The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (45-18-7) versus the Minnesota Wild (40-22-8). Opposition Blog: Hockey Wilderness
The Time: 7:00 PM
The Broadcast: TV - MSGSN
Restful Week (Comparatively)
While the Devils have been on an unforgiving stretch of game after game with no time for practice in between, this seems to be a very easy week for the team. With games today, Friday, and Saturday — and only a need to travel as far as Buffalo for Saturday — this is a week where I would expect the team to come out flying each game. I would be pretty disappointed to hear that they came out of the gate slow today, since they have two full days of rest to follow.
With Miles Wood, Nathan Bastian, and now Curtis Lazar out with injuries, Yegor Sharangovich and Nolan Foote have stepped up into fourth line duties on the wings of Michael McLeod. I think all Devils fans were satisfied with the results they got, as they were very strong with controlling play. To further boost their viability, Nolan Foote scored a long-range goal through a screen and seemed like he could have had one more during the game. Wood and Bastian left a lot to be desired with their shots, and Lazar would be more of the same in that regard. By comparison, Sharangovich is known for his shooting ability while Foote seems to be no slouch every time the Devils give him a chance in the NHL. Of the three injured players, I would most welcome Bastian back to the lineup, though Lazar was clearly a good defensive player. Miles Wood, however, can stay joining cryptocurrency Twitter spaces while his replacement scores third period goals against playoff teams.
How to Beat the Wild
The top players in Minnesota are very good — Kaprizov, Zuccarello, Eriksson Ek, Boldy, Hartman, and Spurgeon can ruin anyone’s day. Also, old friend Marcus Johansson seems to have hit a new life there since being traded yet again by the Washington Capitals. However, this is a team that seems to have absolutely no offensive depth in their bottom six. Instead, the Wild win by absolutely stifling goal scoring. Marc-Andre Fleury, who won their last game against Washington, has a .908 save percentage and a 2.83 goals against average. Filip Gustavsson, who is in his first year with Minnesota, has a .929 save percentage and 2.08 goals against average. Gustavsson should get the start tonight, though it remains unclear due to the Devils’ day off yesterday who should get the start in our end.
11:20 AM Edit: Apparently, Kirill Kaprizov has been hurt for about a week and a half. Still, the Wild have actually been scoring very well without him. Perhaps Johansson is helping to alleviate that issue while they wait for their star to return. The lack of Kaprizov, though, should only make it easier for the Devils to match up against Minnesota.
I have no doubt that the Devils’ depth can outplay the Wild’s depth. But considering that the Wild thrive off low-event hockey, the Devils need to crush them with an overwhelming attack of shots from all possible angles and ranges. Keeping the puck away from the Wild’s few scorers should follow accordingly from strong possession play. Yes, the Wild are a good team — but they are a good team in the Western Conference. The Devils should be able to beat them by sticking to a fast run-and-gun game with as heavy a forecheck as they can muster.
What do you think of tonight’s game? Will you be watching? Who do you think should be in goal for the Devils? How do you think the Devils will matchup against the Wild? Do you think the Wild will give the Devils’ offense any troubles? Will Siegenthaler, Marino, and Bahl be able to shut down the Wild’s scorers? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below, and thanks for reading.