The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (15-24-5) versus the Toronto Maple Leafs (28-10-3).
The Time: 7:00 PM EST
The Broadcast: TV – MSG+
The Top Line and Depth
Last night, some struggling players lit the lamp for the New Jersey Devils early on before they collapsed in the third period. Pavel Zacha, Jesper Boqvist, and Andreas Johnsson got on the board. I am concerned here with Jesper Boqvist, who has been playing fourth line center since Michael McLeod went down with an injury. Since coming back to the lineup, Boqvist has a couple goals and has been shooting the puck more than ever. While Nico Hischier has struggled with Jimmy Vesey on his line, the coaching staff has shown itself to be unwilling to reshuffle the lines in a way that keeps Vesey and Bastian off the top line. Boqvist has played with Hischier and Zacha before, and that may be a better option if Alain Nasreddine lets someone like Janne Kuokkanen or Nathan Bastian play center on the fourth line.
I admit that I had pretty much given up on Boqvist. It may be unreasonable to have any expectations based on a couple fourth line performances, but he looks faster and more confident than he did during the previous chances he got. It may be that he understands that there are other prospects who are looming behind him, but the Jesper Boqvist of the past couple games has looked like a guy who is starting to put it together. I say ride the hot hands wherever you can in the lineup, and Boqvist could be it right now.
Defensive Coverage and Discipline
Damon Severson deserves plenty of blame for the loss last night, as he tried to take away the pass on a two-on-one and ended up not in the passing lane at all. This was the icing on the cake for a night where the Devils blew leads and allowed Auston Matthews, of all people, to have free reign at times with the puck. Coverage has been a problem for this defense in the past couple months, and there is no excuse for this to continue happening when the Devils have a lead. To make matters worse last night, Ryan Graves helped seal the game by taking a cross-checking penalty with under two minutes to play. This led to the hat trick for Matthews after the Devils had to pull the goaltender just to make the game five-on-five.
It is just not good for this team to be giving up leads like this, especially in front of Akira Schmid. There is absolutely no confidence in this group, and I have to think at least some people in the organization are reaching their breaking point. I would think that. But seriously, these Devils have surpassed the threshold of losing too much to the point where they may be harming their young players’ development.
Coaching Back to Being An Issue
While fans turned against the coaching staff earlier this season when the power play was looking like it would be the least effective power play in the league, causing the team to lose games because of special teams play, I feel like there hasn’t been as much focus on the performance of the coaches over the current bad stretch of games. Mark Recchi’s power play, which has been on a roll lately, gave up the game winning goal last night with a shorthanded goal against. I have never seen a power play give up so many shorthanded opportunities. Alain Nasreddine, who should be tied to the team’s defensive performance, saw the Devils give up a two-goal lead in the third period while filling in for Lindy Ruff. I cannot help but tie plays like the one Severson made last night to the coaching of Alain Nasreddine.
Will you be watching tonight? Were you angry after last night, or have you reached apathy? When is enough going to be enough for the ownership? How many people are showing up to the Rock tonight? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.