Once again, the Devils take on one of the top teams in the league on a Sunday and it's not being shown on NBC. Granted, they are showing the Penguins hosting the Flyers and given that is a strong match up to show. They're rivals. They're tied for fourth in points. The Penguins are hot, the Flyers are "meh," and so it's a big game. It's a defensible choice.
Today is a big game as well. The Devils are 3 points behind Boston in the Eastern conference with a game in hand. A win for them puts the Devils even closer to guaranteeing home-ice for the first three rounds of the playoffs. The Devils are coming off a solid 4-0 win over Minnesota, so you know the team is feeling good. Patrik Elias definitely is with 4 goals and 4 assists in his last 5 games! Plus, the team is 8-2-0 in their last 10 games. As stated by the earlier quote to Gulitti, Brent Sutter's not even considering Monday's game - he wants the team to go out for the win today. An excellent approach, as indicated by the wonderful 47-21-3 overall record the Devils currently own.
The only ones who are (literally) not feeling good are Colin White and Brendan Shanahan. According to Gulitti, White will not play today or tomorrow due to his "lower body injury" and Shanahan, who made the trip up to Boston, is questionable for today. I would think Andy Greene gets two more games to try and justify a rotational spot for him and if Shanahan can't go, Jay Pandolfo will step in.
Boston has been looking mediocre as of late. They are 3-5-2 in their last 10 games and they have lost their last 2 games going into this one. That aid, Boston remains to be the best. Fortunately, the Devils have the advantage in the season series: 2-1. And these have been close games. The Devils lost to Boston 2-0 at the Rock in December; then the Devils got an overtime win in Boston in January and they got a second win as they beat the Bruins 1-0 at the Rock in February. In each of these cases, Boston was the best team in the league with one of the top offenses, top defenses, top goaltenders in Tim Thomas, and some remarkable statistics (e.g. The Bruins have a .533 winning percentage when they are trailing first in a game. Seriously!)
This has not changed. Yes, Boston is coming off some poor losses to Pittsburgh and Los Angeles. Based on what I'm reading through the Boston Globe Bruins blog, Fluto Shinzawa is reports that GM Peter Chirelli believes the problem the Bruins as of late is all mental. I would have to think that's exactly what was addressed in their practice on Saturday. Therefore, the Bruins should be seen as they are - the top team in the East. I would have to think Boston is ready for this one.
Ultimately, I believe this game will also be close and decided by 2 goals or less. That has been the trend so far this series and I don't expect it to change short of one team really sucking wind out there. Therefore it's important that the Devils not only bring their A game on the ice but also within their heads. Against Minnesota, the Devils took too many stupid calls. The penalty killers, Brodeur, and Minnesota's awful power play ensured that the Devils didn't pay for those mistakes.
The Bruins have the fourth most effective power play in the league at 22% and are loaded with great forwards like Mark Savard, Phil Kessel, David Krejci, and Michael Ryder - as well as Dennis Wideman and Zdeno Chara bringing powerful shots from the point. The Devils absolutely need to avoid taking stupid minors against this team today. Otherwise, it'll be nothing short of amazing if the Devils get anything out of today's game.
For the opposition side of this game, um, Stanley Cup of Chowder is out for the weekend, but he has this preview up. He admits it's lazy and apparantly, he thinks New Jerseyans talk like stereotypes from Staten Island. So, there's that. He'll have a GameThread up later on, though. Keep it here for today's game and we can chat it up together while watching the game on local TV.