Welcome to the Devils first Metropolitan division matchup of the season.
The Time: 7:00 PM EDT
The Broadcast: TV - MSG+; Radio - 660 AM & 101.9 FM WFAN
The Last Devils Game: The Devils fell 3-1 to the Winnipeg Jets last night in their season opener. As John's recap noted, the Devils were simply outplayed in all facets of the game. They were unable to have much possession of the puck due to poor zone entries and exits as well as a bad passing game. The inability to maintain pressure in the offensive zone led to a lot of time in defense which resulted in 4 minor penalties. They were able to kill off 3 of those 4 penalties, but still struggled throughout the game against a clearly better Jets team. In the end, the Jets had 3 goals on 30 shots against Cory Schneider while the Devils managed a goal on just 21 shots. Jiri Tlusty had the power play goal for the Devils, though it was really a Jacob Trouba own goal.
The Last Capitals Game: This will be the Capitals opening game of the season.
Maintaining Pressure: While I recognize that Washington is a better team than New Jersey at this moment, I would like to see some improvement from the Devils in their 2nd game of the season. Last night it was very evident that the Jets were able to maintain pressure in the offensive zone and in transition much better than the Devils. I'd like to see the Devils be more decisive on their breakouts with smart outlet passes up the ice. I'd like to see them try to carry the puck into the offensive zone a bit more as opposed to dumping it in. When they do get into the offensive zone, I'd like to see them be more crisp with their passes so that they are setting up shots and not turning the puck over so easily. Something that they struggled with last night. Doing this against a team like Washington is no easy task, but I'd at least like to see some signs of improvement.
Stay Out of the Box: You never want to take avoidable penalties against any team, but this is extra important when you're facing a team that has Alex Ovechkin. As the stats on Hockey Analysis point out, Ovechkin has been one of the top PP threats in the league for quite some time. They may be without the services of Nicklas Backstrom but still have plenty of other options such as Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, Marcus Johansson, and Andre Burakovsky up front. The Devils will be best served to make sure that they've improved their discipline over what they showed last night and in the preseason.
Changes for the Devils?: The Devils are coming off a loss and this is the back end of a back-to-back so naturally some changes may occur. Eric Gelinas had a rough preseason and was beat out by David Schlemko for a spot on the opening night roster. Now that Schlemko had a rough debut, this could open up the door for Gelinas to try to win a spot back. It will be interesting to see if the coaching staff decides to make this switch now, or give Schlemko an extended run of games to show what he's capable of. Stefan Matteau was also a healthy scratch last night but I'm less sure that he will draw back into the line up. It seems doubtful that Brian O'Neill would make his Devils debut as he's had hardly any practice time with his new club at this point.
Schneider or Kinkaid?: Coach John Hynes told the media after last night's game that he will wait until the team flies into Washington to decide on which goaltender to start against the Capitals. Though this is a back-to-back situation, I expect Cory Schneider to get the nod over Keith Kinkaid. It's only the 2nd game of the season so Schneider should be well rested at this point. Plus, the Devils don't play again until Tuesday and then are off until Friday. I'm sure a new coach like Hynes is eager to get off to a good start which is why he will go with a workhorse like Schneider who is among the best goaltenders in the league. While Kinkaid is a very capable backup, the Devils aren't at a point in the season where they need to give Schneider a break just yet.
Projected Capitals Line Up: Isabelle Khurshudyan of The Washington Post has this projected line up from this post on October 6. Even without Backstrom, their top 6 stands out as highly skilled and that 3rd line has some nice size and skill to it. Mike Green may have moved on but Washington's blueline still has fairly young guys with skill and experience such as John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, and Karl Alzner.
Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-T.J. Oshie
Marcus Johansson-Andre Burakovsky-Justin Williams
Jason Chimera-Jay Beagle-Tom Wilson
Brooks Laich-Michael Latta-Stanislav Galiev OR Sean Collins
John Carlson-Brooks Orpik
Karl Alzner-Matt Niskanen
Dmitry Orlov-Nate Schmidt
Washington's Goaltender: The Capitals currently have Braden Holtby in the prime of his career in the crease. As his Hockey Reference page points out, the 26 year old has a .921 SV% in 178 career NHL games. He's coming off of his best season where he made 72 starts, won 41 games, had a .923 SV%, 45 quality starts, and was worth 17.46 Goals Saved Above Average. Holtby has had a steady career progression through the WHL, AHL, and now NHL. It will be interesting to see if he can play up to the standards he set for himself last season. The Devils will definitely have their work cut out for them tonight.
Your Take: What do you want to see from this Devils team tonight? Do you hope that players like Gelinas, Matteau, or O'Neill play tonight? Who would you take out? What do you expect out of the Capitals? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!