Welcome back to Earth, everyone.
The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (3-1-0) at the New York Rangers (1-4-0; SBN Blog: Blueshirt Banter)
The Time: 7:00 PM EST
The Broadcast: TV - MSG, MSG+
A Collective Exhale: Let me get it all out right here. When the New Jersey Devils began this regular season, I thought they’d be 2-0-0. I saw two bottom feeder teams in a row to start the year, and I figured this Devils squad was capable of beating the abysmal Avalanche, and the Sabres, who just don’t seem to know how to clear their zone. They went 2-0-0. They beat those bottom feeder teams. Okay. But then they beat the second-highest scoring team in the league, in that team’s building. The 6-3 victory in Toronto threw me for a curve, and for a second I envisioned a team who wasn’t flawless, but was capable of overcoming those flaws and finding ways to scratch out a win. Now, I’m not saying the Devils can’t be that team, but yikes, last night’s 5-2 loss in Washington was tough to watch.
Back In the New York Groove: Both the Devils and Rangers come off losses last night. For Our Hated Rivals, it was already their fourth regulation loss this season. That represents a major break from where their fanbase thought they’d be five games into this season. There have already been early calls for Alain Vigneault’s head for reasons varying from placing Nick Holden on the first D pairing with Ryan McDonaugh, to the overall sloppy, turnover-ridden games the Rangers have been churning out like an assembly line here so far. Here are some thoughts from Blueshirt Banter.
As far as New Jersey is concerned, there’s help to come in the form of Drew Stafford, who is expected to play for the first time since he left the season-opener at the Rock. That’s according to Andrew Gross’ Fire and Ice, check it out. Keith Kinkaid will get his first start this season also. But, I must say, last night’s loss was deflating. It was lifeless. The team’s speed was neutralized. That tough-to-play-against scrappiness was gone. The Devils looked to seemingly wave the white flag after their double minor call early in the third and the two goals that followed.
The Lineups: Based on the fact that both teams played last night, I haven’t seen all too much about the lineups, aside from reading on the Fire and Ice Blog that Kinkaid would start in net. I’d expect Stafford, if fully healthy, will make his return tonight as well. But there simply isn’t much out there yet as far as a solid lineup goes.
The Goal: The Devils ran into a hot team last night, no doubt about it. Let’s face it, Ovechkin simply won’t stop scoring. It was a tall task. With that said, looking forward to tonight: I see a chance to put the Rangers further down the hole. At some point, this rabid Ranger fanbase is going to revolt. And to put them that much closer to it would be nice. So I’m hoping everyone stays healthy, plays hard, and beats the Rangers.