Shame this will be the last game preview until September for preseason.
The Time: 3:00 PM EST
The Broadcast: TV - MSG; Radio - 660 AM & 101.9 WFAN
The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (34-29-18) vs. the Boston Bruins (54-18-9; SBN Blog: Stanley Cup of Chowder)
The Last Devils Game: On Friday night, the Devils hosted the New York Islanders. The start of the game was pretty much all New Jersey as they controlled play. Alas, one lost puck on offense turned into a two-on-one that ended with Anders Lee beating Martin Brodeur straight up. The Devils responded with pressure and were rewarded when Steve Bernier set up Ryan Carter right in front of the net for an equalizer. As the final seconds of the first period ended, Travis Zajac got a wobbling puck over to Patrik Elias, who beat Anders Nilsson to the top corner to make it 2-1. The Islanders responded in the second period, where the roles were reversed. The Isles did the attacking and it was up to Martin Brodeur to make the stops. He did, but in the third period, he got beat by Ryan Strome, who beat Andy Greene with an individual move, to convert a power play at 2-2. The game was more even as the Isles kept counter attacking and the Devils tried to find the breakthrough. None was found and overtime was largely in the Isles' favor. But no goals were to be had, so a shootout was necessary. Damien Brunner and Frans Nielsen scored respectively first. Then Josh Bailey scored with a spin move. Jaromir Jagr lost the puck on his attempt. Strome scored with another spin move. That's 1-3 in the shootout for a 2-3 final and the team's thirteenth shootout loss of the season. I'm not even mad about it;here's my recap of the game.
The Last Bruins Game: Saturday afternoon was Boston's final home game of the season and they hosted Buffalo. The game carried some significance as a Bruins win would give them the President's Trophy. The game itself was nasty at times with plenty of beefs and penalties. Unfortunately, Buffalo goalie Matt Hackett had to be stretchered off the ice. As for the action on the ice, the Bruins continued to produce as they have been all season. Gregory Campbell opened up the scoring late in the first period with a deflection. David Krejci scored a few minutes later by putting home a rebounded puck off the end boards on Hackett's flank. Past midway through the second, Patrice Bergeron scored his thirtieth of the season. Buffalo would get one past Tuuka Rask; Cody Hodgson lifted a backhander past the goaltender in the second period. But that would be it for the visitors. Krejci would score a second goal, on a third period power play. The B's won decisively 4-1 and earned home ice throughout the entire playoffs. Sarah Connors has this recap of the game over at Stanley Cup of Chowder.
The Last Devils-Bruins Game: On March 18, the Devils hosted Boston to kick off a five-game home stand at the Rock. Not only were the Bruins a really strong team, but a really hot team as they entered the game with nine straight wins. It should be of no surprise that Boston basically dominated the game. The B on their jerseys didn't stand for Bruins but Bosses. They were rather bossy, dictating the pace and flow of the game. It also helped the visitor's cause that 2013-14 Martin Brodeur was in net. Bergeron made the most of that in the first period to put his team up 0-1. Patrik Elias would score a PPG early in the second period to make it 1-1 in a 5-on-3 situation. But as the clock ran on the resulting 5-on-4, Brad Marchand finished a shorthanded rush to make it 1-2, Boston. Shortly after that Krejci hits Jarome Iginla with a long pass to spring him for an one-on-one and beats Brodeur low through the goalie to make it 1-3. Chris Kelly would score in the third period to put the B's up 1-4; Travis Zajac would add a consolation goal; and the Bruins would get that tenth win in a row. Here's my recap of the Devils getting bossed around for the better part of sixty minutes. Here's a more positive take from Sarah Connors at Stanley Cup of Chowder.
The Goal: Don't get hurt, don't get mad, and don't get even. This game will mean next to nothing at about 5:30 PM EST for both teams. The Bruins already clinched home ice throughout all four rounds, should they make it that far. The Devils have nothing to play for, they will finish sixth in the Metropolitan Division no matter what today's result would be. I want to see a competitive game and preferably a Devils win because I want the team that I love to win games. I think most, if not all, professional athletes are just wired to try to win regardless But I don't want any major damage inflicted. Boston should be trying to avoid that and I don't think anyone on the Devils will go out to do anything specifically dumb. Essentially, I just want a full game and no lasting effect into the postseason or the offseason.
The Secondary Goal: Avoid the shootout. I'd almost take a 0-4 beatdown by Boston over a shootout at this point. I have zero faith and confidence the Devils will win one on the last day of the season. I don't want to write about another shootout for at least four months.
Allow Me to Avoid Repeating Myself: It wasn't that long ago since the Devils played the Bruins. The short version is that they are the very best team in the Eastern Conference. They're one of the few teams better than the Devils in terms of possession based on Fenwick close percentage in 5-on-5 situations and adjusted-score Fenwick percentage, per Extra Skater. They are the very best kind of scoring by committee up front. They have two excellent goaltenders. They have the league's best record. They are an elite squad. Here's my preview of the March 18 game if you want more detail. Basically, worry about everyone on Boston that isn't on their fourth line and third pairing.
Speaking of the B's, Rask did play against Buffalo. I would venture a guess to that means the Devils should see Chad Johnson. His save percentage splits over 26 appearances are extremely good so he's definitely not an easy out. There's a good chance the B's will keep Patrice Bergeron out while Daniel Paille and Chris Kelly will stay out; each with various injuries based on this article by Mike Cole at NESN.
Lastly about Boston, check out this infograph bruinshockeynow made at Stanley Cup of Chowder summarizing the team's play in March. I'll repeat myself from a few sentences ago: They are an elite squad.
The Truth Moved Upstate: Tom Gulitti reported on Saturday at Fire & Ice that the Devils re-assigned Eric Gelinas to Albany. My first thought was "Why?" since the Devils don't have anything to play for. Then my second thought was "Gelinas got wrecked by the Bruins back in March, could he be ready now?" and figured that he may not. One more appearance in the NHL this season isn't going to make a big difference, especially if he could just struggle the entire game. My third thought was, "Oh yeah, Albany has something to play for." The A-Devils are fighting for a playoff spot, play that Saturday, and have only three games left. Gelinas will not just get to play, but in an important game to help Albany keep playing games beyond April 19. With that in mind, I can respect the decision to move him down instead of waiting until Monday when Albany only has two games left.
Based on who's left on defense, I wonder who will sit among the remaining seven defensemen since the Devils have twelve forwards. My guess is Peter Harrold. I don't see Peter DeBoer sitting Anton Volchenkov or Adam Larsson based on Friday's game. Jon Merrill has been too solid to sit as of late.
No Final Games For the Following: Adam Henrique, Bryce Salvador, Ryane Clowe, and Jacob Josefson did not practice per Gulitti so it's a safe bet that they won't play today. As a result, Dainius Zubrus gets to "enjoy" centering the defensive non-powerhouses of Michael Ryder and Damien Brunner while Tim Sestito and Mike Sislo stay in the bottom six.
39 Games for Brodeur: Cory Schneider will not appear short of injury or some hideous goaltending either. Martin Brodeur will start this game as confirmed by Gulitti at Fire & Ice on Saturday. Given that Peter DeBoer did say after Friday's game that he'd like to give him another start, this isn't exactly a surprise.
I'm not excited about this. Gulitti noted that this could be his last game as a Devil or ever. This is possible. It is also not definite. For all we know, Brodeur gets one last "farewell" deal after all of these "farewell" moments he had throughout 2013-14. I made my thoughts on this storyline in the recap to the Isles game, and I'd go into more depth. It's not that Brodeur hasn't done a lot for the franchise and that I have some sort of hatred of him. It's that he hasn't been good or even average over this whole season. It's that his play and how many games he got is part of the reason why the team's done after today. It's that he's had opportunities to prove that he's still got it and he has demonstrated that he doesn't. It's that the team's not so good to make up for his flaws. It's that starting this game isn't going to add or subtract anything to his legacy.
Most importantly, he never said that this would be his last game. There was no statement of retirement. There was no big, obvious hint that he'll be done. Yes, he's old. Yes, I can't think of any NHL team that thinks they will be better with a 42-year old Brodeur on their team. But he's not saying he's done, so why should I assume that this is it? So I won't.
Don't misunderstand me, I want Brodeur to do well when he does play. And he could do well today. That would be just grand. But nothing about how he's done all season, much less his other appearances against Boston, makes me believe he will. Since I'm all about wanting to see my favorite team wanting to win, I'm not feeling yet another game where the inferior goalie gets put in.
Selfish Hope: In addition to wanting to see the Devils win a game that is essentially meaningless, I want to see Jaromir Jagr on the scoresheet a bunch of times. He's been so, so good all season that I want his name to be announced in relation to a goal he helped create or scored.
Your Take: It's the final game preview of the season for the final game of the season. Do you have any hopes or expectations of any kind for this game? What do you want to see? Please leave your answers & thoughts about this one in the comments. Thank you for reading.