1/2/17 Game Preview: Boston Bruins vs. New Jersey Devils

The New Jersey Devils (14-16-7) look to start the new year off right when they take on the Boston Bruins (20-15-4) at the Prudential Center at 7PM. The two teams have only met once this season (October 20th), in which the Devils lost 2-1. Kyle Palmieri scored the lone goal. The two teams went scoreless for two periods until Palmieri scored 4:14 into the third period. New Jersey held onto the lead until nearly six minutes later when Boston’s Brad Marchand scored the equalizer, and Patrice Bergeron scored the GAG (and eventual GWG) for Boston at 18:45. Overall, it was a good game for New Jersey, who had a total of 29 shots on goal and won 52.2% of face-offs.

New Jersey is coming off of a brutal 6-2 loss to the Washington Capitals Saturday afternoon and Boston defeated the Buffalo Sabres 3-1. Boston is on a two-game win streak. P.A. Parenteau has three goals in his last five games, including a power play goal against Philadelphia. The Devils have had plenty of trouble scoring on the power play; they went 0-9 on the man advantage in their last game. They are successful on 14.1% of their power plays (which is appalling); Boston is slightly more successful at 14.3%. The Devils’ penalty kill hasn’t been atrocious; they are 83.2% successful and are 11th in the league (tied with Los Angeles); the Bruins are third in the NHL with a 87.0% success rate. Scoring a power play goal against Boston would be a huge confidence booster for this team.

The Devils did not hold a full team practice yesterday (I would have but I’m not their coach for a reason) but Taylor Hall, Yohann Auvitu, Pavel Zacha, and Cory Schneider had a mini practice of their own. Hall skated on his own yesterday and today was his first time skating with his teammates since he endured his lower body injury against Pittsburgh last Tuesday. The four of them were joined by defenseman Steven Santini, who was recalled from Albany (AHL) yesterday because John Moore was placed on IR (concussion). Happy New Year, indeed. He will make his season debut tonight and I’m excited to see what he’s going to do and if he’ll earn a recurring role.

No decisions regarding goalie or lineup have been made yet but Schneider was the first goalie off the ice this morning so it is assumed he’s going to be in net tonight, especially with Keith Kinkaid coming off of his first back-to-back starts of the season. Goalie matchup will likely be Schneider versus Tuukka Rask. As for everyone else, I’m going to be honest with you, I really don’t know. Travis Zajac and Jacob Josefson both did not practice this morning so the lines look (very) different without them. Boston always plays an aggressive game so the Devils have to push back, harder and stronger.

Lines:
Cammalleri-Henrique-Palmieri
Hall-Kalinin-Parenteau
Wood-Zacha-Lappin
Bennett-Smith-Pelly-Gazdic

Some stats: New Jersey has the fourth highest GAA at 3.03, only ahead of New York (Islanders), Arizona, and Colorado. This doesn’t fall completely on the shoulders of Cory Schneider and Kinkaid; the Devils’ defense has been almost nonexistent this season. The Devils also boast the fourth lowest GFA (2.24), ahead of Buffalo, Arizona, and Colorado. It’s easy to see why New Jersey is losing as many games as they are.

And because they’re playing the Bruins tonight: they are currently 23rd in the NHL in GFA with 2.38 (tied with Detroit), which is ironically the same number of their GAA (they’re 8th in the league).

But here’s my favorite stat: the Devils are currently dead last in average shots per game, only attempting about 27.8 shots per game. I don’t think you need a hockey analyst to explain just how low that number really is. (Just for comparison purposes, Pittsburgh leads the league in average shots per game with about 34.8 shots/game). Clearly, attempting and taking more shots on goal leads to more goals scored; Pittsburgh has a GFA of 3.45. The Devils shouldn’t hesitate when they have the puck; even on the power play, they hold back and pass the puck to each other several times before someone decides to shoot the puck. At some point, you’re going to have lucky bounces and deflections, and those goals are going to matter. Every goal matters. A couple of extra shots here and there could do wonders, and they can really make a difference at the end of the game.

Whatever the result may be tonight (and hopefully it’s a win), it’s going to be an exciting game nonetheless. Their last game was a nail biter so I would expect the same thing from tonight’s game, as long as the Devils come out on top.

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