By Dave Turner & Jeff O’Connor
Not to get on the soap box, but I wanted to sound off about an incident that happened last night.
A Devils fan was involved in, from what we know, an unprovoked altercation with a Flyers fan. He is 17-years old. That just tells you what kind of fans they have down there in Philadelphia.
We’ve all sat in front of opposing fans. I had Flyers fans in front of me for one of the playoff games last year and all there was, was a bit of good natured jawing back and forth.
It is COMPLETELY unacceptable for this to happen. You should NEVER have to feel unsafe in another team’s building because you are wearing the other team’s sweater.
All I can say is, stay classy Devils fans. We’re a great bunch and lets keep it that way. There will be quite a few Montreal fans tonight in the building. The Quebec contingency that travels to some of the buildings in the area to show their support for getting a team back will be there as well.
I know we will treat them with the kind of respect they deserve.
Please send your support to @Ant_DeMarco on twitter. This is a young man who is a great fan and needs all of our support. We wish him the best and a speedy recovery!
On to the game….
New Jersey Devils (12-9-6) vs. Montreal Canadiens (18-5-4) 7:00 pm Prudential Center, Newark, NJ
This is a chance for the Devils to finish up a strong week. If they can get five of six points on the week, they should be feeling pretty good about themselves.
If you think this will be easy, it won’t. Though Montreal has caught everyone by surprise after their fast start, make no mistake, this is a very good hockey club.
It will take the type of defensive effort that the Devils had last night and the offense will need to convert on some of their chances. Expect to need at least three goals to win this one.
Here are some thoughts/questions coming into today’s game:
1. Montreal’s power play has been phenomenal at times. Don’t get sent to the box. The Devils were pretty good on the kill last night and they’ll need to be so again if they hope to win. The Habs have three players who could be the power play quarterback on just about any team in the league. Raphael Diaz, Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban are excellent puck movers and can score as well. Plain and simple, if you take a lot of penalties, they are going to make you pay.
2. The offense needs to finish their chances. Though they only scored one goal last night, they had enough quality chances that they should have had at LEAST one more, if not two or three. Give credit to Ilya Bryzgalov, who was very good. It won’t be much easier tonight. Carey Price has had a great season and the Habs are a good defensive team. The Devils will need to bury the good chances they get today if they hope to win.
3. Habs fans will be there, drown them out with a strong first 10 minutes. The Devils have played so much better when they get an early lead and can be even more aggressive on their forecheck. It was a long time ago…but remember the last game vs. Montreal. The Habs smoked them in the first period and probably should have scored a lot more than two goals. How’s this for a stat:
"If you're not first your last." We are 3-8-4 when allowing the first goal. And, we are 10-1-2 when scoring 1st. #GameDayFacts
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) March 16, 2013
4. How can the Devils handle the Habs depth? This is no secret. The Flyers don’t have a lot of offensive firepower and the Devils shut them down the last two games. It’s the teams with four lines that frustrate the Devils. Montreal has a lot of speed. It is vital for the Devils to shut down their neutral zone transition and to seal them to the boards when the tempo of play slows down.
Prediction: Devils 3 Canadiens 2
I think this is the statement game that needs to be made moving forward. It is time for the Devils to let the Eastern Conference know that they are not just another low seed in the playoffs, but a team that no one will want to face in a first-round series.
Devils jump out early with a pair of goals in the first period, then allow a power play goal in the second to make it a 2-1 game. They hold on for dear life in the third period and put home an empty netter to close out the victory.
I expect the Devils to slow down the Montreal forwards considerably. They’ll have their chances but Johan Hedberg will be up for the challenge.
Bring the noise tonight Devils fans! Let’s Go New Jersey!!