The New Jersey Devils begin a short April to close out the season and to secure a playoff seeding by taking on the Boston Bruins this afternoon.
GAMETIME: 3:30 PM, EST
Local TV: Fox Sports NY
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils Record Vs. Bruins: 1-2-0NHL.com Preview
Additional Preview: Tibbs at Beast of the East
Before I jump into the game, let's get the injuries out of the way. According to Colin Stephenson's article in today's Star Ledger, Brian Gionta is ready to return, whereas Scott Gomez is questionable.
(Aside: Tibbs had all of these links ready to go at his blog, thanks for make it easy to get those links. Anyway...) Gomez did not practice yesterday, but since the injury is a bruise, he could play today if it doesn't bother him so much. Hopefully, Gionta stays healthy during the game and Gomez heals quickly as well. Fortunately, the article quotes Gionta saying that his whole leg feels really strong. Now is not the time for injuries with the playoffs so close.
Which leads me to today's game. Pittsburgh came back to beat Toronto to tie them late in third, forcing the game to go to a shootout. However, Toronto won so Pittsburgh only got one point out of the game. Now the Devils have a chance to re-take the Atlantic Division lead with one point lead. This race for the division lead, and the #2 seed along with winning the division securing home ice for at least two rounds, is likely to fluctuate until the end of the season. The Devils will take on Boston today, followed by hosting Ottawa, going down to Philadelphia, and then ending the season with the Islanders. The Penguins get to enjoy hosting Buffalo, playing in Ottawa, and then hosting the Rangers at the end of their season. I feel the schedule favors New Jersey here, but it is imperative that the Devils make the most of their opportunities which leads me to state the following:
Win this game.
The Devils embarrassed themselves with a terrible performance the last time these two teams played back in March
, now is the time to once again assert their dominance over a team of lesser quality. How can I say the Bruins are a worse team? Easily, the Bruins aren't making the playoffs. They aren't going to make the playoffs. They're out; they are playing for pride now. Now, do not take this to mean that they are horrible. They aren't; I'm just saying that the Devils are much better by virtues of their records. Here's what each aspect of the Devils needs to do to win today:
1. Offense: Hustle. I'm confident that if the Devils forwards skate hard and make the most of their transition game, they can be very successful in terms of penetrating the zone, setting up the offense, and getting shots on either Joey MacDonald (who started for the Bruins last night in a 3-2 loss to Atlanta) or Tim Thomas (who has never started in NJ before). Outside of defenseman Zdeno Chara, the Bruins defense isn't particularly impressive. While the Devils will see a lot of Chara, who averages 28:05 of ice time so far this season, the Devils need to work around the towering defenseman. I think a consistent quick tempo is the best way to accomplish this.
2. Defense: Limit the top four producers on Boston. Only four players on the Bruins have over 20 goals, and one man is responsible setting up a lot of those Boston goals. Marc Savard (22 G, 71 A) must be stopped whenever he has the puck. He has 71 assists. 71! He has proven that his numbers are not the result of playing with Ilya Kovalchuk or Dany Heatley or anyone else in Atlanta, the man is an excellent playmaker. As a result, he should be target number one for the defense and checking lines. Letting him do as he pleases will almost certainly spell disaster. The other three 20+ goal scorers are pretty good too: Patrice Bergeron (21 G, 46 A), Glen Murray (28 G, 17 A), and Marco Sturm (26 G, 17 A) can definitely do some damage if they get open shots. Fortunately for the defense, assuming I recall the Bruins correctly, three of these four usually play on the same line. The third line for NJ should and likely will be matched up against them.
3. Goaltending. Be yourself, Martin Brodeur. Just like you have been all season long.
Lastly, the Devils must come out strong to start. What doomed them in all of the games they've been dominated (among other things) is that they came out flat to start. They didn't play with anything resembling passion, fire, guts, moxie, effort, & c. from the opening faceoff. Once the opposition to advantage of the Devils' poor starts, they created the proverbial gigantic mountain for the Devils to climb via a large early deficit. It happened to the Devils the last time they played Boston, it cannot happen again this afternoon should the Devils want to win this game, in my opinion.
That all said, the Devils should win this game and in my opinion must win this game if they truly want home ice. Many of the current Devils know all too well the importance of having that home ice, hopefully they'll keep that in mind while preparing for today's afternoon game. GO DEVILS.
BLOG ASIDE: Tom Lycan at Devils Due has a brand new site location and he hopes it's the last it needs to move. You can now find Devils Due here.
Labels: Devils Game