Who’s on tap: New York Islanders, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Buffalo Sabres.
Matchup to Watch: Thursday against the Boston Bruins in Boston at 7:00
1. Pittsburgh Penguins – 28 Wins / 8 Losses / 0 Overtime Losses / 56 Points
2. Montreal Canadians – 22 Wins / 7 Losses / 5 Overtime Losses / 49 Points
3. Winnipeg Jets – 18 Wins / 16 Losses / 2 Overtime Losses / 38 Points
4. Boston Bruins – 22 Wins / 8 Losses / 4 Overtime Losses / 48 Points
5. Ottawa Senators – 19 Wins / 10 Losses / 6 Overtime Losses / 44 Points
6. Toronto Maple Leafs – 20 Wins / 12 Losses / 4 Overtime Losses / 44 Points
7. New Jersey Devils – 15 Wins / 11 Losses / 9 Overtime Losses / 39 Points
8. New York Rangers – 16 Wins / 15 Losses / 3 Overtime Losses / 35 Points
9.) New York Islanders – 16 Wins / 16 Losses / 3 Overtime Losses / 35 Points
12.) Philadelphia Flyers – 15 Wins / 17 Losses / 3 Overtime Losses / 33 Points
The back-to-back losses in Florida are behind the Devs. Time to shake it off, because this week has the potential to set things right for New Jersey, or to set them back in a major way. With Dainius Zubrus on his way back, perhaps his return will give this team a spark.
It starts tonight in the Brick City when the Devils play host to the New York Islanders, who will be fighting incredibly hard to break into that last playoff spot while the Devils are battling to keep theirs.
It’s odd to think about the Islanders in the playoff conversation, but this is a very talented team that has stepped up against the Devils all year long. They wouldn’t be where they are without their top two stars, Matt Moulson, who is 11th in the League in Assists with 24, and their Captain John Tavares.
Tavares has had an unbelievable season, currently at 21 goals and 15 assists, with goals in every game prior to Saturday’s loss to the Penguins. New York’s superstar could easily finish the year with 30 goals, which is impressive during an 82 game season, and remarkable in this lockout-shortened season.
The Isles don’t have the best defense but their offense has been carrying them very well, especially in the Power Play category where they average a goal once out of every 5 opportunities. Jersey’s team is leading the series 2-1-1 so far, and it’s worth noting that Martin Brodeur wasn’t in the net during the lone regulation loss.
After the Islanders the Devils will head up to Bean Town to take on the Bruins who are fighting for the division lead with the Montreal Canadians.
No sugarcoating it, this is going to be a really tough win for the Devils. The Bruins have the number 1 rated Penalty Kill (90.4) and the number 3 rated Goals Against (2.2). A hard test for the Devils’ offense on any day, let alone when they’re missing the keystone of their game in Ilya Kovalchuk.
Jersey’s Team will have to keep an eye out for Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Tyler Seguin who all have a plus/minus rating of either 21 or 22. Goals just seem to follow them whenever they step onto the ice.
Recently their star has been Nathan Horton who has scored a goal in their last 3 games, raising his season total to 10.
Tuukka Rask has made the Boston fans forget the departure of Tim Thomas. The last time the Devs played against him they only managed to get one past him from David Clarkson on the Power Play. The Bruins goal came from Horton late in the third period, which is something the Devils don’t want to go through again.
After the brawl in Boston, the Devs will head back to Newark to host the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are one seed and five points above the Devils in the standings.
The Maple Leafs have won 5 out of their last 8 and all of their losses were obtained after losing in shootouts. The Leafs haven’t lost in regulation since March 14, which will be three weeks when the Devs play them.
Last time the Devils played them, Toronto beat the Devs 4-2 with the Leafs goals coming from Nazem Kadri, Jay McClement, Clarke MacArthur, and Phil Kessel, while both of Jersey’s goals came from Marek Zidlicky.
Toronto’s star player, without question, has been Kadri with 17 goals, 22 assists and a plus/minus rating of 20. Not to mention getting a hat trick and an assist in the team’s 4-0 victory over Ottawa last Saturday.
The Devs also have to watch out for Colton Orr. The man only has 1 goal and 3 assists but he is destroying the rest of the league in Penalty Minutes with 127, which is more than double the amount that David Clarkson has. Orr will not hesitate to hit hard and drop the gloves.
Jersey’s Team finishes off the week in the Queen City taking on the Buffalo Sabres. This will be the easiest game of the week but that by no means is it a game that the Devils should take lightly, it’s gotten them into trouble too many times already.
The Sabres are currently in their fourth, four-game losing streak of the season, and this week won’t be easy for them as they first have to go through the Penguins and the Senators before playing New Jersey.
The Devs have played the Sabres twice this season and have split the series with both games ending in a shootout. The goal scorers for the Devils in the series have been Adam Henrique (2X), Steve Bernier, Andrei Loktionov, and Patrik Elias. Goals for Buffalo came from Jason Pominville (2X), Jochen Hecht, Thomas Vanek, and Brian Flynn.
Their star player, Vanek (16 goals and 17 assists), has been missing the past couple of games due to a muscle strain but he is expected to return one day this week.
Buffalo defenseman Christian Ehrhoff might give the Devils trouble, as he’s got a plus/minus rating of 10 and he spends an average of 25 minutes a game on the ice.
The Trade Deadline ends on Wednesday and the season ends in less than a month, the final stretch for the playoffs starts now and whether or not a new Devil will premiere for the team by this Thursday remains to be seen. Regardless, the Devils can’t afford to sit back and wait for the cavalry. They have to learn from their mistakes and start their run before reinforcements arrive. The playoffs are coming, and while last year proved that any seed can make a run for the Grail, that certainly doesn’t mean that want to go in limping.
It all starts with a good performance tonight against the Islanders. Win, and the road to the playoffs is not too bad. Lose, and they’ll have the Isles nipping at their heels the entire rest of the way.