The Time: 8:00 PM EDT
The Broadcast: TV - NBC Sports Network; CBC; Radio - 1130 AM WBBR
The Series: The New Jersey Devils at the New York Rangers. Rangers lead the best of seven series 1-0.
Last Game: The hated rivals beat the good guys 3-0 in the first game of the series. The first two periods were played evenly, if not in the Devils favor, but the third period saw the Rangers have the better of the play as they created traffic and transitional scoring opportunities against a Devils defensive unit that looked a step too slow. Regardless, the Devils couldn't put any pucks behind Henrik Lundqvist who was strong when he needed to be, although he wasn't pressured that often, and the Rangers rode him to victory.
The Game Specific Goal: Get shots through? Too easily said. The game-plan should remain the same, the in-game tactical decision making (shot attempts, line matching) could use some tinkering, but at this point of the year, the Devils aren't going to change who they are or how they play. So I think the goal is to play the same game that they did Monday night adding a bit more pressure and be more thoughtful of shots getting through traffic.
For an opposition's perspective, please visit Blueshirt Banter. After the jump I have a few more thoughts on tonight's game.
The Devils are down 1-0 in the series but this is hardly uncharted territory for them. Down 2-1 and 3-2 to Florida and down 1-0 and without Ilya Kovalchuk to Philadelphia gives me confidence the Devils can bounce back in this series. Each time the Devils were on the brink of letting a series get away from them, they have risen to the occasion. Even if the Devils go down by a goal early in tonight's game, I wouldn't be concerned. They have been down this road before during this playoff season and I don't think there is any reason to think they won't supply a great effort tonight.
Push the play:
The Devils don't have a lot of elite speed but when the opportunity is available the defensemen need to push the puck up the ice. Besides the possibilities of odd man rushes, the Devils can put the Rangers out of their defensive comfort zone. The Rangers are still a good defensive team when facing odd man situations, but by pushing the play you help negate the team shot blocking at which the Rangers excel. This is how the Devils successfully scored goals against the Rangers in the regular season and when opportunities present themselves tonight they must be able to quickly identify them and try to take advantage.
Power Play Patience:
The battle cry among fans and media alike has been to be more patient in shot selection so that shots aren't blocked. I think that is easier said than done during 5v5 play. During the power play however, I think the Devils can show a little more patience in their shot selection. This means you Ilya Kovalchuk. If Rangers defenders want to go down and attempt to block a shot, let them. The brief time you will then have is essentially a 5v3 and a shooting lane has to be open somewhere.
Alternatively the Devils may also want to drive the puck lower (again, easier said than done) to set up the one timer from David Clarkson/Travis Zajac in front of the crease. That or have Marek Zidlicky/Kovalchuk cheat up a little bit during one of the few times during the game when the Rangers can't clog the defensive zone.
One of the keys to the Philadelphia series victory was defensemen jumping in the play to help generate scoring opportunities. To create scoring chances the Devils defenders will need to judiciously pick their spots during the game to pinch down low and to help fight for the puck and outnumber the Rangers in front of the net. The Devils will not win this game (or series) if their forwards are relied upon to fight a 3v5 game in the offensive zone. It is asking too much of them. The Devils defense will have to contribute in any way possible and that includes timely break out passes and shots that get through traffic.
The Rangers are a frustrating team to play against. The shot blocking/tight defensive system can frustrate talented teams and the Devils can't lose their focus. Lundqvist lets up soft goals too; it's really a matter of getting those pucks on net through his defenders. But as I alluded to above, the Devils have faced adversity through these playoffs and have to use the fact that they bounced back from those situations as added motivation tonight. Ryan McDonagh is not out on every shift and the Devils forwards can capitalize when he is off the ice. I think the Devils recognize this and this will lead to a big night for Adam Henrique and Dainius Zubrus.
Prediction: 3-1 Devils victory. Devils goals by Adam Larsson, Adam Henrique and David Clarkson.
Now it's your turn. Thoughts on tonight's game? What are your keys to victory? Do you think the power play will get on track? Can the defense add some offensive punch? Predictions? Thanks for reading and sound off below.