Author’s Twitter: @MiikeLuci
Tonight, the New Jersey Devils look to go undefeated (in regulation) against their divisional rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers. Not only would the Flyers be the sixth team that fails to register a regulation win against the Devils in their 2015-2016 season series but a Devils win would put them on their second four-game winning streak in the past month, which would tie their season-high. Considering how the Devils will be rocking their vintage 1980s “Christmas tree” jerseys tonight, it would make a victory all the more fitting. Neither team has scored much since they last met over the weekend, however the outcomes have been vastly different for each team, who are separated in the standings by seven points. New Jersey currently occupies the first wildcard spot, while the Flyers are six points out of a playoff spot. Playing tonight are teams within reach above and beneath both the Devils and Flyers in the standings. It makes the essentiality of a victory that much more paramount for both teams if they want to continue their respective playoff pushes.
Despite riding a three-game winning streak going into tonight, the biggest story surrounding the Devils is the circumstances, from which their wins came from. The Devils have one even strength goal in their last five contests, during which they’ve gone 3-1-1. While the Devils have a 1.43 GAA on the month of February, it overshadows their glaring offensive shortcomings, which is reflected by their monthly average of 1.85 goals-per-game. It’s no coincidence this scarceness of scoring coincides with the sidelining of left wing Mike Cammalleri, who’s been out since the resumption of the all-star break. Needless to say, the Devils have relied on the bare essentials to string together wins over the past week. It’s a strategy they shouldn’t be taking for granted, regardless of their opponent; especially considering how fragile their current place in the standings is.
Consistency has been one of the Flyer’s biggest issues all season, let alone this month. They’ve only scored four more goals than the Devils, but their lack of top-tier (and healthy) goaltending has been one of the team’s biggest demeanors. The last two games between these teams went to overtime, where the outcomes were split. A loss tonight would be the Flyers’ their third consecutive, who are 1-3-2 in their last six matchups, four of which were against division opponents (0-2-2). Philadelphia’s big three (Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek) have combined for seven goals this month, six of which came from Wayne Simmonds, and one from Giroux.
Who to watch (Credit to Nick Papadimas- @ngpaps)
Shayne Gostisbehere…The 22-year old Union College alum and Flyers rookie defenseman made NHL history in the most recent tilt between the Flyers and Devils on Saturday, setting a new record for consecutive games with at least 1 point by a rookie defenseman (11). He is without a doubt one of the top forerunners for the Calder Trophy this season as one of the top players on this year’s Philadelphia Flyers squad.
Joseph Blandisi…In his first 18 games in the NHL, #64 has been one of the most thrilling rookies to follow. In his last 5 games, Blandisi has recorded 4 points (3G-1A). He is currently on a two-game point streak with goals in his last two games played against Los Angeles on Sunday and Philadelphia on Saturday.
What to watch
Kyle Palmieri Vs Wayne Simmonds…A good head-to-head matchup to keep an eye on going into tonight’s game. Both players lead their respective teams in goals (20 apiece). While Simmonds has enjoyed a successful February with six goals, Palmieri has just one assist in his last eight contests. Palmieri has had a successful track record against the Flyers in 2015-2016. His two goals and five points makes him a constant threat for the Flyers whenever he’s out on the ice based on those numbers alone, while the Devils have to successfully contain the red-hot Wayne Simmonds a second time in four days.
Same goalies, different results…? We’ll see an encore performance of the previous game’s goalie matchup. Goaltending played a huge part in the Devils’ marginal victory against the Flyers last Saturday. Schneider had to accommodate his team’s constant zone breakdowns, exploitation of their inferior possession game, and the offense’s inability to finish scoring chances. I like the decision by Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol to go with Neuvirth against the Devils again. Unlike Mason, Neuvirth (like I mentioned in Saturday’s pregame), has an astounding record against the Devils, and has forced both games he started to go past regulation. Schneider, on the other hand has been the backbone of New Jersey’s success the past few weeks. Like I said earlier, the Devils can’t take this trend for granted, and if Schneider is due for that one fluke game, his team needs to be able to score enough offsetting goals.
Where to watch
When to watch