The Time: 8:00 PM EDT
The Broadcast: TV - NBC, CBC, RDS; Radio - 660 AM WFAN
Last Game: It wasn't pretty. In fact, the first few minutes were downright unwatchable. The Devils were not at the top of their game. Some think that it might have been their worst performance of the playoffs. A goal by Kings fourth liner Colin Fraser started the scoring off mid-way through the first and the Devils didn't begin to fight back or apply pressure to Vezina candidate Jonathan Quick until the latter stages of the second period. Their persistance was rewarded with a goal from an unlikely source in Anton Volchenkov late in the second. The Devils controlled the play early in the third but could not put a second goal past Quick. The game headed to overtime and the Devils, attempting to apply pressure deep in the Kings zone, allowed Anze Kopitar to get himself and the puck into free space and he was able to capitalize on a breakaway. The Devils lost the opening game of the Stanley Cup Final 2-1 to the Los Angeles Kings in overtime. John's recap of the game is here. The recap from SBN site Jewels from the Crown is here.
The Tickets: The Devils sold all of theirs, so your option is to pay quite a lot for something from the secondary market. I recommend our Tickets section, where SBN Partners TiqIQ can help you find some. Why so much? Because it's the Cup™.
The Goal: Channel similar efforts from previous series. After losing the first game in both the Flyer and Ranger series the Devils were able to come up with big rebound efforts in must-win games. They will need another one of those efforts tonight. Going down 2-0 and heading to Los Angeles is a recipe for disaster.
For the opponent's perspective check out SBN site Jewels From The Crown. After the jump I go through a few items I think are important for tonight's game.
Lineup Changes for New Jersey?:
Based on Friday's Devil practice it looks like they will ice the same lineup as they did in Game 1 as per Tom Gulitti noted in his blog yesterday.
The healthy scratches will be Petr Sykora, Henrik Tallinder, Adam Larsson, Cam Janssen and Eric Boulton. I still maintain that Larsson should be in the lineup. Harrold has been solid, that I can admit, but the Kings have shown an aggressive forecheck and a quickness in the attacking zone/neutral zone that seems to be a challenge for the Devils defenders in getting the puck to the forwards. I want Larsson's passing abilities in the lineup. If Harrold was producing much on that second power play unit I wouldn't have much of an issue with him in the lineup, but he isn't. Larsson has also been stronger on the puck during the playoffs than Harrold, which would help when dealing with the Kings forecheck.
But right now, Larsson in the lineup isn't happening.
Without a change to the lineup, will there be any line changes? During some twitter conversation on Friday morning, John Fischer suggested swapping Elias/Ponikarovsky's spots. I wouldn't be opposed to that, but I would be more focused on moving around Zajac, Parise and Zubrus. The ZZZ line works well against certain defenses, and while it is still early, I don't think I see this line working too well in this series. Perhaps reuniting Parise with Elias and Zubrus and Kovalchuk with Zajac and Ponikarovsky (Flyer line combos) might be more effective. I don't have the answer, but I hope Pete DeBoer isn't against switching things up in the early-mid second period if the game 1 combinations aren't working.
Will Pete DeBoer look to match certain lines in game 2? Unlikely, per Tom Gulitti:
As in the series against the Rangers, DeBoer has no plans to go out of his way to try to get Kovalchuk away from a particular pairing, whether it be Scuderi-Doughty or Mitchell-Voynov.
"If they’re going to match those guys up, one, in order to get him away we’re going to have to get away from a four-line game, which has been other strength," DeBoer noted."And, two, if they’re matching up against Kovalchuk, then they’re not matching up against Parise or other guys. The match-up game isn’t something that I’m interested in or worried about and, for me, isn’t relevant."
One of the reasons I actually like the splitting of Elias/Kovalchuk/Parise on three different lines is because that way one of the Devils elite offensive players isn't seeing one of the top two King pairings all the time. The third line which has Elias/Josefson/Clarkson, should they stick together, will need to generate opportunities if the first two lines are struggling.
The 'We didn't play the best game' excuse doesn't resonate with me:
The popular sentiment between both the players and fans has been that the Devils didn't play their best game. I think this is a half-truth. It implies to a certain extent that the Devils lost, not that the Kings won. I don't buy it. The Kings didn't look sharp and spent a lot of time stealing pucks in the neutral zone and keeping the play tilted towards the Devils end. They showed some rust too, so the Devils --and their fans--should expect a better effort from the Kings.
Force the Kings Defense into Bad Decisions:
The Kings defense impressed me Wednesday. Quick decisions/passes to get out of the way of Devils forecheckers had the Devils forwards chasing the puck out of the zone more often than in the offensive zone. The Devils will have to get the puck deep AND be quicker to the puck to be successful in starting a cycle and creating scoring opportunities.
As an aside it would also probably help if the referrees noticed the human roadblocks the Kings kept at the blueline all game. I would say there was about 5-10 times during game 1 when a defender held up a Devil at the blueline after the Devil chipped the puck into the zone.
It's Far From Over:
As I alluded to above, the series isn't over because of one loss. The Devils have bounced back twice in the second games of series after dropping the first, and both of those times were on the road. The Devils will benefit from the home crowd, final change and having some experience playing against this Kings team. Often first games in a series are a feeling out process. I feel good about the fact that the Devils were the better of the two teams for the last 25-30 minutes of regulation. I expect a much better effort from the Devils tonight.
One Final Note:
My Devils player to watch for tonight is Jacob Josefson. I see him just getting better and better out there, and I think he gets rewarded tonight.
So what are your thoughts on tonight's game? What line changes would you make, if any? Can the Devils pressure the Kings defensemen enough to create turnovers? Who will step up tonight for the Devils? Will it be one of the stars or one of the role players? Thanks for reading and sound off below!