The Time: 5:30 PM
The Broadcast: TV - NBCSN
Shaking the Last One Off
The Devils would probably like to forget that the last game happened. They had chances to score, but got shut out for the first time this season. Considering how thin the scoring is on the team right now, I think it’s somewhat impressive they had not been kept off the scoreboard yet. In fact, Scott Wedgewood’s two shutouts this year mean the Devils have done this to other teams twice as often as they’ve posted a zero. So, it happens. The Devils have two games against Boston coming up - one tonight and one Tuesday - so I don’t think they can afford to dwell on it.
The Bruins’ Game Last Night and Their Lines
While the Devils had a day off after their back-to-back with Washington, Boston had a game against Buffalo last night. These were the lines the Bruins rolled with yesterday:
Bruins / Sabres lines for today.— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) March 27, 2021
Lauzon in, Tinordi out. pic.twitter.com/Y6JD5jXEDF
The Natural Stat Trick log for the game shows that the top two lines did outstandingly for the Bruins last night. The Ritchie-Krejci-Smith line had a 79.17 CF%, outshot the Sabres 13-1, and scored two goals last night. The Frederic-Bergeron-Pastrnak line had a 63.16 CF% and a 78.28 xGF% last night. Trent Frederic was on the top line because Brad Marchand was placed on the COVID protocol list.
Brad Marchand of the Bruins was placed on the NHL COVID-19 protocol list Saturday and will not play against the Sabres (1 p.m. ET; SN1, NESN, MSG-B, https://t.co/yFcpGmLbfE).— NHL.com (@NHLdotcom) March 27, 2021
More in NHL Buzz:https://t.co/n2ehVfQEGK
While the top two lines did well, the third line of Anders Bjork, Charlie Coyle, and Zach Sensyshyn posted a 41.67 CF% and were outshot four to two despite having a 62.21 xGF%. However, the Bruins’ fourth line was kept off the ice throughout the game. Chris Wagner played 7:04 - half of which was penalty killing, and the Bruins had a 0.00 xGF% with him on the ice in all situations. Greg McKegg only played 4:04, and Jack Studnicka played 7:07 - they had xGF%’s of 11.00 and 11.32, respectively. This fourth line, with Connor Clifton and Jakub Zboril, was on the ice for Buffalo’s only even strength goal.
How the Devils Should Plan
The Bruins are a top-heavy team - I think everyone can see that. Fortunately, the Devils have a good new trick for taking an opposing line out of play. The line of Yegor Sharangovich, Travis Zajac, and Janne Kuokkanen has been very strong in the cycle game and plays well defensively. Their style of offense, which leads to some lengthy shifts in the offensive zone, also tends to make it difficult for opposition to counterattack. The Devils should play them against one of the top lines - but I actually think they should match them up with the Krejci line. Ritchie, Krejci, and Smith are all players with decent-to-good size, and the Zajac line can deal with physicality and stinginess.
Getting a good line going for Jack Hughes is a must in this game. Their original plan last game, which was to have Andreas Johnsson and Jesper Boqvist wing him, failed miserably and was quickly abandoned. The Devils should stick to Jesper Bratt, Pavel Zacha, or Kyle Palmieri as Jack Hughes’ wings at the moment, as Johnsson has been pretty bad for awhile now and Boqvist seems unable to get going at the NHL level despite showing the ability to score at a high pace in the AHL. Jack Hughes having a good game would allow him to matchup against the Bergeron line, and I view this as the key to the game.
What do you think about this evening’s game? Do you think the Devils will get back to winning games? Or do you think they’ll start sliding after the shutout? How do you think the lack of Brad Marchand will affect tonight’s game? Do you think Jesper Boqvist or Nick Merkley will be in the lineup today? Or might Ruff go back to Nikita Gusev? Or someone else entirely? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.