The Time: 8:00 PM ET
The Broadcast: TV - ESPN, SN, TVAS, MSGSN, MSG
Well... here we are. Needless to say, the biggest game of the Devils’ season. Biggest game, probably, for the franchise since game 6 versus the same opponent in 2012. Win or go home. Simple as that. It has been a hard-fought series, with twists and turns: the Rangers going up 2-0 winning both on the road, the Devils roaring back with three straight to put the Rangers on the brink, the Rangers surviving a massive Devils onslaught in the first period of game 6 to capitalise on stupid and geneous penalties to steal momentum and the game.
Let me say this here. If the Devils play as well as they did in game 5 and the first period of game 6, they win. Simple as. Not even Shesterkin can keep his team in it if they are getting pulverised, giving up chance after chance after chance. But if the mistakes creep in, if the puck management gets sloppy, if the Devils give the referees any excuse to send the Rangers to the powerplay, then, well, things might not be so fun for us Devils fans.
In the Boston-Florida game 7 last night (gloriously hilarious, as an aside) the referees called penalities as if they were officiating a regular season game. Boston got four, Florida three. In game six, the Devils took four consecutive penalties, Ondrej Palat being especially reckless (stupid?) taking an offensive zone trip seconds after the Rangers tied the game up on the powerplay, then taking an offensive zone slash seconds after coming out of the box for his tripping penalty. That is unacceptable. Totally unacceptable. For the love of everything Devils, be smart, stay out of the box, dominate at 5-on-5, win the game. Just win. Please?
The Series Preview
For a more thorough look at the matchup, see John’s series preview.
There are no reported injuries for either team coming into tonight’s game. Same set of players available to battle it out.
Yesterday, both teams held optional skates:
No expectations for the Rangers to change anything. The line changes worked a treat in game 6. Per MoneyPuck, the only Rangers forward line or defense pairing to be below 50% in xG for percentage was the fourth line of Vesey-Goodrow-Motte. Granted, after the first period, which the Devils absolutely dominated, these numbers will not have been quite as good for the Rangers, but ultimately they all fought back to be ahead in the run of play.
For the Devils, Siegenthaler-Hamilton was above 50%, as were the Lazar-McLeod-Bastian and Palat-Haula-Hughes lines. Otherwise, the Devils units were below 50% in expected goal shares. Remarkably, Tatar-Hischier-Bratt only had 0.034 xG for in total in 8:36 of time on ice. That simply isn’t good enough. Similarly, the Boqvist-Mercer-Meier line was terrible, out xGd 0.229-0.835! giving up just shy of an entire expected goal in just under five minutes of ice time. Not good enough. I would expect to see some sort of shuffling there, between those two lines, possibly sending Bratt down to reunite the Tatar-Hischier-Mercer line that had so much success during the regular season. Then again, Meier-Boqvist-Bratt doesn’t give me a lot of confidence either, so maybe someone from the Hughes line moves around as well. I feel sorry for Jack, with Palat being a total anchor to my eye.
It’s difficult to say, but I would be surprised if Lindy doesn’t do anything from the start. And if the Devils find themselves in a hole, he will take the blender out either way. Now, could he bring in someone else? Perhaps Sharangovich? I doubt it. At that point he is rearranging the fourth line which has actually been a positive for the Devils.
I should note, although for me there is no debate whatsoever about it, that the Devils coaching staff and management have decided who is going to start in net tonight:
Lindy Ruff says his decision is made on who will start Game 7, but he’s keeping it to himself and within the team. #NJDevils— Amanda Stein (@amandacstein) April 30, 2023
For me, it is Akira Schmid all the way. It simply has to be. He came into the series and rescued you. You live and die by this guy. If they go back to Vanacek, that sinks their winning chances significantly. Nothing against Vitek, I like the guy and he was awesome during the regular season, but he doesn’t seem to have the temperament for the post season, and dropping him back into a game 7 makes less than zero sense.
Well, this has been a fun series, but this is where it ends. For better or for worse. How are you feeling? I’m feeling surprisingly calm, mostly because I’m not allowing myself to think too much about it. Will the Devils win? Will they stay out of the box? Will Lindy shuffle the lineup? Akira will be in net. Right! Right? Who are you looking towards for a big performance? Who will step up when it truly matters? Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and thank you for reading and supporting the site.