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Game Preview #37: New Jersey Devils vs. Washington Capitals

New Jersey and Washington will meet up in the last afternoon of 2016 to complete their home-and-home set. This game preview briefly summarizes the matchup ahead of the game.

NHL: Washington Capitals at New Jersey Devils
The home-and-home concludes in New Jersey as 2016 is concluded.
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Before the year ends, there is one more game to play.

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils vs. the Washington Capitals (SBN Blog: Japers’ Rink)

The Time: 1:00 PM ET

The Broadcast: TV – MSG+; Radio - 660 AM & 101.9 FM WFAN; Digital Audio – The One Jersey Network

The Last Devils-Capitals Game: On Thursday night, the Devils played the Capitals in Washington D.C. The game was even televised on NBC SN. A national audience got to witness Keith Kinkaid standing on his head all night long. It took some time but the Caps started and continually rolled through the Devils. That meant Kinkaid saw a lot of rubber. Impressively, he nearly stopped all forty shots he would see in regulation. New Jersey did get a goal thanks in part to Evgeny Kuznetsov. The Capital forward won a puck after a faceoff in his own end and blindly flung the puck towards the slot to no one in particular. P.A. Parenteau pounced on it and beat Braden Holtby with an excellent shot to make it 1-0. The Caps would respond in the third period during a Devils power play. Jay Beagle and Daniel Winnik led a 2-on-2 rush. Beagle made a killer pass from his knees after initally being thwarted. Winnik was open in front because Adam Henrique didn’t stick with him; Winnik jammed the puck past a sprawled out Kinkaid for the shorthanded equalizer. The Caps continued to pour on the pressure, but Kinkaid denied them all as he effectively dragged the Devils into overtime. The overtime period was more even as both teams traded possessions, but both goalies kept the puck out. A shootout was necessary and it was then the Devils stole the win. Kinkaid denied T.J. Oshie and Kuznetsov; Michael Cammalleri and Jacob Josefson both scored. Kinkaid made two shootout stops after stopping 43 out of 44. He was the dominator in the Devils’ 2-1 shootout win; my recap of that game is here. For the other side, Geoff Thompson had this recap of the game at Japers’ Rink.

The Goal: Get closer. On defense, the Capitals had a lot of space to work with as the Devils were often chasing Capitals around in their own end with little success, except for Kinkaid who had a lot of success. Great as he was, giving up pucks and space to the Capitals for another 40+ shot night could be a recipe for failure today. So the Devils need to be closer to the Capitals in terms of positioning and even just keeping up with them. On offense, many of the Devils attempts on offense were from above the circles and not a lot of those attempts even got through to Holtby. The Devils’ lone goal in regulation on Thursday came from the high slot and it was thanks to a Capital making a boneheaded turnover. Great as that was, expecting another bad turnover to lead to one (1) really good shot is not likely going to be enough to get another result today. The Devils will need to find ways (hint: don’t dump it in) to have shooting lanes that are closer to the net and will force Holtby (or Phillipp Grubauer; Caps begin a back-to-back set today, it could be him) to work harder than he did last night. He made 26 saves, most weren’t challenging, and when the Caps did block the long shot, which was frequent, it led to a counter attack if not an odd man rush. The Devils need to get closer in the Capitals’ end of the rink too.
More Details in the Last Preview: As these two teams just played each on Thursday, this game preview will be a brief one. Changes with both teams will be mentioned, but there will not be a full-on rundown of the opposition. That was done in the previous game preview. So if you want to learn more about Washington as a whole and how they’re doing this season, then check out the last preview.

Give Me More Keith: Keith Kinkaid was downright excellent on Thursday. So much so that I would like him to start this game. Cory Schneider has been in a slump throughout the past month. While Kinkaid wasn’t exactly superior, his performance last night was too good to keep on the bench. It may effectively be a heat check, but starting Kinkaid would be the right move in my opinion.

If, for some reason, that does not happen, then it won’t be long before we see Kinkaid back in the crease. The Devils will begin 2017 with two back-to-back sets. He’ll surely play in two of those games. I don’t think he should wait; I think he should be in now.

Give Me Less Luke: Luke Gazdic was not a problem on Thursday and he was not an asset. I fail to see the value in the 19-year old Pavel Zacha being scratched for Luke Gazdic on Thursday night. Especially since the Devils are this re-building team. I want less of Gazdic and more of Zacha today.

One Last Thought: One aspect that just has to be better today is the power play. The penalty kill was fine for what it was on Thursday. But the power play not only failed to generate much offense, much less scoring chances for the Devils; but it cost them a goal. It’s like I wrote in the goal, the Devils need to keep moving the puck to find closer shots that will challenge the goaltender instead of settling for these distant attempts that put them at risk if/when they don’t get to the goalie.

Your Take: The New Jersey Devils will close out 2016 with the Capitals with the second half of a home-and-home. (Questions) Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this game in the comments. Thank you for reading.