The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (52-22-8 in regular season) versus the New York Rangers (47-22-13 in regular season), Rangers lead series 2-0
The Time: 8:00 PM ET
The Broadcast: TV - ABC, ESPN+, SN1, CITY, TVAS
The Series Preview
For in-depth information on the Devils and Rangers, check out John’s series preview.
The Line Blender
After many, including myself, were upset with Lindy Ruff for the lines he threw out there on Thursday night, it looks like he is committed to find an even worse lineup. Take a look at this monstrosity.
As I thought, there are changes for #NJDevils today at practice…— Amanda Stein (@amandacstein) April 21, 2023
▫️Palat moves up to play with Nico and Bratt
▫️Jack flanked by Haula and Tatar
▫️McLeod centers the third line
▫️Lots of options on the fourth line
▫️Bahl swaps to fourth D pairing, Siegs back up pic.twitter.com/UhACqcXjgK
Don’t get me wrong — McLeod has been fine. But every time that Lindy Ruff tries to convince people he can play the third line, it does not work out. He’s not a matchup defensive player — he’s a straight-up fourth liner. But choosing to run a Wood-Lazar-Bastian line would be a terrible choice after Wood’s second straight horrible game. Meanwhile, Boqvist is a clearly better defensive player than Lazar. I would not mind a Sharangovich-McLeod-Bastian fourth line again, but only if Boqvist moved up to play on the third line.
I also do not think Ondrej Palat has done anything to deserve those minutes with the Devils. This is not the Tampa Bay Lightning, and he has not been good with the team. I would much rather see them return to Tatar-Hischier-Mercer: a first line that has worked for all the time it’s been iced. I do appreciate Erik Haula returning to the Jack Hughes line though. As long as Boqvist ends up as the third center, that can be a good decision.
And last but not least, why Brendan Smith? This team has scored two goals in two games, and zero at five-on five. ZERO GOALS AT FIVE-ON-FIVE! This team needs Luke Hughes, desperately, so he can punish the Rangers’ bottom six with his remarkable edges and passing abilities. I also think it sends the wrong message to bench Kevin Bahl, who has been better than Ryan Graves ever since Lindy Ruff put him in the lineup consistently. Personally, I would be fine with running 11/7 as long as Bahl and Hughes are in the lineup.
Take It Back
The Rangers fans who made their presence known at the end of Game Two should have set this team on a mission — to drive the Rangers out of their own Garden. I do not want to just see the team win today, I want to see the Devils crush the Rangers to the point that we don’t hear a peep for the duration of the third period.
What do you think of tonight’s game? Do you think the Devils can take this game? Or do you think they’ll be one step from elimination on Monday? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and thanks for reading.