The Time: 8:00 PM EST
The Broadcast: MSG Plus
The Matchup: New Jersey Devils (3-6-4 10pts) at Minnesota Wild (7-4-3 17pts; SBN Blog: Hockey Wilderness)
The Last Devils Game: The Devils played a game Saturday night at home against the Flyers and it was ugly. Like, train wreck ugly. They lost 1-0. They did not show up in any respect, putting up 14 shots on goal in a game they trailed for 2+ periods against a bottom dwelling team that just lost 7-0 the night before. If you care to go into any more detail about exactly how much they sucked, read John's recap from last night.
The Last Wild Game: It couldn't be as bad as the last Devils game if they tried. It wasn't. It was actually a 4-3 victory over the Montreal Candiens on Friday night. The Wild built a 3-1 lead, on ly to see it evaporate in the third period. They reclaimed the lead and the win late in the third on a Jason Pominville goal. JS Landry from Hockey Wilderness has the recap here, in which he celebrates a rare Wild win over the Montreal Canadiens in a game it sounds like they were outplayed in for large stretches.
The Goal: Play better. Create some offense. Successfully pass the puck to other members of your team without turning it over. It's not going to be easy since the Devils will be red-eyeing it to Minnesota after an awful showing at home Saturday night. Particularly, the Devils seemed horrid on zone exits and neutral zone play Saturday night. The Devils really need to be better in all three zones. It's probably no coincidence that two of their best possession players and best players overall, Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac were missing. Well, the Devils better figure something out, because they are missing again today. Neither one took the trip to Minnesota, per Tom Gulitti. In the same article, TG mentions that Brodeur will not start and it is highly likely that Cory Schneider will start in goal. Well, hopefully Schneider can play as well as Broduer has in the last two games, the Devils will need it. It would seem Jacob Josefson and Mattias Tedenby will be in the lineup again on Sunday. Both need to play better. It's not fair to single out just the two young Swedes who have barely seen the ice at all this year. There are plenty of players on the Devils who play every night that also stunk last night. Damien Brunner was wildly ineffective without Travis Zajac as his pivot.
Progress?: After two very good games, the Devils put up one of their worst efforts of the year. A huge step back from the team that defeated Boston and Tampa Bay. Sunday is gut check time for the Devils, because no doubt they will arive at their hotel in Minnesota somewhere around 4am or so. One can only hope the energy they didn't spend while being awful on Saturday will be in reserves for use on Sunday. Martin Brodeur played very well. So did Jaromir Jagr. Pretty much, that is all. The forwards ranged from ineffective to horrific. The defense looked shoddy at best. I know two of the Devils main forces up front were absent, but this doesn't really explain the defenders inability to complete a simple breakout pass. Even missing two key players is no excuse for putting up 27 total attempts towards net in an entire 60 minute game. Eric Gelinas had an off game. It was bound to happen, but it was just a bit surprising that it occurred under these particular circumstances against this particular opponent. Time to get back to work in a tough road situation.
Did Someone explain advanced stats to Mike Yeo this summer?: All of a sudden, the Wild are one of the best possession teams in the league, after typically being awful by these metrics. They are equally good, if not better, in close score situations. Well, this may not bode well for the Devils. If the zone exits and neutral zone play are not much, much, cleaner, the Wild may be able to pin the Devils back for long stretches. Interestingly enough, Minnesota, like the Devils, seem to play pretty low event hockey. While they are near the bottom of the league in shots for, they actually lead the league in lowest shots against overall, and at 5v5. Seems like they do the same things as the Devils, but are a little more effective in both generating shots and shot prevention. Perhaps we will have another sub - 40 shot game on our hands Sunday night, the way these two teams typically play.
Announcer Talking Points: I think there is some guy on the Wild who used to play for the Devils. I'll have to check my game notes.
Your Take: Now I'd like to know what you think the Devils can and need to do today to earn a better result than yesterday. Are Travis Zajac and Patrik Elias' absence a death knell for this team? Will the extra hour of sleep you gain from setting your clock back in some way make up for the 2.5 hours you lost while watching the "hockey game" last night? Please let me know what you think about these and all other issues looming for today's game. Thanks, as always, for reading