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October was more like AHHHHHHHHctober for the Devils this year, with an extended streak of losses that just didn’t make sense. Our first meeting with Edmonton was one of those games. The fourth loss in a row came in a shootout ending a game that looked like this:
Teams are not supposed to lose games they dominate like this. And we would’ve gotten away with the win too, if it weren’t for those meddling referees! The Devils took a 3-2 lead late in the third period with a goal from Damon Severson (‘Devils lead in the third’ is starting to sound like a curse, I feel like I should be censoring that sentence. Sorry guys, NSFW). Anyway, the referees decided to call a soft penalty then allow a last-minute goal for Edmonton that should not have been allowed since Blackwood had the puck covered and the whistle was blown, and to overtime we went. OT and shootouts are not really advisable when you’re playing the Edmonton McDraisaitls, and though they survived OT they fell in the shootout. John’s full recap of that game is here.
Special Teams were not-so-special for the Devils in the early games, and that was another problem in that game against Edmonton. The Oilers went 2 for 5 on the man advantage while the Devils power play was 0 for 2. Up until last night I would have said the Devils have cleaned that up, but the special teams play in Calgary yesterday was a whole lot of not good. To quote Andy Greene from last night’s post-game interview about the penalty kill, “UGH”. The Devils allowed 15 shot attempts and 2 power play goals, including one Greene scored on Blackwood himself, and generated only 5 shot attempts on their 2 power plays. Cleaning up the special teams will be a huge factor in tonight’s game, as well as just staying out of the box.
Back to back games are tons of fun if you’re the team that’s not playing on one. Edmonton had last night off after a 5-2 loss to St. Louis on Wednesday, so they’ll be coming in both rested and hungry for a win. The Devils are also coming in off a tough loss, but without the R&R time. The quick turnaround leaves the guys little time to dwell on the breakdown from last night, which honestly might be a good thing— they won’t have as much opportunity to overthink it.
Gauging the Match-up: a solid lukewarm— neither team is coming into this game with an exceptionally strong presence either way. Edmonton doesn’t have the high-event, strong pace style of Calgary that felled the Devils last night. They do have strong goaltending and the famously dynamic top line with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but the secondary scoring hasn’t been much help again this season. If the Devils can crack either Mikko Koskinen or Mike Smith and keep the top line at bay, they stand a good chance to get themselves back in the win column tonight.
Read Between the Lines:The Devils switched their lines up in the third period last night, so tonight’s lineup could look different, but I don’t expect there to be major shuffling since the lines have been mostly successful up until the breakdown last night. Jesper Bratt is expected to be eligible to return to the lineup tonight so we might see him tag in, possibly in place of the still-struggling Nikita Gusev. I don’t expect to see the top line separated since despite all of the team’s struggles they still maintained a positive CF%. In addition to that— Taylor Hall made some notable errors last night, as he seems to be falling victim to the idea of trying to make too much happen. Hall carried this team on his back his last full season, and he’s trying to do it again. He’s picking up a point per game without finding the back of the net much himself so far but it seems he could use a pick me up goal sometime soon. Lining him up alongside the experienced Nico Hischier might be better to help settle him back into his MVP form than Jack Hughes who, though offensively skilled, is a bit more of a liability for Hall to worry about on the other 100 feet of the ice. On defense, its possible we see Mirco Mueller draw back into the lineup after a multiple game hiatus. Matt Tennyson’s underlying numbers weren’t terrible last night but his actual play was not great and he did get a bit roughed up from some blocked shots, so he might take a seat tonight.
Your Possible Lineup:
Hall - Hischier - Palmieri
Zacha - Hughes - Bratt
Coleman - Zajac - Boqvist
Wood - Rooney - Simmonds
Severson - Subban
Greene - Vatanen
Butcher - Tennyson/Mueller
Edmonton’s expected lineup:
Draisaitl - McDavid - Gagner
Neal - RNH - Kassian
Khaira - Sheahan* - Chiassan
Archibald* - Haas* - Russell
Nurse - Bear
Klefbom - Russell
Manning - Benning
*Both returned from injury as of yesterday, lines may not be accurate
Your Take: Who should sit if Bratt is able to return tonight? Who do you want to see in goal? What would your ideal lineup for tonight look like? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and thanks for reading!