The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (8-15-2) visit The Philadelphia Flyers (15-7-4). This is the second meeting of the season.
Season Series: The Devils won the first meeting between these two teams just last Saturday. The Devils scored early in the game only to watch Philadelphia tie it late and force OT and then a shootout. Arnott and Zajac found the net during the shootout to give NJ the 2-1 win. These two teams will meet 4 more times after today.
The Last Devils Game: It was a complete embarrassment on home ice by both the team and the fans in attendance. The Devils lost to the Canadiens by a score of 5-1 but Montreal scored twice in just 90 seconds to begin the game, which took the fans right out the game. The Devils never really recovered and looked out of sync the entire game.
The Last Flyers Game: Tim Thomas had a huge game for the Bruins as he faced 41 shots by the Flyers. The Bruins found the back of the net three times and shutout the Flyers for a 3-0 win.
The Big Story: Time seems to be running out of the Devils. I know its December and there is still plenty of hockey to be played but the players don’t appear to be doing their job. Say what you want about MacLean making moves and trying to push all kinds of buttons and having it backfire on him but at the end of the day, its the players responsibilty to excute what the coaches have planned out for them. As much as we would like the coach to be the scape goat for crappy play, which is usually the way it works in the end, MacLean isn’t the guy that should take the blame here. When I started thinking about blaming MacLean, a wise person asked me “do the players have any responsibilities or does the coach have to do everything for them?” and you know what, he’s 100% correct. We are dealing with professional athletes here and guys named Kovalchuk, Langenbrunner, and whole roster full of other names needs to take responsibility for this season and turn this around by executing the game plan.
This Afternoon’s Game: The Devils have to find something that creates a spark from inside. I am tired of watching this team play without emotion. The Flyers lost to this team last Saturday and you know that can’t sit well with them. After getting blanked by the Bruins, the Flyers are sure to come out with something to prove as they are one of the best teams in the league.
Ilya Kovalchuk has been a complete bust so far this season. He has one goal in his last sixteen games and is on pace for fourteen. No one seems to be able to create any offense while he is out there. He is never part of a cycle down low and or any sustained pressure in the offensive zone. It doesn’t matter who MacLean puts with him, nothing is working and nothing is getting this guy going. If the roster weren’t so tight, I might say sit him for a game or two but realistically the Devils can’t afford to do that. All we can hope is that something wakes him up soon and he starts to remember how to score goals.
One thing I noticed during the Canadiens game was that the Devils weren’t really helping each other. Typically you want to find open ice so that a teammate can feed you the puck and I thought the Devils didn’t really do that except maybe on the Arnott goal. When the Devils did have the puck, a lot of them were standing around and the Candiens, like the Flyers are a quick team and will easily get turnovers.
The Flyers are going to give the Devils a chance on the Powerplay, thats just the way the Flyers play this game. The Devils haven’t done well when up a man this season so there is no deterrent for the Flyers not to try and get away with penalties . For instance the other night the Devils had 2 full minutes of 5 on 3 and only got 4 shots on goal and none of them were quality shots. If and when the Flyers give us those chances, make them count.
So, for todays game the Devils need to concentrate on the little things like moving the legs and finding open ice. They need to get quality chances on goal and for god sakes can we put a body in front of the goalie to maybe try and get a few screens his way? When the Devils do dump the puck into the zone, they seem to have the tendency to dump it too deep and allow the goalie to make a play. Confidence can go a long way and doing a few things correctly can create chances which in turn creates confidence.
The Devils had a practice Friday afternoon before heading to Philadelphia so we’ll assume the lines used in practice are the ones we see this afternoon.
Ilya Kovalchuk-Travis Zajac-Jamie Langenbrunner
Patrik Elias-Jason Arnott-Mattias Tedenby
Brian Rolston-Dainius Zubrus-David Clarkson
Rod Pelley-Adam Mair-Stephen Gionta/Alexander Vasyunov
Colin White, Henrik Tallinder
Andy Greene, Mark Fayne
Anton Volchenkov, Matt Corrente
Johan Hedberg, Mike McKenna
Lets hope that the same attitude the Devils had last Saturday after an embarrassing loss to the Islanders repeats itself this Saturday following an embarrassing loss to the Canadiens. As always, follow us on Twitter during the game.