The New Jersey Devils look to prevent a losing streak from occurring when they go take on the Philadelphia Flyers tonight.
GAMETIME: 7:00 PM, EST
Local TV: Fox Sports NY
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils' Record Vs. Flyers: 5-0-0NHL.com Preview
The Devils lost their last two games: a shootout loss to Toronto that was the result of blowing a 2 goal lead in the third period; and a pathetic effort from nearly everyone involved on the team against Boston on Saturday. Nonetheless, the Devils finally play a team that is not in the playoff race: the Philadelphia Flyers.
Statistically, this should be a slam-dunk for the Devils tonight. The Flyers have the NHL's worst record, they have nothing to play for other than pride, they are 4-17-3 against teams in the Atlantic Division, they lost 4 of their last 5, they are 1-3-3 in their last 7, and they have not beaten New Jersey all season. Looking at the game on paper, Martin Brodeur should get his 40th win and would be 7 wins away from tying Flyers goaltender Bernie Parent's record for most wins in a season (an astonishing 47). Rich Chere's article in today's Star Ledger states that Brodeur knows it's in reach, but it'll be hard as the 9 of the next 11 games will be on the road.
Nonetheless, even the Devils can beat the Flyers, right?
Not quite. In the five previous games against Philadelphia, the Devils has only one game against them when it was not a one-goal game; a 2-0 win over Philadelphia back on December 8, 2006. The last time these two teams met, it was a wild 6-5 overtime win for the Devils in Philadelphia with the winning scored by Brad Lukowich of all people. The Flyers, for whatever reason, play the Devils close and tough. Tom Gulitti's article in today's Bergen Record makes that clear.
It's heartening that the Devils realize they need to stop two bad games in a row to becoming a full-on losing streak and that they aren't taking this game lightly. That is a good sign. Whether they will do so on the ice is another question.
Now, the Devils will likely face Martin Biron in net and that's not good for the Devils' chances. Biron has had a good record whilst playing in Buffalo - 13-4-1; but he has a GAA of 3.01 and a save percentage of 90.1%. What's more, the NHL.com Preview notes that he's 2-6-2 (wins-losses-ties) against the Devils lifetime, with a GAA of 3.14 and a save percentage of 88.1%. On paper, this means the Devils forwards should be quite aggressive in peppering Biron with shots. Then again, the Devils were stopped cold by Joey MacDonald in his first NHL start in the Boston game; so Biron's poor performances against New Jersey should not be taken for granted.
As far as who on the Flyers the Devils need to worry about, there are three of note. Simon Gagne has had a great season considering his team's poor performance with 35 goals and 18 assists. If anyone needs to be contained, it will be him. Mike Knuble is another shooter the Devils would be wise to cover closely, as Knuble has 22 goals and 21 assists this season. The third is Derian Hatcher. He's slow, he can be a pylon at times, he's slow, his style of play is fading from the NHL, and he's slow. But he (inexplicably) played great against New Jersey back on February 1, 2007. If whoever was in Hatcher's jersey that night is there tonight, the Devils would be wise to force the play onto the other side of ice. If it's the Derian Hatcher I expect to see on the ice, the Devils would be wise to challenge him and beat him with speed all game long. No disrespect to Alexandre Picard, the first star of the last Devils-Flyers game, but I don't think he'll get 5 assists tonight. I hope the entire Flyers team collectively does not put 5 goals on Martin Brodeur tonight, for that matter.
In any case, the main key for the Devils tonight is to take this game seriously and to put a consistent and strong effort for 60 minutes. The Devils lapsed in the third against Toronto and it ultimately doomed them. The Devils did that for only about the first 5 minutes of the Boston game and look what happened then. If the Devils do put in a good effort, I think they will win tonight's game. It won't be easy, this is a Flyers-Devils game, but the Flyers won't have the same urgency to win as Toronto and Boston had when the Devils played them (and those two teams still have that urgency, they need points now for their own sake). GO DEVILS!
Labels: Devils Game