Game 73 Preview: New Jersey Devils at Boston Bruins

The Time: 7:00 PM EDT

The Broadcast: TV - MSG+(HD); Radio - 660 AM WFAN

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (34-34-4) at the Boston Bruins (39-22-10)

The Last Devils Game: The Devils went into Columbus on Sunday evening to take on the Blue Jackets. They out-shot them by a lot, had the better of possession, and drew more calls than the home team.  But unlike Friday night, the Devils managed to get a few goals.  David Clarkson cleaned up two rebounds and Nick Palmieri beat Steve Mason right after a takeaway.  The Devils won 3-0 and as such I had plenty to praise in my recap.

The Last Bruins Game:  The Boston Bruins visited Toronto on Sunday, and it didn't go very well for the visitors.  After scoring the first goal, the Bruins equalized thanks to Adam McQuaid.  Unfortunately, the good times of that were short lived as, the Leafs scored 40 seconds later.  They would never look back as they piled on two more goals to send Tim Thomas to the bench.  The Leafs tacked one more on Tuukka Rask and Boston settled for only one late consolation goal to lose 5-2.  Stanley Cup of Chowder has this recap of their decisive loss.

The Last Devils-Bruins Game: The last time these two met was way back on November 15, 2010.  The Devils were swooning and Boston was more than happy to pile on the misery.  The Devils had to kill 6 penalties, had to face Tim Thomas, and suffer from John MacLean coaching the team among other problems.  The Devils lost 3-0 and fully deserved it.  My recap of the game is right here, where in I note it was their third shutout loss in six games at the time.  For the victorious opposition's side, Stanley Cup of Chowder has this recap.

The Goal:  All three defensive pairings must hold strong behind the forwards. The Boston Bruins have plenty of depth   The team has 12 players with 10 goals or more, and 5 of them have 15 or more.  As a team, Boston puts up 33.1 shots per game, the fourth most in the league, yet only have one player with over 200 shots on net: Zdeno Chara.  My takeaway from all this is that the Bruins can attack fairly well with either of their top three lines.  So while some players may demand more respect than others, all three defensive pairings will have to very aware tonight. If they aren't, then tonight's game will be that much more difficult to win.

I have a few more thoughts on tonight's game after the jump. For an opinion from a Boston point of view, please check out Stanley Cup of Chowder.

It's been so long since these two teams have last played each other.   Here's a quick summary of what the B's have done in the meantime:

  • Tim Thomas continues to play out of his mind.
  • The team acquired forwards Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley as well as defenseman Tomas Kaberle.
  • Zdeno Chara literally wrecked a dude.
  • The Bruins won a whole bunch of games but are engaged in a battle for the Northeast Division crown with their hated rivals, the Canadiens.
  • But recently, they've been struggling with a 1-3-3 record in their last 7 games.

That last point is something one may think the Devils may be able to hit upon.  However, I feel Boston will be more motivated to put in a more complete effort tonight. They're at home, they need to get ready for a big game on Thursday against Montreal, and per Fluto Shinzawa's report of Monday's practice at Boston.com, head coach Claude Julien skated them hard.   I wouldn't count on Boston taking this contest too easy.


GP MIN W L GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2010-11 - Tim Thomas 49 2880 29 10 100 2.08 1576 1476 .937 7

According to Shinzawa's post-practice report on Monday, Tim Thomas is likely to start for the Bruins tonight.  Thomas has posted a superb save percentage this season, though it's questionable as to whether it's actually sustainable.  He was hovering above 94% back in January and it's slipped a bit.  Don't misunderstand, I'm not saying he's now a sieve. Just that it's bound to drop sometime.  Toronto put up 4 on him on Sunday, evidence that he's somewhat human.   Hopefully, today's game will continue to help the regression of Thomas' save percentage.

The Bruins will get a returning Brad Marchand to help them out on offense.  Marchand was suspended for two games for a head shot on R.J. Umberger.  Outside of that ugly incident, Marchand has enjoyed a nice season with 19 goals and 16 assists.  Per Shinzawa's report, he'll probably end up lining up at left wing with Patrice Bergeron and either Michael Ryder or Mark Recchi.   His return will mean a forward must sit.


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG SOG PCT
2010-11 - Milan Lucic 68 29 24 53 24 106 5 0 7 154 18.8
2010-11 - David Krejci 64 12 44 56 22 24 1 0 2 136 8.8
2010-11 - Nathan Horton 69 20 26 46 25 74 3 0 1 173 11.6

While I said for the goal is for all three defensive pairings to stay focused and play well against Boston's depth at offense, their first line is nothing to sneeze at.   Both Lucic and Horton are strong wingers who use their size just as well as their skill.  Krejci is the straw that stirs the drink for this line.  They'll likely draw the top pairing of Henrik Tallinder and Mark Fayne, and possibly the Elias line.  Hopefully, the Devils don't get cycled to doom by the these three.

If there is something the Devils might be able to exploit, it's Boston's defense.  The Bruins do have a stud in Chara going forward, the shots against allowed doesn't die when he's on the ice.  In fact, the team as a whole just allows a lot of shots.  Their shots allowed average per game is 33.3, tied for the highest  such average in the league.  Sure, Thomas has been so strong at stopping shots this season (for now), so it hasn't killed them.  Still, if the Devils can play up to their shot prevention average (25.9 shots against/game average - lowest in the NHL), then the visitors can at least force the Bruins to play mostly in their end. 

As far as what's new with the Devils, I wouldn't hold my breath for any changes. The team had their first decisive win over an opponent in a month on Sunday, and so there's not much of a reason to change anything  I assume Martin Brodeur will start this one; and why not? He's coming off his 115th shutout where he made 13 saves.  He should be fine for tonight.   The only move may be to switch out Adam Mair with Rod Pelley, but that's more of a lateral move in my mind.  It's not like the fourth line would be that much better with Pelley in there instead of Mair in my opinion.  .

Do keep an eye on Nick Palmieri and David Clarkson. Both had great games in Columbus.  It would be just as great if either or both can perform really well in a second straight game.  Plus, it would likely mean those lines would be winning their match ups against Boston's depth, which would be great. Of course, I'm getting ahead of myself here.

How do you think the Devils will do against Boston's depth at forward? Do you think the Devils will pound Tim Thomas with shots? Do you think said shots will get past him?   Please leave your answers and other thoughts on tonight's game in the comments. Thank you for reading.  Let's go, Devils!

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