The Matchup: The Devils head to Boston tonight to face the defending Stanley Cup Champions in the midst of a three-game losing streak. This will be the 4th and final meeting of the regular season between these two teams and Boston has easily had their way with NJ this season, having won all 3 previous meetings and outscoring NJ 14-5 in those three meetings. The glaring issue for NJ during this 3 game losing streak and against the Bruins this season is the inability to put pucks in the net. The most recent example was a 2-0 shutout loss to the rival NY Rangers.
Both teams have been struggling lately. Boston is falling further and further from the East leading NY Rangers who now lead Boston by 9 points. Ottawa is also catching up to Boston as they trail the Bruins by just 1 point for the Northeast Division, however, Boston has 4 games in hand. Meanwhile, the Devils who were sitting in 4th place in the Eastern Conference, have now lost 3 straight and have slipped to 7th place in the East.
If the playoffs were to start today, the Devils would face off against the Boston Bruins. Yikes!!
Keys To The Game: 13 shots is all the Devils managed against the Rangers the other night. 13 shots is NEVER going to get the job done. NJ was too concerned about trying to move the puck around the other night, which they did well with at times and not concerned about getting the puck on net. The puck can’t go in the net if you don’t put it on net. I thought Marty did an excellent job against the Rangers the other night and will obviously need to bring that kind of effort to the rink tonight. Hopefully the Devils defense can help him out again tonight, as they did on Monday.
I was aggravated with Clarkson on Monday night against the Rangers. He took a dumb 10 minute misconduct penalty and then seemed to go right back into the box for an unsportsmanlike minor. Once he was out again, he left his feet on a check, which ended in a fight with Dubinsky and a charging call. Clarkson has been a big part of this team this season, scoring big goals at big moments and having him sit 19 minutes in the box isn’t going to help anyone but the opposition. He has to understand that teams see the year he is having and are going to try and get him to do dumb things in order to get him off the ice. Hopefully he understands he can’t do what he did Monday night. The Devils can’t give a leg up to other teams like that.
Players To Watch:
For me, Brad Marchand is the epitome of a Boston Bruin. He’s the type of player that won’t back down, will go that extra step to lay a smack on a player and has the tendency to run his mouth. Oh, and he knows how to put the puck in the net.
The trading deadline has come and gone and like we all suspected, Zach Parise is still a member of the NJ Devils. That’s not to say he will be come July 1st but he is here now and if he wants a big pay day, well he needs to prove he deserves a big pay day. In a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately kind of league, he needs to start doing consistently. What better way to start that then by helping NJ beat the Bruins in Boston to snap a 3 game losing streak.
Playoff Watch: A win tonight could move the Devils from 7th and into 5th place as it would put them into a tie in points with idle Ottawa (who we would still have 2 games in hand against). Of course for that scenario to happen, the Flyers would need to lose in regulation to the Islanders. The Flyers are currently in 6th place, 1 point ahead of us so you can figure out all the scenarios.
In all honesty, a win tonight in HUGE. It looks like the Devils might end up with the Bruins in the first round and if the Devils go into the first round not having beat the Bruins at all, that’s a huge confidence killer. Even if the Devils don’t play Boston in the first round, the road to the cup probably goes through Boston. HUGE HUGE game…