Matchup to watch: Sunday against the Rangers in New York City at 3:00
1.) Pittsburgh Penguins (y)- 32 Wins / 10 Losses / 0 Overtime Losses / 64 Points
2.) Montreal Canadiens (x) – 26 Wins / 10 Losses / 5 Overtime Losses / 57 Points
3.) Washington Capitals – 23 Wins / 17 Losses / 2 Overtime Losses / 48 Points
4.) Boston Bruins – 26 Wins / 11 Losses / 4 Overtime Losses / 56 Points
5.) Toronto Maple Leafs – 23 Wins / 13 Losses / 5 Overtime Losses / 51 Points
6.) Ottawa Senators – 21 Wins / 14 Losses / 6 Overtime Losses / 48 Points
7.) New York Islanders – 21 Wins / 16 Losses / 5 Overtime Losses / 47 Points
8.) New York Rangers – 21 Wins / 16 Losses / 4 Overtime Losses / 46 Points
11.) New Jersey Devils – 15 Wins / 16 Losses / 10 Overtime Losses / 40 Points
12.) Philadelphia Flyers – 17 Wins / 21 Losses / 3 Overtime Losses / 37 Points
(y) = clinched division
(x) = clinched playoff spot
The final stretch of the season has come and unfortunately the Devils have to climb out of the gutter to make the post season. In order for the Devils to have any hope of playing in May they have to win at least 5 of their remaining 7 games and it starts with a trip to Toronto.
The Maple Leafs are on the verge of clinching their first postseason birth since 2004 and they’ve been playing very well coming off a 5-1 victory over the Canadiens. The Leafs beat the Devils in both of their meetings so far this season 4-2 and 2-1 with their goals coming from Nazem Kadri, Jay McClement, Clarke MacArthur, Phil Kessel, Leo Komarov, and Tyler Bozak. The Red and Black got their goals from Marek Zidlicky (2) and David Clarkson.
New Jersey will need to shut down Kessel more than any other Leaf, since he’s currently on a three-game goal streak with a total of 5 goals scored during those games. Kadri, however, is the team leader in goals with 17 goals.
In terms of Toronto’s defense, Jersey’s team will have to keep an eye out for former Devil Mark Fraser, who has a plus- rating of +17.
After the Toronto game, the Devs head down to the so-called City of Brotherly Love to take on the Flyers. Luckily, the Devils are leading the season series against the Flyers three games to one. The first game the Devs shut them out 3-0, took the second game 5-3, the Red and Black won the third game 5-2, and in their last meeting the Flyers were finally able to get a win 2-1 in the shootout.
The Devils have had the Flyers’ number since last year’s playoff series. The Flyers haven’t beaten Jersey’s Team in regulation since March 13, 2012. Philly is going to have an even tougher time against the Devs since Danny Briere was put on IR.
The Broad Street Bullies are currently in a four-game slump scoring no more than 3 goals within that streak. But the Brick City Brotherhood still need to shut down Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek; both have 39 points each. Although Philly has been having a difficult year, they still have the 3rd ranked power play (22.1%) in the league. New Jersey will have to try even harder to stay out of the box so that they can take away Philly’s most dangerous weapon.
Up next, the Devils will play host to the Panthers. The season series is tied at 1-1 but most players and fans remember that the last time these two met, the Devs gave up the lead with 27 seconds left in the third period and the Panthers won it in overtime with a goal from Dmitry Kulikov. The star for the Devils that game was easily Steve Bernier who scored both of New Jersey’s goals that night, a feat that was equaled on the other side by Shawn Matthias.
New Jersey can’t let that game haunt them on Saturday. The Panthers are 30th in Goals Allowed Per Game (3.4) and Penalty Kill Percentage (70.4). There is only one player on the Panthers who has a positive plus- rating, T.J. Brennan, and it’s currently at +1.
The Devs need to think more about the first game they played this season where they won 2-1.
The day after the Devils play the Panthers they will travel across the Hudson to take on their bitter rivals, the Rangers, who currently hold the 8th seed in the conference.
The season series currently stands at one win each. The Devils took the first game three to one while the Rangers won the last game three to two. Clarkson was the star of the first game scoring two goals and providing one assist while Michael Del Zotto was the star of the last game with a goal and an assist.
Like every game between these two teams, it’ll come down to the goalies. Henrik Lundqvist usually plays very well against the Devils and he currently has a Save Percentage of .928 and a Goals Against Average of 2.06. He didn’t win the Vezina Trophy last year by accident. Since the Devils play the Panthers the day before, it’ll be hard right now to determine who will be in between the pipes against the Rangers, but my guess will be Brodeur.
The Rags traded away Marian Gaborik at the deadline and gained something they needed this season, depth. Ryan Clowe has been a perfect fit within their lineup, while Derek Stepan, Brad Richards, Captain Ryan Callahan, and Rick Nash have been monsters on their offense.
While I do believe the Devils can make still the postseason they need to win against the Rangers because of that 8th spot. I hear a lot of you saying they’re out, they have no chance, be realistic, etc. But, I know the Devils want to make the playoffs and the fans want them to make the playoffs so until that little mark appears next to their name indicating an official elimination from playoff contention, I will continue to root for it to happen. My Chemical Romance has a line in the song Kiss the Ring that speaks perfectly to this moment; “If you don’t stop believing, we’ll keep believing.” This should be the Devils slogan for the rest of the season.
Would you really respect the Devils if they just gave up? I didn’t think so, have a great week and Let’s Go Devils.