Thursday, April 05, 2007
Game: Devils @ Philadelphia, 8 of 8
GAMETIME: 7:00 PM
Preview at Beast of the East by Tibbs
Tonight's game could be history in the making. If Martin Brodeur starts this game and wins, he will set a new NHL record for wins in the regular season. Brodeur has tied Flyers legend Bernie Parent with the 2-1 win, Brodeur's 47th, over Ottawa on Tuesday. While the Flyers are rarely an easy opponent for the Devils, facing off the team with the worst record in the NHL certainly can't hurt Brodeur's chances for #48. Again, this is assuming he starts this one. I think he will because this game a second importance. With the Pittsburgh Penguins' 4-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday, I believe the Devils will only need a point out of this game to clinch the Atlantic Division. Clinching the division guarantees the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference, which means a home ice advantage for at least the first two round of the playoffs. The Devils have been to the top of the mountain many times and they know and therefore want that home ice advantage.
Namely because of the game's significance in playoff seeding as well as of having general manager Lou Lamoriello behind the bench, expect a much better performance out of the Devils against the Flyers than the last Flyers game. The last time the Devils played the Flyers, Brodeur was the only one to have really showed up to play for the first 40 minutes with the Devils ensuring a win only in the third period. The rest of the team looked demotivated and were skating seemingly in slow motion for the beginning (and the entire first and second periods for the most part) of that one. It goes without saying that the Devils need to avoid falling into the trap of complacency or coming out flat to win tonight. I'm sure Lou will remind the Devils that while they won most of the games against Philadelphia this year, they were all close and fairly intense games. Expect the Devils to respond in kind.
As far as the Flyers go, they are really playing for pride tonight. They lost their last three games, with a 3-2 overtime loss to Toronto on Tuesday being their most recent downfall. Given that the Devils are one of their biggest rivals, there's quite a bit of pride at stake - if only to try and end their season on a high note. They've played the Devils fairly tough even though the results haven't gone their way and I can't really expect them to not repeat that tonight. Again, the man to keep an eye on for Philadelphia is Simon Gagne (38 G, 25 A). All he needs is a little space and a little time to do something good with the puck; and it goes without saying that what he does with the puck is often not good for the other team. With John Madden back in the line up for this game, expect the defensive forward line to be more effective against Gagne's unit. Yes, I know Gagne is not a center, he's still the best offensive player on the Flyers and Madden's unit is usually up against the other team's top line.
Speaking of returns, the notes section of Rich Chere's article in today's Star Ledger states that Scott Gomez is ready to return. He will give the Devils a lot more punch up front, so that's definitely good. While the X-rays were negative, Brian Gionta may not be playing tonight, so it's a return of what we saw mostly at the end of March before Gionta's return. Cam Janssen made the trip, but it's not clear whether he'll play. Lastly, and interestingly, Richard Matvichuk has made the trip to Philadelphia; there's a chance he make his return to the Devils' lineup after being out all season long. Personally, I don't know whether that would be wise, as one would expect to Matvichuk to have more than his fair share of rustiness after not playing for so long. Before you tell me how great he was in the second half of last season and in the playoffs last season - and he was, I know; I also distinctly remember the first half of last season when he was generally awful. That could have been the result of not playing for a season too; but I could be wrong. In any case, I hope he does well if he does play.
Regardless of the lineup, the Devils have a reason to win this game for their own sake and they really should come out and give a solid 60 minute effort on the ice. I think that, at the very least, would be enough to beat the Flyers. GO DEVILS!
Labels: Devils Game