By Trevor Jahnke
What’s on tap: Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, and Winnipeg Jets
Matchup to Watch: Monday at 7:00 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
What’s at stake: Simply put, a lot. To say that the Devils aren’t playing well would be putting it lightly. The fans are frustrated and I’ll bet the team is too, probably even more so. The turnaround needs to happen this week or else the season could be on the line.
Pittsburgh Penguins – 14 Wins, 8 Losses, 0 Overtime Losses, 28 Points
New Jersey Devils – 10 Wins, 6 Losses, 5 Overtime Losses, 25 Points
Philadelphia Flyers – 11 Wins, 11 Losses, 1 Overtime Loss, 23 Points
New York Rangers – 10 Wins, 8 Losses, 2 Overtime Losses, 22 Points
New York Islanders – 9 Wins, 11 Losses, 2 Overtime Loss, 17 Points
Time for a turnaround. After such a great start to the season, the Devs have been playing horribly. This week will be no easy test but maybe playing these 5 games within 7 days will help them regain their confidence.
It starts tonight when the Devils travel into Canada to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs who currently have a record of 13-9-0. They will be a challenge seeing as they currently have one more point than the Devils.
Their success is mainly due to their star players; Phil Kessel (4 goals and 12 assists), James Van Riemsdyk (12 goals and 4 assists), Cody Franson (1 goal and 12 assists) and their captain Dion Phanuef (54 hits and 34 blocked shots).
Nazem Kadri has arguably been their best player this season, with 8 goals, 13 assists, and a plus/minus of +11.
Luckily for the Red and Black, the Leafs have a home record of 4-5-0 this season, but the Devils haven’t won in Toronto since 2011. It’s not that long ago but they haven’t beaten the Leafs in regulation in Toronto since Nov, 2010.
The next day the Brotherhood heads back to Brick City to host the Tampa Bay Gatorade… I mean the Lightning, oops. The Bolts lead the league in goals per game (3.5) however they’re near the back of the league in terms of goals allowed per game (3.1).
The last time the Devs hosted the Bolts they beat them 4-2 with goals from Adam Henrique, Ilya Kovalchuk, Andy Greene and Patrik Elias, while Nate Thompson and Matt Carle scored for Tampa Bay.
The Devs need to shut down Steven Stamkos again. Last time they lucked out a few times with Stamkos missing an open net shot and a breakaway opportunity. But he has 32 points which puts him in second place in the league which weirdly isn’t as impressive as his 15 goals. For that category, he’s the league leader.
The Red and Black also need to keep an eye out for Martin St. Louis (5 goals and 21 assists), Teddy Purcell (4 goals and 17 assists), and their captain Vincent Lecavalier (6 goals and 11 assists).
Two days against two tough teams won’t be easy for the Devils but the Lightning are in the same boat as the Devs. Hopefully the Penguins can tire out the Bolts before they come to the Garden State.
Jersey’s team will have Wednesday to rest and get ready for when they play host to the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday.
The Devils came close to beating the Sabres last Saturday but ultimately, the Sabres got the victory in the shootout. Scoring for the Devs came from Steve Bernier, Henrique, and Andrei Loktionov; while Jason Pominville (two goals) and Jochen Hecht provided the goals for the Sabres.
Ryan Miller played pretty well despite letting in three goals. He stopped 28 shots on the day.
The Sabres didn’t have Thomas Vanek the past few games but he is close to returning so the Devils need to be aware of him whenever he’s on the ice. Maybe Brodeur will be back by this point; the Devs really need him.
After the game against the Sabres, the Devils have to travel down to Raleigh, also known as the City of Oaks, to take on the Carolina Hurricanes.
Last time the Brick City Brotherhood played the Hurricanes they lost 4-2 with Kovalchuk and Ryan Carter getting the two goals for the Devils while the Canes got goals from Jussi Jokinen, Patrick Dwyer, and two from Jiri Tlusty.
Currently when it comes to the plus/minus stat, there’s a six-player tie for the league leader and the Hurricanes have three of them; Eric Staal, Alexander Semin and Tlusty all have a plus/minus rating of +15, not to mention a combined total of 62 points.
The day after the game against the Canes, the Devils have to head back to Newark to once again host the Winnipeg Jets.
The Jets have had the Devs number this season, beating them in both games 4-2 and 3-1. Winnipeg’s Zach Bogosian, Grant Clitsome, Evander Kane, Blake Wheeler and Andrew Ladd (three) have scored against the Devils while Travis Zajac, Bernie, and Loktionov scored against the Jets.
This may be a really tough game for the Red and Black considering how tired they might be after 4 games in 6 days but the Devs are going to fight hard to make sure they don’t lose every game to the Jets.
We all know the Devils are going to get out of this hole, but whether or not it will happen this week is the question. Marty’s sore back needs to be healed so he can get back in between the pipes. The Devils proved weeks ago that they can beat the league’s best teams and now they’re going to have to get back on track.
Have a great week people and don’t worry; things will be back to normal soon.