Game 63 Preview: Your New Jersey Devils at Boston Bruins
Boston Bruins (37-21-3, 77 points) vs. New Jersey Devils (35-23-4, 74 points)
7:00 PM E.T.
TV: MSG Plus, Radio: WFAN 660 AM
The Bruins and Devils have faced each other three times this season. This will be the final meeting of the regular season between the two teams. Boston has had their way with the Devils this season, winning all three matchups in regulation. They beat New Jersey, 4-3 on November 15h, 6-1 on January 4th and 4-1 on January 19th. The Devils will look to beat Boston for the first time since the final regular season game of last season, when the Devils beat backup goaltender Tuukka Rask and the Bruins, 3-2, before the Bruins would eventually win the Stanley Cup in seven games. Right now, if the playoffs started today, these two teams would meet in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, which is not good news for the Devils on paper. Tim Thomas is 6-0-0 in his last six starts against the Devils.
The Devils got off to a phenomenal start after the All-Star break, as we seem to mention every game. They were 9-1-1 in their first 11 games out of the break, before the most recent three-game losing streak, which featured regulation losses to Vancouver, Tampa Bay and the rival New York Rangers this past Monday. Still, the Devils are 9-4-1 since the break and 12-3-1 in their 16 road games.
Although the Devils lost to Vancouver last Friday, they didn’t play poorly in that game, but they looked tired and lazy in their Sunday loss to Tampa Bay. Monday’s game at Madison Square Garden was a bit bizarre, as both teams expressed their displeasure for each other with their fists, but not in the back of the net. In fact, the Devils and Rangers combined for 28 shots on goal (including the empty net goal by New York), which combines for the fewest shots on goal in a New Jersey Devils game since they moved from Colorado to New Jersey in 1982.
Searching for offense:
One thing remains true about the Devils: they have been playing well defensively of late. They held the Rangers to 15 shots on goal on Monday. In fact, the four goals allowed to Tampa Bay were the most goals they allowed in a loss since January 21st, when the Flyers beat the Devils, 4-1 in New Jersey. But Peter DeBoer wants the Devils’ offense to be more productive, as he changed the second, third and fourth lines in practice in an effort to spark the team’s goal scoring. You can view the entire lineup for both teams below.
Speaking of offense, how good has Alexei Ponikarovsky been since being traded to the Devils? In 49 games with Carolina prior to the trade, Ponikarovsky had registered just 15 points and was a minus-12. In 16 games with the Devils, he’s put up 5 goals and 6 assists, and has a plus-5 +/- rating. His shooting percentage is a ridiculously-high 21.7 right now, but the Devils are certainly enjoying his offensive production and his play on the third line since the trade.
Newcomer Marek Zidlicky is also expected to help the Devils score more goals. He hasn’t put up a point in two games as a Devil, but he has had a chance to practice with his new team, so it is the hope of DeBoer and the Devils that he’ll start to fit in and produce offensively, as well as help run the power play.
Another test in the face-off circle:
By now, you probably want to smack me for talking about face-offs again, as I’ve beaten the subject to death between previews, recaps and my own site, but here’s why it’s a crucial part of tonight’s game: the Boston Bruins are the best face-off team in the NHL, and they’re led by one of hockey’s elite centers: Patrice Bergeron. The Bruins dominated the Devils in the face-off circle during the prior three meetings between these two teams. The Bruins are too deep and too talented to give them such an advantage and chase the play, so the Devils will need to find an answer in that regard.
Martin Brodeur started every game but one in February (the Devils’ 6-4 win in Philadelphia on February 4th), and he’ll get the first start in March. DeBoer has already confirmed that Johan Hedberg will start Friday in Washington, but for now, Brodeur gets the start. The Devils have been playing well in front of him for the most part, at least statistically. Brodeur has faced just 46 shots in the last three games (16 against Vancouver, 16 against Tampa Bay and 14 against the Rangers). Ironically, the Devils lost all three of those games, so perhaps the Devils should allow more shots and less high-quality scoring chances.
Latest from the defending champs:
Things haven’t been smooth-sailing for the Boston Bruins recently. They just finishes a disappointing February, as they went 9-9-2 during the calendar’s shortest month. They were recently shut out 1-0 by the Ottawa Senators, which marked the second time in the last 5 games in which Boston failed to score a goal. The Devils were also shut out in their last game, but that was the only game since opening night where the Devils failed to score at least one goal. The Bruins only won five games in February that did not feature a shootout. Tim Thomas’ play has dipped significantly since his infamous comments and boycott of the team’s trip to the White House. The Devils did manage to score three goals in Thomas in their last trip to Boston.
Devils’ projected lineup:
Parise – Henrique – Kovalchuk
Sykora – Elias – Zubrus
Ponikarovsky – Josefson – Clarkson
Boulton – Carter – Bernier
Greene – Fayne
Salvador – Larsson
Volchenkov – Zidlicky
Bruins’ projected lineup:
Lucic – Kelly – Krejci
Marchand – Bergeron – Seguin
Paille – Campbell – Thornton
Pouliot – Rolston – Caron
Chara – Ference
Seidenberg – Corvo
McQuaid – Zanon
*We hope you’ll join us for our second viewing party of the week, as the Generals host our very first Bergen County viewing party at the Orange Lantern in Paramus. Details are on the event’s Facebook page.