After being shutout last night, the Devils have to face Boston again.
The Time: 7:00 PM ET
The Broadcast: TV – MSG
Not As Fun as It Used to Be
Earlier this season, the Devils were inordinately successful against the Boston Bruins. The Bruins were the one team Kyle Palmieri seemed to consistently score against, and the Devils successfully shut down their scorers for the most part. Consequently, last night’s 3-0 loss was the first time the Devils lost to the Bruins in regulation this season. Without the team’s veterans, who were moved at the trade deadline, the Bruins were able to run right through the Devils last night. Scott Wedgewood, who shut Boston out earlier in the year, had his best game since March, saving 39 of 42 shots. I would expect MacKenzie Blackwood to play tonight, since there are only a few games left in the season. However, it might take a near-perfect performance from him in net for the Devils to win.
Fourth Line Issue
With Mikhail Maltsev out last game, the team brought A.J. Greer up to play next to Jesper Boqvist and Nick Merkley. The result was disastrous in terms of offensive output, but did not result in any goals against. In 6:37 together at even strength, they had a 20.0 CF% (3-12) and were outshot one to nine by Boston. Their 16.24 xGF% last night was second worst only to Jack Hughes’ line, which had a 15.78 xGF%. At least Hughes’ line played a large portion of his minutes against the Bruins’ top six.
I am personally unsure whether the team should be at all hopeful about A.J. Greer. Greer has been incredibly inconsistent in his production since being drafted, and therefore I might rather see someone the team is more familiar with. Someone like Fabian Zetterlund or Nate Schnarr could have been brought up to fill in for Maltsev. Zetterlund has just two fewer points than last season despite playing 18 fewer games in the AHL. Nate Schnarr is scoring at nearly twice the pace he was in the AHL last season. Given they are younger than Greer, I would have preferred to see one of these two.
Limiting Shots Against
Given how poorly the defense played last night, it might be a good time to reshuffle those defensive pairings. While it might be of detriment to Kevin Bahl, I think the team should reunite Ty Smith with Damon Severson tonight. The team needs an answer to the Bergeron line, and I would prefer Smith’s style of trying to push the offense against them. The Murray-Severson pairing was atrocious against Boston’s top line.
Additionally, I think Lindy Ruff should try to find specific matchups for his top two lines. If he played the Hughes line against the Bergeron line and the Hischier line against Krejci’s, the team should have a better shot of winning tonight – or at least staying competititve. Last night, the Hischier line was crushed by Bergeron’s, while the McLeod and Hughes line struggled to slow them down as well. I think Hughes should get the bulk of those minutes tonight in attempt to push play toward the Bruins’ defensive end. If that doesn’t work, the team should be in for another long night on defense.
What do you think of tonight’s game? Will you be watching? Do you think the Devils are going to be competitive tonight? Who should start in goal? Should Greer get a second look? Should the defense be reworked for tonight? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.