also made note of that.
Thank you for picking up on the error, Iain.
A notice to the Devs: Marty is super-human this year…but you still have to find a way to clear the puck!! How many chances did the D have to send Tampa chasing, and instead they end up feeding the pointmen. Seriously, guys, ya might wanna work on that. Otherwise, keep up the solid effort - apparantly it’s doing you a whole lotta good.
He's right. Especially in the third period, errant clearances gave the Lightning second (sometimes third and fourth) hope to maintain puck possession on offense and either have room to take a shot on net or set up a shot. The Devils were fortunate Brodeur was on his A-game to stop those scoring chances. I don't think the Devils should have to rely on Brodeur to do all that work on a regular basis; the blueline is talented enough to clear the puck more often. Therefore, to limit the Florida offense, the Devils will need to shape up in their clearances.
The second point is offense and their patience. This doesn't just apply to the power play, but in general. In the Lightning game, the Devils tried to be patient and force passes to set up shots. Sometimes, this is good - especially with a man advantage - as it eventually leads to a shot from open ice, which generally has a better chance of going in than a shot going through traffic (where it could be deflected wide, or into the goalie if not outright blocked). But the Devils have been patient to a fault, passing when they have a clear shot on net; cycling the puck around the zone instead of forcing the defense to make a decision; and sometimes moving the puck around to a defense that realizes that they are trying to be baited into chasing the puck. What I'm suggesting is that the Devils go for the proverbial jugular and put a lot of rubber on Belfour. I don't want to see the Florida defense give the puck away to a Devil who chooses to make a pass that is blocked or off the mark when he's all alone with the goalie like I saw Erik Rasmussen do last night against Tampa Bay. Let's unload the puck when you get a chance.
Now, all of this and I haven't gotten into the Panthers themselves. Well, they have the second worst record in the Eastern Conference. Meaning they are currently only 6 points behind Pittsburgh for the eighth place. If the Panthers get hot, they are looking at a playoff position; so they will be up for this game and should be for the rest of the season. The team itself has historically struggled against the Devils, going 4-16-2 against New Jersey since the 2000-2001 season. But again, the Panthers' fight for the playoffs begins tonight and I'd expect them to be up for this game. The Devils will need to keep a close eye on leading scorer Olli Jokinen, who has 22 goals and 30 assists in 50 games. A quick look at their team statistics at NHL.com
show that the Panthers don't have too many listed right-wingers; so tonight may be a good night for left wingers Patrik Elias and Zach Parise to punish the Panthers. I'd argue they don't have much scoring depth beyond Jokinen, Nathan Horton, and Josef Stumpel; but the Madden unit should focus on whoever is playing with Jokinen, as he's been aces all season long it seems.
In any case, it won't be a breeze for the Devils offense as the Panthers have Jay Bouwmeester as their top defenseman - who is quite quick and positionally sound; the Devils may have to get it done when the rest of the Florida blueline is out there (e.g. Bryan Allen, Ruslan Salei). In net for Florida, I'm guessing it'll be Ed Belfour who is having an OK season with the team. He is currently 11-9-5 with a GAA of 2.62 and a 90.2% save percentage.
I don't think the game is a cakewalk, but I should hope the Devils win tonight and continue trying to make up points to catch the first place Buffalo Sabres in the conference. GO DEVILS!
Labels: Devils Game