After what feels like an eternity, the New Jersey Devils are getting ready for their official home opener against the red hot Washington Capitals. The Devils had a successful trip participating in the Global Series, where they defeated the Edmonton Oilers 5-2, and showed some great signs of potential scoring depth. Penalties were still a slight issue, as the Devils were on the PK four times and thankfully only gave up one goal. The Devils had great legs all game and seemed to improve as time progressed, which is a great sign when it comes to closing things out late. Not having to solely rely on Taylor Hall in this one was a huge boost as well. Moving forward, this depth scoring trend will have to continue.
Things do not get easy, however, as the Capitals have scored at least five goals in all three of their games, currently sitting at 2-0-1 on the year. Five Capitals come into this game with at least five points on the season, including four with at least two goals. Phoenix Copley will get his first start of the season in between the pipes, so pucks on net early and often will provide a very interesting test for the backup net minder.
The Focus of today’s game is going to be which top line can be held in check better. Playing the second half of a back-to-back, Washington may need some time to get their legs. The Devils will have to be quick and crisp with the puck and constantly keep their legs moving to hopefully draw an early power play chance. The Devils also will have to do everything they can to make backup Copley as uncomfortable as possible in the crease. Bodies and traffic around the net, lots of pucks coming at him from all different angles, and getting him to move laterally and open up the five hole are going to be very crucial in accomplishing this feat.
Keys to Victory
Zajac-Wood-Quenneville…..We all know Hischier and Hall will generate their fair share of scoring opportunities, but what we saw against Edmonton was an incredibly aggressive and (at times) dominant third line. Wood displayed greats hands all game and Zajac was able to capitalize on some quality scoring chances to bury two goals. Odds are this game is going to be an offensive slug-fest, so it will be an all hands on deck approach when it comes to scoring.
Devils penalty kill….It’s inevitable the Devils are going to take a few penalties in this one. The real challenge is going to be stopping one of the most lethal power plays in the league. Ovechkin has been doing his thing, and the puck movement is incredibly fast and precise. It can become very easy to get caught chasing or watching the puck, so New Jersey will have to be sharp and make clears every chance they get.
Taylor Hall – Nico Hischier – Kyle Palmieri;
Marcus Johansson – Pavel Zacha – Stefan Noesen;
Miles Wood – Travis Zajac – John Quenneville;
Brian Boyle – Blake Coleman – JS Dea.
Mirco Mueller – Sami Vatanen;
Andy Greene – Damon Severson;
Will Butcher – Ben Lovejoy.
Keith Kinkaid / Eddie Lack
Alex Ovechkin – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Brett Connolly;
Jakub Vrana – Nicklas Backstrom – TJ Oshie;
Andre Burakovsky – Lars Eller – Chandler Stephenson;
Dmitrij Jaskin – Nic Dowd – Devante Smith-Pelly.
Dmitry Orlov – Matt Niskanen;
Michael Kempny – John Carlson;
Brooks Orpik – Christian Djoos.
Pheonix Copley / Braden Holtby.
Players to Watch
Will Butcher….In what is sure to be a heavily offensive game, the guys on the blue line end up in the spotlight routinely. Coming off of a very strong campaign last season, Butcher is looking to really solidify himself as a top end talent on the back end, and a strong power play asset. With one special teams assist already, Butcher will look to keep funneling pucks towards the net and find guys open on the half-boards. This game will be more about his defense, however, as Butcher will face one of the toughest and most skilled offenses in the league. It has only been one game so far, but Butcher is currently posting a 73.1% Corsi, second only to Johannsons 82.4%. While those stats are sure to come down, if Butcher can continually make sure we maintain the puck while he is on the ice, it will bode very well towards starting the season 2-0.
T.J. Oshie…..While all eyes are going to be on Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie comes into tonight tied for the team lead in goals with four and tied for second with six points. Everyone knows how good Oshie’s hands are, but he also plays a gritty game and doesn’t mind getting to the front of the net to bang home rebounds. It can be very easy to try and track Ovechkin, Backstrom and company, but forget about Oshie sneaking in for a prime chance. If the Devils can help keep Oshie off the stat sheet, that will do wonders towards getting the victory.
Where to watch
When to watch
7:00 PM EST
Even though they won’t be able to roll out the red carpet to welcome the home opener, I think the home crowd tied into the Capitals playing the second end of a back to back bodes well for the Devils in this one. The Devils will get off to a fast start and hold on to win 6-4, keeping Washington under 5 goals for the first time all season.
To make the game more interesting, we are playing tonight’s game on www.statementgames.com for the chance to win cool prizes. Our two lock statements are:
Total Goals OVER 5.5
Taylor Hall + Kyle Palmieri + Nico Hischier OVER 0.5 Goals