The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (2-5-1) go across the river to face off against their hated rivals, the New York Rangers (3-2-1). This is the first of six meetings this season.
The Last Devils Game: The Devils were thrashed by the Sabres, 6-1, last night at home. I’m still peeved about the loss, but here’s three things to note:
1. The Devils looked terrible in their own zone.
2. Johan Hedberg wasn’t given any support.
3. The team played lackluster and, frankly, worse than an AHL team.
The Last Rangers Game: The Rangers defeated the Boston Bruins, 3-2, last night in Boston. The Rangers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period with goals from Artem Anisimov and Alex Frolov. Zdeno Chara cut the lead to 2-1 with a powerplay tally at 19:55 of the period. The Rangers extended their lead in the second period, with Marc Staal giving the Blueshirts a 3-1 lead. Nathan Horton continued his hot start, pulling the Bruins to within a goal at 12:27 of the period. The Rangers would blank the Bruins in the third for their second straight win.
The Last Devils – Rangers Game: The Rangers defeated the Devils, 4-3, in a shootout during a late season meeting last year. The Devils once again scored first, with Ilya Kovalchuk giving New Jersey an early 1-0 lead. Brandon Dubinsky tied the game with a powerplay goal in the second period, tying the game at one. The third period followed the same script as the fourth game, with the Devils wasting leads. Patrik Elias put the Devils ahead, 2-1, early in the third period. Anisimov tied the game at 9:40 of the second period, and the scoring gates were opened. Jamie Langenbrunner gave the Devils a 3-2 lead at 12:37 of the period, but the Rangers answered that tally with one of their own. With their net open, Chris Drury scored at 19:43 to tie the game and send it to overtime. The teams remained scoreless through the extra period, and Erik Christensen was the only player to score in the shootout. (For a full recap, click here.)
For a full recap of the historical rivalry, check our preview here. Make sure you follow the jump for the analysis of tonight’s matchup.
Tonight’s Matchup: The Devils looked terrible yesterday. Once again, the team didn’t put in the sixty-minute effort. They played well for seven minutes, then quit on the game. They left Hedberg out to dry, they played terrible defense, and they stopped creating scoring chances. Overall, it was a game to forget, which many of these early season games have been.
Last night’s effort was lifeless and lazy. I turned off the game after the fourth goal, and most people left the arena before the third period began. I think it’s safe to say that, heading into this matchup, the Devils are a train wreck. There’s no leadership on or off the ice, MacLean may as well be talking to a brick wall, and the players look bored and lost. None of that is a recipe for success, and it’s evident from these blowouts that the Devils players either aren’t ready or aren’t willing to give the effort needed to be a consistent force night in and night out.
Tonight’s game against the Rangers gives these Devils a chance to break out of this funk. If the team can’t get motivated or excited for this matchup, then I don’t know what MacLean can do. The Rangers have won two in a row, and they look good right now. The Devils have a chance to go into Madison Square Garden and take it to their rivals. The Devils have showed about 123 minutes of solid play, and those minutes ended up in two shutout wins. This is a deep and talented team that plays well when it wants to. Today needs to be one of those days.
We as fans may have loftier than normal expectations for this team, but we’re not seeing anything out of the Devils right now. Today gives New Jersey a chance to redeem last night’s disaster of a performance. MacLean tried to make a statement by sitting Kovalchuk, one that ultimately backfired. The Devils need to show themselves and the fans that this slow start is merely a fluke, and they can do that today against a rival. But if the team fails to show up, then the players and coaches will confirm what we all suspect – there’s a major divide in the locker room, and no one has stepped up to address it.
Game time is 7 p.m. and can be seen on MSG Plus or heard on WFAN 660 AM. Remember to check in with Running With The Devils for a live game blog tonight! Here are tonight’s potential line combinations:
Zach Parise – Travis Zajac – Dainius Zubrus
Rod Pelley – Jason Arnott – Jamie Langenbrunner
Patrik Elias – Jacob Josefson – Ilya Kovalchuk/Anton Vasyunov
Adam Mair – Tim Sestito – David Clarkson
Andy Greene – Olivier Magnan-Grenier
Colin White – Matt Taormina
Henrik Tallinder – Matt Corrente