Well here it goes. Another season, another failure for the Devils. Sitting tied for 3rd to last place, perhaps it is best for the Devils to lose so as to get 2nd to last. A Devils loss, and a Phoenix and Vancouver win will ensure this.
The Time: 5:00 PM EST
The Broadcast: TV - MSG+2; Digital Audio - The One Jersey Network
The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (28-38-14) vs. the Detroit Red Wings (32-36-13 SBN; Winging It In Motown)
The Last Devils Game: The Devils fell 4-2 to the Islanders, in their last home game of the year. Adam Pelech started the scoring, with his 3rd of the season to put the Islanders up 1-0. Anders Lee and Jason Chimera then scored, making it 3-0 Islanders. Beau Bennett tried to respond, scoring to put the Devils up 3-1, before Anders Lee iced the game with his 2nd of the game for a 4-1 game. Beau Bennett scored again with two minutes left, but the game would end 4-2.
The Last Red Wings Game: The Red Wings lost 3-2 in overtime to the Canadiens. Frans Nielsen scored first, helping the Red Wings lead 1-0. Beaulieu scored to tie the game, before Dylan Larkin scored again to make it 2-1. Lehkonen scored his 18th of the year to tie the game, before Alex Galchenyuk scored in overtime to make it a 3-2 win for the Canadiens. In terms of former Devil milestones, Matt Lorito scored his first point for the Red Wings on an assist on the Dylan Larkin goal. Good on him.
The Last Devils-Red Wings Game: On the 31st of January, the Devils beat the Red Wings in Joe Louis Area, 4-3. Stefan Noesen opened the scoring for the Devils, before Kyle Palmieri scored to make it 2-0. Henrik Zetterberg responded to make it 2-1, before Palmieri scored again to put the score at 3-1. Henrique then scored to make the game 4-1, before the Red Wings tried to push a comeback. Fortunately, it was all for naught, as Nicklas Jensen and Tomas Tatar did too little too late and the game ended 4-3 in regulation.
The Goal: Go out there and entertain. This game means almost nothing, so why not try new things? The Devils are 2-6-2 in their last 10, so it’s either that the the roster is terrible, the strategy is terrible, or both. We as fans still haven’t seen that fast, speed based approach promised by Hynes earlier.
The Red Wings and Devils both play their last game tonight, so let’s look for them to play one last highly entertaining game, if not for the team than for the fans. It’s been a terrible year for both teams, in which the Red Wings lack of depth and the Devils’ lack of depth offense or any sort of defense were both exposed.
Who To Watch?: One of Jon Merrill or John Moore looks to be exposed by the Devils to the NHL expansion draft, so this could be the last chance for both players to show what they have.
Jacob Josefson is a RFA after this season, and according to Hynes, they like his character, but would like to see an improvement in his finishing abilities (per Andrew Gross).
Other Free Agent Decisions: Beau Bennett, Damon Severson, Stefan Noesen, Joseph Blandisi, Blake Pietila and Blake Coleman are the other RFA’s I see the Devils definitely re-signing. Ben Thomson, Kevin Rooney and Scott Wedgewood I feel like the Devils will also resign. I hope the Devils sign Yohann Auvitu, but the Devils’ questionable decision to send him down earlier this year, and not call him up, likely signals the end of his Devils career. Here’s the full list.
The Red Wings Players: This Red Wings team is full of underperformers this year, with only one 20+ goal scorer for the team in Tomas Tatar. Their best player, Thomas Vanek, was traded to the Panthers midseason, and their points leader is an aging Henrik Zetterberg. Dylan Larkin has regressed, but is still a serviceable player. Riley Sheahan has shocked almost everyone, playing 79 games and not scoring a single NHL goal on the year. Gustav Nyquist hasn’t had himself a bad year by a regular player’s standards, but his goal total has regressed every year since a 28 goal season 3 years ago. His time on ice has increased, but his shooting percentage has fallen by over 10 percent.
In terms of more positive players, Mike Green has redefined himself as the leader of a NHL blue line after having previously lost that role with the Capitals. Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou represent the Red Wings future, and look to play key roles with the team in the future.
So This Is It: It’s kind of sad really. Expectations were high coming into the season due to the Taylor Hall trade, but the loss of Adam Larsson has stun more than expected. Ben Lovejoy is terrible, so his defensive production definitely hasn’t been replaced. Cory Schneider had himself a down year, so let’s hope it’s not the beginning of the end for him. No Devils player performed over expectations this year, with Mike Cammalleri perhaps being the most disappointing of the bunch. I will say the Devils don’t have a completely terrible situation, especially if the youth continue to develop for this team. I still have some hope for the future, so I’ll just wait and see what happens.
Your Final Thoughts: What do you want to see from this game? What do you want to see from this team in general next season? What did you think of this season? Let me know in the comments below, and take care.