By Jeff O’Connor
The losing streak is still going. Can they stop this free fall that has now gone on for one-sixth of the season?!? Well, the New Jersey Devils are essentially facing a must-win game against the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight as they host them at the Prudential Center at 7 p.m.
What’s frustrating is that we don’t know what the Devils are just yet. They’re clearly not the team that was atop the Eastern Conference a few weeks into the season. They’re also not a horrible team that gets kicked in the gut this much. So what are they? A team that barely misses the postseason? Just sneaks in? Or are they a middle-of-the-pack, solid hockey team? I’d like to believe the latter.
Here are some thoughts and questions coming into tonight’s game:
1. They can’t lose again….right? Eventually, this losing streak will end. It has to somewhat soon…I think. Once they get “that” win, I think they’ll get some confidence back and start to play some consistent hockey.
2. Home crowd? Will they be alive, tonight? The last game they played at Prudential Center had all the makings of a disaster. Martin Brodeur got injured during warmups and when he was a late scratch for Johan Hedberg, the crowd was silent for pretty much the entire evening. Can’t have that again. We need the type of crowd that was there for Game Six against the Panthers last year; a crowd that doesn’t care what the situation is and just simply knows that they need to be behind the team 100%.
3. Clarkson/Henrique/Zajac They need to do something tonight. Travis Zajac has six points for the season!! HOW? David Clarkson hasn’t scored a goal in eight games. Team’s record during that time? 1-5-2. Two points in the last 10 games for Adam Henrique. I’m not saying the others are tearing it up, but these three need to chip in a little bit.
4. Score the first goal. PLEASE. It hasn’t happened in the last six games. The last time they got on the scoreboard first was in the shootout loss at home to Ottawa. Get the crowd rocking early. Build on it. Win a professional ice hockey game. Boom.
5. The power play has to do something. It has registered one marker in its last 26 tries. That’s a whopping 3.8 percent. Just get one. The power play doesn’t even have to look pretty or smooth tonight; just get a goal.
Prediction: Devils 4, Lightning 1
I think this game is all Devils. They’ll jump out and score two goals in the first 15 minutes. The Lightning will put a scare into them with a goal near the end of the period, but the Devs will tack on one goal in each of the next two periods to salt away the game.
Eventually, this team is going to just tee off on someone and just beat the heck out of them; on the ice and on the scoreboard. It might as well be tonight. When they break out, it’s not going to be in a nailbiter. They’re just going to take it out on someone. Tonight…the losing streak ends.
See you at The Rock! Let’s Go Devils!!