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Game Preview #8: Devils vs. Tampa Bay

The Devils face Tampa Bay for the second time this season, having fallen to them 3-2 earlier in the year. Here’s the preview.

Tampa Bay Lightning v New Jersey Devils
Travis Zajac, one of the key players offensively for the Devils this season.
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The last game of the homestand has Tampa Bay visiting, and they score a lot.

The Matchup: New Jersey Devils (3-2-2) vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning (5-2-0)

Tampa Bay’s SBNation site: Rawcharge

The Time: 7:00 PM EST

The Broadcast: TV - MSG +; Radio - 660 AM & 101.9 FM WFAN

The Last Devils Game: The Devils fell 3-2 to the Blackhawks in overtime yesterday night. The gamethread is here. PA Parenteau opened the scoring for the Devils on the power play on a rebounded shot. In the second period, Artemi Panarin would tie it up on their powerplay with a snapshot from the outside of the face-off circle. For the rest of the period, the Devils took control of play, but could not score. In the third period, John Moore scored on a Taylor Hall pass that got through everyone, and he easily slotted it through the net. The Devils then held on until the last three minutes, where a bad Vernon Fiddler double-minor for high sticking led to the Blackhawks pulling the goalie, and Jonathan Toews centering a pass which Marian Hossa (or was it Panik?) slid into the net. In overtime, a rare giveaway by Auvitu led to Duncan Keith getting the puck and passing it to Panarin. Panarin then proceeded to take a shot which Anisimov got the rebound to, and put it by Kinkaid for the 3-2 win.

On the game, the Devils outshot the Blackhawks 32-29. However, the Devils took 4 penalties, one being a double minor, which ended up hurting them badly. A major weakness for the Devils stayed true for this game, with the Blackhawks winning 34/60 faceoffs. The Devils tend to lose faceoffs at important times, which lead to wasted opportunities if in the offensive zone, or which lead to opportunities to the opposing team if in the defensive zone.

The Last Lightning Game: The Lightning fell 3-1 to the Canadiens on Thursday night. In this game, Tampa Bay outshot the Canadiens 31-26. They scored first in the 2nd period, but then conceded three goals in the third. Killorn started off the scoring on the night, and Bishop had a shutout going into the third. However, Montreal is 7-1-0 for a reason, and Galchenyuk, Pacioretty and Mitchell scored unanswered goals, and Montreal won the game.

Cory’s Back: Keith Kinkaid started the game against the Blackhawks, and he did a fine job. He made some key saves that game, but now Cory Schneider is starting this game. Schneider is undoubtedly one of the reasons the Devils are doing as well as they are right now. He has a .936 save percentage, and a 2.00 GAA. He doesn’t have a shutout, but he also hasn’t allowed more than 3 goals the entire year. He will be crucial for the Devils in this game.

Will Nick Lappin start this game? He played only 7:10 against the Blackhawks, and it might be better for his development to have more playing time in the AHL. One of Reid Boucher or Jacob Josefson will likely step in for him this game. I think Reid Boucher.

Also, the Devils definitely need more depth offense. On the year the Devils have had only five different goal scorers. Five. That’s lower than any other team in the league. They’re also tied for the fouth-lowest goals scored in the league, and rankings 28-30 all have played a game less than the Devils. Offense is definitely needed.

On the other side...: In the same amount of games, Tampa Bay has scored 10 more goals than the Devils. They have scored three or more goals in every game but two of them, both of which were losses. I don’t know if Bishop or Vasilevskiy is going to start for the Lightning as of now. Ben Bishop has been abnormally bad this year, with a .891 save percentage, and a 3.22 GAA. Vasilevskiy has been the more dominant, though in a significantly smaller sample size. In two games, he has had a .952 save percentage, with a 1.51 GAA. In the game against the Devils, Vasilevskiy was dominant. Either way, even with Bishop’s struggles, a good goalie will be on the ice for the Lightning.

Tampa Bay has three players scoring at a point-per-game or higher rate: Alex Killorn, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. They also have 11 different scorers on the year. Interestingly enough, Tampa Bay has played the same lineup all year, which means the chemistry on the team is probably insane.

Tampa Bay’s Power Play is a top 5 power play, sitting at 26.9%. Penalty Kill wise, they sit in the top 10, with an 85.0% success rate. This is a potent team, and if the Devils can play competitively against this team, I’d be really happy.

Who to Watch: Taylor Hall now has a 3 game point streak, with 5 points in the last 3 games. You wouldn’t know it, but Travis Zajac and Damon Severson are second and third on the team respectively in points. Mike Cammalleri should eventually score a goal, and he’s been unlucky, with the third most shots on net. The Devils are a team with a good top line, but no real depth, as mentioned before.

A player to really watch for on Tampa Bay is the aforementioned Alex Killorn. He has scored in each of his last three games, and has an incredible 40% shooting percentage on the year. His previous high in goals was 17, but he looks poised to break that this year.

Steven Stamkos was held scoreless in the game against Montreal, but against Toronto he scored 2 goals and had two assists. On the year, he has 9 points, putting him 5th in the league in points. Nikita Kucherov has a goal and 6 assists on the year, and last year he had 30 goals and 36 assists. Jonathan Drouin, Victor Hedman and Valtteri Filppula each have 5 points, and then the Lightning have have dangerous scoring depth in the likes of Ondrej Palat, Vladislav Namestnikov and Tyler Johnson. Defensively, Anton Stralman and Victor Hedman are as solid a defensive pair as you can get.

Looking at Tampa Bay’s lines last game, expect the line of Drouin - Stamkos - Palat to dictate the flow of the game. When at their best, that line is dangerous, and can score at will as dictated in Tampa Bay’s 7-3 defeat of Toronto. The second line of Filppula, Killorn and Brayden Point is dangerous as well. If you don’t know Brayden Point now, you might soon. A potential first-round pick in 2014, he dropped all the way to the third round due to doubts about his size. A decision that I personally questioned at the time, Brayden Point has major offensive potential. For the year, he already has 3 assists, and he’s only just 20. The fourth line of JT Brown, Brian Boyle and Cedric Pacquette is a grinder line that can also score goals as well. Overall, Tampa Bay’s lineup is filled with individuals who can light up the score sheet. They are a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, and the Devils will have to play hard for a chance at beating them.

Through smart drafting, Tampa Bay has built a team that’s strong up and down the lineup. The Devils can’t hold back for even a minute, as every line has the potential to score goals. Hopefully tonight, Cory Schneider will be on the top of his game, as he usually is.

What do you think? Leave your predictions for the score in the comments below. Personally, as much as I hate to say it, I think the Devils lose 3-1 tonight. Let’s hope I’m wrong. Will the Devils get some depth scoring this game? Will Cory Schneider save us again? Let me know what you guys think. Thank you for reading.