The New Jersey Devils have done very well since mid-November with a series of winning streaks, a set of forwards who find themselves scoring more goals more often than they have been scoring in years, a defense that has been pretty sturdy despite what it looks like on paper, and Scott Clemmensen playing solid, if technically questionable at times, goaltending, which is massive, all things considered. You got Patrik Elias being named third star of the week (h/t Gulitti), you recently got a clutch shootout win over a division rival, and you're looking good, feeling good.
And, as a fan, that feeling goes away when you check out Boston. Let me tell you that they are only average in their average shots per game (30.2/game, 13th in the NHL), below average in average shots against per game (30.7/game, 22nd in NHL), and in the lower end of the middle third of the league on the penalty kill (80.6% effective, 19th). Everything else just screams, "This is the best team in the East. Our website says We Want it As Bad As You and we mean every word of that slogan." They average more goals per game than anyone else (3.70), they average the fewest goals against per game (2.21), they are just .1% behind the Flyers for the best power play in the league, they have lost FIVE games in regulation all season, and they currently are on a 5 game winning streak with a minimum winning margin of 2 goals.
Yeah, they are that good.
Where does one even begin with Boston? Just check out what Fluto Shinzawa has to like about the Bruins at the Boston Globe; it's nearly everything about how the team is playing. Just look at the results: 24-5-4 isn't surprising when you have...
This man running a Vezina-calibur season:
|2008 - Tim Thomas||19||1144||13||3||3||1||41||2.15||602||561||.932||2|
With defenders like this in front of him, providing quite a bit of offense to go with the defense:
|2008 - Zdeno Chara||33||6||13||19||13||46||3||0||1||0||89||6.7|
|2008 - Dennis Wideman||32||7||12||19||16||6||4||1||2||0||61||11.5|
And forwards doing it all from the primary scorers:
|2008 - Marc Savard||33||11||29||40||20||40||4||0||0||1||86||12.8|
|2008 - Philip Kessel||33||21||16||37||15||6||6||0||3||1||108||19.4|
|2008 - David Krejci||33||12||24||36||18||10||3||1||3||0||57||21.1|
To the secondary scorers:
|2008 - Blake Wheeler||33||11||9||20||19||14||1||1||2||0||49||22.4|
|2008 - Milan Lucic||33||9||14||23||15||71||2||0||1||0||48||18.8|
|2008 - Michael Ryder||33||12||12||24||12||12||4||0||5||0||89||13.5|
The whole point of showing off all these stat lines is to further emphasize how good the Boston Bruins are. Claude Julien lost the locker room in New Jersey, but he's got the Bruins playing on a number of levels above everyone in the league, save for San Jose and Detroit (who are also on said levels).
As far as the roster is concerned, with no practice on Monday, I got nothing from Chere or Gulitti. I'd expect the same roster against Philly; though I'd love it if Madden were healthy enough - he'd give the team extra strength in backchecking at least. Regardless, the way the team plays will clearly be crucial. The Devils cannot pass the puck as inaccurately as they did against Philadelphia on Sunday, they cannot take a ton of penalties as they did against the Rangers two Friday's ago, they cannot be passive with the puck as they were in the shootout loss to Toronto last well, they cannot sit on their heels like they did against Philly on Sunday, they cannot just give up scoring chances during a power play like they did against Ottawa, and so on. They need to be lethal with their finishing, smart on their forecheck, and calm on defense.
In short, they need to be magnificent to beat Boston; they will not and we should not expect Boston to come out flat or just suddenly have bad games. To expect them to miss glorious scoring chances like recent Devils opponents is futile. If the Devils can be one of the few who have defeated the Bruins, then it would be a true sign of how mighty this team can be. I'm not saying the Devils have no chance or that their last month and a half were easy games. The Devils went through many tests and passed with flying colors in a number of them. But the Devils weren't playing the best team in the East. It's going be very difficult. Hopefully, the Devils will make a game of it and get some kind of a result out of it going into Christmas.
As always, feel free to leave a comment, a complaint, a thought, or otherwise about the game. Just keep it clean, keep it relevant, and keep it Jersey.