By Trevor Jahnke
What’s on tap:
Boston Bruins, New York Islanders (2X) and Pittsburgh Penguins
New Jersey Devils – 3-0-1 – 7 Points
Pittsburgh Penguins – 3 -2-0 – 6 Points
New York Islanders – 2-2-1 – 5 Points
New York Rangers – 2-3-0 – 4 Points
Philadelphia Flyers – 2-4-0 – 4 Points
What’s at stake:
The Devils have four games this week and three of them are in the division. They get their first look at two Stanley Cup contenders in the Bruins and Penguins, along with the Islanders, who have been scoring plenty of goals, two times. So in total there are eight points up for grabs, with six of them being from within the division. With the rest of the division close behind, this will be an important week.
Matchup of the week:
Saturday, February 2nd against the Pittsburgh Penguins at 1:00pm
What a week! The Devils are off to the great start that we all knew they were capable of, taking over first place in the Atlantic Division. Jersey’s team is going to have a tough week defending that top spot as they battle the Bruins, the Penguins, and two games against an Islanders team that is currently fifth in the league in Goals Per Game (3.6). They’re also at the bottom of the league in Goals Allowed Per Game averaging 3.6.
It starts with a trip to Bean Town to take on the Bruins who are off to a great start as well. Boston has given the Red and Black a lot of trouble in recent years having beaten them in all but one game in the past two seasons.
The Bruins have been getting help from everyone in their lineup, with at least one goal from 11 of their players. Brad Marchand leads the team with three, including a short-handed goal scored in last night’s game against the Hurricanes.
Tuukka Rask has been terrific, helping all Boston fans forget Tim Thomas. Rask currently has a 1.92 Goals Against Average and a .925 Save Percentage. Very, very impressive. If he can keep up his solid play, the Bruins are a team without many weaknesses.
It’s no easy task to stop a team when everybody is contributing; just take a look at last year’s two Stanley Cup finalists. But, after playing the Hurricanes in Raleigh, they fly back to Boston in order to play the Devs tonight. The B’s might not have the fresh legs needed to take it to New Jersey. It won’t be easy, but I consider this game very winnable for the Devils if they play well and avoid the type of slow start that they had in Montreal.
After their adventure in Boston, the Brick City Boys are playing host to the Islanders.
This will be the second meeting between these two teams. The Devils came out victorious last week 2-1, with Travis Zajac and David Clarkson scoring goals for New Jersey. The Islanders always play hard against New Jersey, but the Devils’ defense seemed to shut them down that game. The Isles only goal that game came on a strange power play.
Not surprisingly, John Tavares is their point leader currently with seven points (one goal and six assists), but focusing solely on him can prove costly. With Matt Moulson and Michael Grabner having netted three goals each, the Devil’s defense is going to have to pay attention to more than just Tavares to come out on top again.
Honestly, these Islanders are starting to scare me. After drafting in the Top-10 for the past few years, it was only a matter of time before their young talent kicked into high gear. They can definitely score, so without a solid night from the defensemen, the Devils may have to turn up the heat offensively in order to win.
The Devils need to take advantage of the home crowd and shut them down, especially considering who they’re going against next.
What’s next you say? The Devils from Brick City are traveling to Pennsylvania to take on the Penguins in Steel City.
Last season in their six games the Devs and Pens split the games evenly 3-3, with two of those defeats in Pittsburgh.
We know the dangerous players that they have in their lineup; Evgeni Malkin (one goal, five assists), Sidney Crosby (three goals, two assists), James Neal (four goals), and former Devil Paul Martin (one goal, two assists). Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has been on and off thus far, but he was very impressive in the shootout victory over the Ottawa Senators this past weekend, stopping 31 of 32 shots.
This will be a very interesting game and a true test of how the Red and Black can compete against a Cup-caliber team.
After the game against the Penguins the Devils will travel to Uniondale on Super Bowl Sunday to take on the Islanders for the second time in a week and the third time of the season.
This could be a tough game for the Devils, depending on how they react to short rest, as it’ll be their first back-to-back of the season.
This will be a grueling stretch for the Devils, but I have faith that they can put together a solid week. Granted, they haven’t been playing to their potential but they’ve been winning; can you imagine when they do start playing like the team we know they can be? Good teams find ways to win games when they’re not at their best.
Have a fun week and great Superbowl weekend!