The Time: 7:30 PM EDT/4:30 PM PDT
The Broadcast: TV: MSG+(HD); Radio: 970 AM The Apple
The Outside Party: NHLTweetup is meeting in NYC, so if you're over 21, use Twitter, but can't get to the Rock to support the Devils, follow the Devils there. Details and deals here.
The Key: Momentum
I have a few quick thoughts about tonight's game after the jump. It's a bit short as with all the previews out there, the ones I linked, all the stuff Tibbs has linked, and so forth; there's not a whole lot of new ground to cover. Do check out Broad Street Hockey if you'd like to learn more about the Flyers.
|2009 - Chris Pronger||82||10||45||55||22||79||5||0||2||0||175||5.7|
As I noted here in breaking down the on-ice/off-ice even strength numbers, I felt Chris Pronger stood out the most. He clearly did among his fellow defensemen. He has the highest total average ice time (25:55) and when steps on the ice, the goals against and shots against rates significantly fall. He may have a reputation and may take too many minors for one's liking, but he's an excellent defenseman. It's going to be a big challenge for Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, Patrik Elias, and Ilya Kovalchuk to get past him - much less the rest of the Devils' forwards. If they can break him and/or force him to take a few calls, then that would be great. Otherwise, he's going to be a big obstacle along the way to try and beat Brian Boucher.
What Not to be Concerned About: Rod Pelley. In practice on Wednesday, Rod Pelley skated at right wing with Patrik Elias and Ilya Kovalchuk. Needless to say, those who saw that online may have performed some form of a double take or a disgruntled groan. Surely, Jacques Lemaire isn't going to go with this kind of experiment, right?
Well, I don't think so. I don't have any reason to believe that Rod Pelley is going to start on the top 6 unless he has some magical power to stop Flyers in their tracks. Expect him on the fourth line where he's been the most useful as an energy player who can throw some hits and just drive the net on offense.
What Could be a Worthy of Your Concern: Lemaire may be changing the lines but unlike Brent Sutter's 2007-08 season where he seemingly made changes for the sake of making them; there's some rationale behind them. Lemaire's not a dummy, I mean look at where the team finished for proof that he knows what he's doing. More recently, in the final few games of the season, Lemaire has made some in-game changes among all four lines. So the starting lineup should be written in pencil or some kind of erasable ink regardless. I feel that Lemaire will look for a match-up and exploit or defend against it as much as possible in Game 1 - that's the concern. Will Lemaire find it in time? Will he have the "right mix" out there to start? And if not, will he find it before the Flyers take advantage?
Either way, take this wild guess at the line up with a big grain of salt. I'm calling for Leblond to play because some beef is necessary against the Flyers and he's had a good run of games being, well, beefy. If not him, then Jay Pandolfo as he's been the team's 13th forward in the last stretch of the regular season.
Ilya Kovalchuk - -
- Rob Niedermayer -
Keep an eye on that second line. Unless the Flyers want to double-shift Pronger (and they might), they're going to enjoy not having his presence. Whoever is there better take full advantage when he's not on the ice. The big mitigating factor as to why you may not want to worry are these quotes by Jamie Langenbrunner and Ilya Kovalchuk from yesterday's post by Tom Gulitti:
"I’m sure it will be the same," [Jamie] Langenbrunner said. "I think it will probably change game to game and definitely home and away."
Because the players are used to it, Langenbrunner doesn’t believe the line changes are that much of a disruption.
"It was at first, but I don’t think we’re surprised by it at all anymore," he said. "I joked about it in here that it’s doubtful that the lines we practiced with today are the ones will be playing with tomorrow. So, that’s the way it is and I think we’re used to it. It’s going to change and all of us now have a familiarity with everybody because of it."
[Ilya] Kovalchuk also said it could be a positive.
"You play with somebody better than others, but you’ve got to be capable of playing with anybody," he said. "Sometimes it takes a little thing to make a big difference, especially in the playoffs."
What Not to be Concerned About: Ilya Kovalchuk. And not just for the interesting and mull-worthy quote above. The Associate tipped me to this Rich Chere story on Kovalchuk, and it's a great one. He wants success and frankly, I don't doubt his desire.
A Final Point: The dreaded Game 7 loss of 2009 to Carolina was brought up by Tom Gulitti yesterday. Here's what Jacques Lemaire had to say about it:
"They know why they didn’t win, probably, so they will try not to repeat it," Lemaire said. "I don’t need to talk about the past. I don’t need to talk about that at all."
Lemaire's right. This is not the time to look back and focus about the past. Nothing back then can be changed and it would only serve as a distraction for this series. The Devils need to take the momentum they generated in the first two weeks of April and turn that into results tonight.
Everyone, please be on your best behavior. Please read the rules if you haven't, they're on the front page on the left sidebar below the More SBNation Blogs box. Or just click here for them. Please be civil lest you want be a stereotypical "dumb fan." Please leave your comments about tonight's game in advance of the GameThread in this post. Go Devils!