Sunday, March 04, 2007


Game: Boston @ Devils, 3 of 4

Tonight, the Boston Bruins come to the Continental Airlines Arena to take on the New Jersey Devils.

Local TV: Fox Sports NY
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils Record Vs. Bruins: 1-1-0 Preview

The last time these two teams met, it was back in December. Back when the Devils were inconsistently good and bad. Back when things weren't going so well for New Jersey. Boston was on the fringe of the Northeast Division back in December. Now is clearly different. The Devils have first place in the Atlantic Division and they are 6 points behind first place Buffalo for the conference. Boston is still at the bottom of the division and are on the outside looking at the playoffs at this point. They sit in twelth tied with Florida with 67 points. To make the playoffs, they will need to get hot right now and win a hell of a lot of their next 18 games.

ASIDE: James Mirtle has a good heuristic as far as making the playoffs: 93-95 points and you're in. He has a constantly updated post stating the records that teams would need in order to reach 93-95 points. Buffalo is the first team he claims to get in and I don't see anything wrong with that - they are all but mathematically guaranteed to make the playoffs at this point. Now, back to your preview.

In any case, the big news involving the Devils is that Cam Janssen has been suspended for 3 games for the hit. Yes, you can be suspended for throwing a hit that is within the rules (save for the timing, but 1.33 seconds isn't an eternity. I don't think players count seconds whilst skating), not get penalized during the game, but get suspended afterwards. It was a scary play and I don't think the Devils will miss Janssen all that much. Cam usually gets 3 to 5 minutes a night. Personally, I felt Claude Julien would bench Janssen for his play similar to what he did against Toronto, but the suspension will do that for him I suppose. Trendon is your go-to guy on this hit: here's his analysis of the hit and he finds some examples of similar hits that had a slightly different result. While I appreciate the so-delicious-it's-chocolate irony, I don't know if any of the hits he links to leads to an injury - hence a different result. Personally, I think the injury was the result of circumstances along with the hit, so I didn't think a suspension would be coming, but I'm not Colin Campbell. That said, the Devils will be short an energy forward. Or will they?

The end of Rich Chere's article about the Janssen suspension in today's Star Ledger ends with the following line:
Note: Jim Dowd missed practice with the flu but Brian Gionta (groin) skated on the top line and seems ready to play.
Gio's going to be back! Probably! If true, this means Brylin can go back to playing with John Madden and Jay Pandolfo on the third line and Erik Rasmussen can go back to play with Jim Dowd and Mike Rupp on the fourth line. If Dowd is too sick to play, I'd expect Rod Pelley to be called up to take his spot; but I'm not 100% confident on that. I don't know how effective Gionta will be in his first game back from injury (assuming he is coming back); but he clearly gives the Devils another offensive weapon the Bruins will have to worry about. Don't expect the Devils to drop, say, 7 goals on Boston like Florida did last week; but I wouldn't expect them to be completely ineffective on offense either.

Enough about NJ, let's talk about the Bruins for a bit. They have been inconsistent. Consider their last 5 games. After a big 6-2 win at Tampa Bay, they lose in Florida to the Panthers by a 7-2 margin. Atlanta and Philadelphia won Boston's next two home games, but the Bruins did win last night over long-time rivals Montreal 3-1 last night. If recent history means anything, head coach Dave Lewis will try to do everything he can to keep the Bruins focused and "alive" for this game to prevent another blowout after a big win. Similar to Toronto, the Bruins need points right now for their own playoff hopes. Up front, they have Marc Savard. You may remember him as that guy from Atlanta who gets injured sometimes and makes a lot of plays to Ilya Kovalchuk, Slava Kozlov, et. al. Well, he's getting it done in Boston: 21 goals and 63 assists. 63 assists! Only Sidney Crosby and Joe Thornton have more assists in the entire league. Savard is an excellent playmaker to say the least. Obviously, he will command lot of attention from his defenders and his linemates when he has the puck. Patrice Bergeron (18 G, 38 A) and Glen Murray (28 G, 17 A) are also potent producers with the puck. Their captain is a big, big defender by the name of Zdeno Chara, who was a candidate for the Norris trophy last season if I recall correctly. I can't say that Boston's defense is something to behold, but he's a stud on the blueline.

What will the Devils need to do? Similar to Toronto, they need to clamp down on Boston's big three producers A.S.A.P. With the Madden line, this can be done. However, Brian Rafalski & Co. will have stay sharp for all sixty minutes against them. On offense, the Devils need to be aggressive, there isn't anyone to fear on the Bruins blueline save for Chara - and even he can't be on the ice for 60 minutes. The return of Gionta would definitely help in that regard, few can contain 5'7" of total heart and soul hockey. In general, the Devils need to stay disciplined. The Devils took two needless penalties against the Maple Leafs with the lead, which led to Toronto taking momentum in their favor and worse tied the game up. It doomed the Devils - it would doom most teams for that matter - and it will happen again if the Devils get too careless. Again, general stuff, but I'm not the coach so it's not as if I have inside information to give more detailed advice. All the same, GO DEVILS!


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