The Time: 1:00 PM
The Broadcast: TV - MSG+
Quality of Chances
The Devils struggled with quality of chances down the stretch yesterday, and completely disappeared in this department in the second period on Thursday. If the Devils want to have a chance at beating the Penguins again, they’re going to have to play like their first periods over the past two games. They’ve come out of the gate well in both games - but making the effort last a full 60 minutes has been an issue. They need to take shots when they have the opportunity and not make the extra pass every time they have the puck in the offensive zone.
Scott Wedgewood has started the last two games, giving up five goals on 71 shots. That’s more than you should expect from a backup, let alone someone most people didn’t expect to see the ice this much coming into the year. On the year, Wedgewood is 3-4-3 with a .918 save percentage and 2.58 goals against average. We’ll see if MacKenzie Blackwood is ready to play today - but they were somewhat vague with information about him yesterday.
#NJDevils Mackenzie Blackwood also unavailable today. But, Ruff says the netminder “is close.”— Erika Wachter (@ErikaWachter) March 20, 2021
If Blackwood cannot play today, then expect Aaron Dell to get the start tonight. Dell is 0-2-0 with an .877 save percentage and 3.72 goals against average. Hopefully, the Devils will be facing Tristan Jarry tonight. Jarry is 12-8-1 with a .907 save percentage and 2.90 goals against average - and did not look his best on Thursday. Casey DeSmith, who allowed one goal last night, is 7-3-0 with a .919 save percentage and 2.11 goals against average. We have seen teams roll the same goaltender against the Devils on back-to-backs this year - I would only be surprised today because it’s another afternoon game.
The Power Play, Again
I do not know what’s so hard about designing this power play. The Devils were running one-timers to Nikita Gusev at the top of the faceoff circle at one point yesterday - and Kyle Palmieri was setting the screen in front. That’s an issue. We know Kyle Palmieri can work well enough from where Gusev was failing to get shots on goal - so why don’t the Devils go back to this? I already don’t love Gusev and Palmieri on the same unit - they’re both slow and somewhat limited transition players. The Devils, for a bit, used Jesper Bratt with Pavel Zacha and Nikita Gusev at even strength this season - why not on the power play? I’ve felt like Zacha’s been forcing it on the power play and might benefit from having Bratt, and Jack Hughes could probably set up Kyle Palmieri a ton if they just put Palmieri in the right spot. I don’t think the personnel should be this difficult, but the Devils just do their best to not play to their team’s strengths on the power play.
Getting the Forwards Working
The team is dealing with the loss of Nathan Bastian at the moment, and I think they need to admit that Gusev is not going to work in a fourth line role. With Nick Merkley playing with Zacha, I think Ruff should flip them in the lineup tonight and consider scratching Johnsson for Michael McLeod. Having McLeod in the lineup would allow Ruff to shift Maltsev throughout the night - so if something is not working, they can move Zacha or Maltsev up the lineup at wing. Andreas Johnsson continues to be invisible, and I don’t think he would have survived one point in 15 games if the Devils didn’t give someone (who ironically would be a better fourth line option) up to get him.
What do you think about today’s game? Will you be watching? How do you think the Devils will do on the ice? How do you think the goaltenders factor in today? Do you think Lindy Ruff will ever change his defensive pairings? Do you think it matters? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.