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Game Preview #39: NJ Devils at Boston Bruins

The Devils will look to close out the year against one tough customer in the Boston Bruins.

NHL: Boston Bruins at New Jersey Devils Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The Match-up: The New Jersey Devils (13-19-6) vs the Boston Bruins (24-7-9)

The Time: 1 pm

The Broadcast: MSG

What to Expect:

The Devils have experienced a Christmas miracle these past few games, with the John Hynes firing and Taylor Hall trade snapping them out of their playing funk. One could say their confidence has grown three sizes since the trade, especially on the heels of a 7-1 victory over Chicago and even taking the Toronto Maple Leafs into OT. Last game they put up an OT win against the Ottawa Senators thanks to a gorgeous breakaway goal from Jack Hughes, the very kind we Devils fans were so used to seeing from Taylor Hall that just never went in the net this season. If the Devils are going to get back on their horse and move the season in the right direction, now is the time to really start that trend and capitalize on their current string of good performances. A win today over the cup contending team of last season would be huge, especially after the 5-1 defeat from Boston back in November.

But should we expect them to win tonight? Ehhh probably not. They’ve been playing good, but they have not yet been playing Boston Bruins Good.

The Bruins are:

  • Third in the league with 57 points
  • Third in regulation wins
  • Third in Power Play % at 26.7% success rate
  • Second in Penalty Kill % at 84.7% success rate

The Bruins have:

  • Two player tied for third in the league in points— David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand, both with 58 points in 40 games each
  • The #1 goal scorer, David Pastrnak— 29 goals
  • the T-#1 leader in points at 5v5, Brad Marchand— who is tied with Connor McDavid for 33 points at 5v5
  • 3 players above a point per game - Pastrnak, Marchand, and Patrice Bergeron.
  • The #4 team shooting percentage — 10.94%
  • The #2 combined save percentage - 93.25%
  • The #3 goalie in GAA and #4 in save percentage— their backup Jaroslav Halak, with 2.22 GAA and a .928 SV%

-Halak is confirmed to be the starter this afternoon

The Bruins also have:

  • 7 players on their IR, including big names for them like Charlie McAvoy, Torey Krug, David Krejci, and possibly Connor Clifton
  • One of the lower xGF/60 in the league, which is good for a team like the Devils who have struggled against more high scoring high octane playing styles in the past, but they also keep the xGA and CA to a minimum
  • Really, really top-heavy performance. Their top four scorers— the first line plus Jake DeBrusk— have 76 goals. The next two scorers are injured. The remaining players not on IR have a combined 35 goals. Take a look at the goals scored by each line. Obviously the Devils aren’t a high scoring team this season either, but the game plan is clear— if you want to beat this team, you have to shut down that top line. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some lineup changes to maximize a potential shutdown line with that in mind, but based on practice yesterday we’ll be seeing our usual lines.

Expected Lines: Combined Goals Scored by Line:

Bratt - Hischier - Palmieri 30
Coleman - Zajac - Gusev 23
Wood - Hughes - Simmonds 15
Boqvist - Zacha - Hayden 7

Greene - Subban 3
Severson - Vatanen 9
*Butcher - Carrick 4
Blackwood

*the Devils skated Mueller-Carrick and Butcher-Tennyson at practice yesterday, but Tennyson is not yet cleared to my knowledge and it is believed Butcher will be returning to the lineup so hopefully that 3D pairing is correct. Seriously, give me Butcher-Carrick guys.

Boston’s Lines: Combined Goals Scored by Line:

Marchand - Bergeron - Pastrnak 65
Bjork - Coyle - Heinen 19
DeBrusk - Lindholm - Backes 14
Nordstrom - Kuraly - Wagner 9

Chara - Carlo 9
Lauzon - Grzelcyk 2
Moore - Kampfer 1
Halak

The Takeaway: Confidence is key, but today both teams have it and Boston has the record to back it up. They don’t bring the offensive drive as much as you’d think looking at their top scorers, but their defense is absolutely stifling. The Devils have improved in a lot of ways including offensively lately, but the odds are definitely not in their favor today. Maybe n e x t y e a r.

Your Take: Will the ball drop on the heels of a Devils win today, or will Boston’s defense hold them off the rest of the year? Can our defense do anything to slow down that ridiculously stacked top line? How many NYE references and puns did I make that I didn’t include in this preview? Leave your thoughts and predictions in the comments below, thanks for reading, and see y’all next year!