With the lockout all but done*, and the framework of the schedule for this shortened season already decided, The Devils’ Den will give you an in-depth look at the team’s opponents this season. We kick it off today with a look at the Boston Bruins.
The Stanley Cup hangover was alive and well in Beantown last year. After winning the organization’s first championship since the 1971-72 team, the Bruins stumbled out of the gate, finishing with the worst opening month for a defending champion since the playoff format changed in 1994.
That all changed, though, as Boston found its footing. The Bruins finished with a 49-29-4 record, winning the Northeast Division and completing a second straight 40-win, 100-point season. They lost in the quarterfinals, falling in seven games to the Washington Capitals.
The Bruins had the most overseas players during the lockout, and welcome back the likes of Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand and a healthy Nathan Horton. But the big question will be in between the pipes, where Tuukka Rask takes over as the team’s number one goalie.
Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will preview the 2011-2012 schedule, breaking down matchups and providing in-depth analysis of their opponents. Today, we the preview this season’s matchup with the Stanley-Cup champion Boston Bruins.
The New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins never developed that nasty New York – Boston rivalry. Maybe it’s because of the proximity of the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers. It just seems like that hatred never carried over to the Bruins. Of course, that could all change this year.
The Bruins enter this season as the defending champions, giving them the target on their backs. Every team, including the Devils, will look to give them a run for their money. But their recent success isn’t great, and they haven’t fared well throughout their history.
The History Behind The Matchup
The Devils and Bruins squared off 133 times during the Devils 35-year history, with Boston dominating the matchup. New Jersey is just 47-64-3 with 19 ties, a winning percentage of just .436. They’ve allowed 448 goals, an average of 3.37 per meeting. They’ve scored 368 times, almost a full hundred goals less. It’s an average of 2.77 goals per matchup.
Boston continued their dominance last season, winning three of four against New Jersey. The two teams first met on October 16, a 4-1 win for Boston. Dainius Zubrus opened the scoring, putting the Devils ahead, 1-0, at 3:45 of the second period. But that wouldn’t last long, as Jordan Caron tied the game at 5:38 of the period. Then, the Bruins took over.
Michael Ryder put Boston ahead, 2-1, at 10:44 of the second period. Shawn Thornton made it 3-1 at 16:43 of the middle frame. Milan Lucic capped the Bruins’ outburst, stretching the lead to 4-1 at the 18:09 mark. Tim Thomas would stop 31 shots in the win, and Martin Brodeur matched that number for the loss.
Things didn’t get much better in the second meeting, a 3-0 shutout win for the Bruins on November 15 in Boston. Ryder continued to plague the Devils, opening the scoring at 15:26 of the first period. Nathan Horton made it 2-0 just 43 seconds into the second period. Not to be outdone, Blake Wheeler scored 43 seconds into the third period to push the lead to 3-0. Thomas stopped 28 shots for the win, and Brodeur stopped 21 in the loss.
Not even a change in coaches could sway the Devils luck. Boston once again beat them, 4-1, on March 22 in Boston. Ilya Kovalchuk struck first, scoring on the powerplay to put New Jersey ahead, 1-0. Thornton tied it at 15:39, and the teams entered the second period deadlocked.
Once again, the Bruins went on a goal scoring spree. Zdeno Chara put Boston ahead, 2-0, with a powerplay tally at 8:17 of the second period. Lucic extended the lead to 3-1 at 16:13 of the third period, and Mark Recchi sealed it with an empty-netter at 19:20 for the 4-1 lead.
The Devils avoided the sweep, ending their season with a 3-2 win over the Bruins. Patrik Elias opened the scoring, putting New Jersey ahead, 1-0, at 1:47 of the first period. Richard Peverley tied the game, 1-1, at 10:04 of the period. It remained tied until the third period. Vladimir Zharkov put the Devils ahead, 2-1, four minutes into the third period. Alexander Urbom scored his first career goal at 9:10 of the period, extending the lead to 3-1. That would prove crucial, as Chris Kelly scored with four seconds in regulation to bring the score to 3-2.
The general managers took yet another stride in removing and severely punishing hits to the head, proposing elimination of the word “blindside” from Rule 48.
While it continues to be muddled by politics and inconsistent suspensions, the proposed tweak takes yet another step in the right direction. The general managers need to keep players safe, and removing the designation of blindside adds yet another layer of protection. It’s a necessary step toward protecting players and making the game safer.
When the GMs met on June 8, they agreed to amend the rule to encompass all hits to the head. In the first season of Rule 48, several hits fell into a gray area, and former league disciplinarian Colin Campbell needed to make judgment calls. This amendment should eliminate some of that gray area and make these calls easier to make.
“It’s very similar to what we talked about at the GMs meeting in the sense of broadening the rule,” league executive Rob Blake told ESPN. “The exact interpretation will go forward. But we had a good understanding that the union, the players and the NHL together want to go forward for the safety of the players.”
One particular piece of that quote sticks out – “the exact interpretation will go forward.” Brendan Shanahan, Matthieu Schneider and the GMs need to carefully word the revised ruling. Leave no gray areas. Spell it out so the referees don’t need to make quick on-ice interpretations.
Rule 48 was the first major step taken to address player safety. This amendment should further strengthen the rule. Hopefully, the league doesn’t fumble the chance to make another great stride toward keeping the players safe.
The New Jersey Devils traveled to Boston on Monday night, fresh off their first home win of the season. The Devils looked to beat the Bruins and uber-goalie Tim Thomas to start their first win streak of the season. The Bruins, however, wouldn’t allow the Devils the pleasure of winning on their home ice. Boston scored once each period and defeated the Devils, 3-0.
Tim Thomas Stones The Devils
Entering tonight’s game, Thomas carried impressive season statistics. In ten games, the Bruins goalie was 8-1-0 with a 1.45 goals-against average and a .957 save percentage. And while he carried rather pedestrian numbers against the Devils (5-5-0-3, 2.43 GAA, .920 save %), Thomas played stellar hockey tonight. It was two desperation saves that kept the game scoreless in the opening minute and ultimately affected the tone of the game.
The Devils generated two great scoring chances only 40 seconds into the opening period. Patrik Elias broke in on a 2-on-1 with Mattias Tedenby, and held the puck as he cut across the slot. Thomas came out of the net, and Elias looked to have a wide-open chance. But Thomas kicked out the pad to make a save, and stoned Tedenby with the back of his knee on a rebound attempt.
If the Devils score, this game may have ended differently. But a hot goaltender will get lucky, and Thomas made one lucky save to keep his team even early. Thomas stopped 27 shots en route to his league-leading fourth shutout of the season.
“It’s unfortunate,” Devils coach John MacLean said. “We had a chance there early, but we couldn’t bury our chances. They got some chances and put them in. Our stars didn’t bury their chances.”
Checking In To The Sin Bin
The Devils spent 19 minutes in the penalty box tonight, and it seemed like the constant whistles helped stymie whatever momentum the Devils generated. Within those 19 minutes, the Devils faced a 5-on-3 and a double minor. With all those minutes in the box, the Bruins got several advantages, and Michael Ryder took full advantage to score the game-winning goal.
Matt Corrente and Adam Mair took penalties in the first period to give the Bruins a 5-on-3 opportunity. With both players in the box, Ryder received a pass from Patrice Bergeron near the goal line. The right-winger held the puck and fired a shot on Martin Brodeur. The puck snuck through a gap between the Devils goalie and the near post for Ryder’s sixth goal of the year.
The refs didn’t make the best of calls tonight, but the Devils should have found ways to avoid the box tonight. They couldn’t, and it severely hampered any offense they tried to muster.
These Bruins Are Lightning Quick
The Bruins struck quickly against Brodeur, opening the second and third periods with first minute goals to bury the Devils.
Nathan Horton scored 43 seconds into the third period to put the Bruins ahead, 2-0. Milan Lucic carried the puck into the neutral zone, and passed cross-ice to Horton. The right-winger carried the puck across the line and let go a wrist shot near the top of the circle. The puck beat Brodeur stick side for Horton’s eighth goal of the season.
In a bit of deja vu, Blake Wheeler scored 43 seconds into the third period to extend the Bruins lead to 3-0. With Henrik Tallinder pinching down the boards in the offensive zone, Mark Recchi created a turnover near the blue line. The veteran left-winger carried the puck through the neutral zone and fed Wheeler near the Devils’ blue line. Wheeler carried it to the circle and fired a wrist shot toward the net. The puck glanced off of Colin White’s stick and through the legs of Brodeur for Wheeler’s fourth goal of the season.
Continue reading for the rest of the recap!
Blake Wheeler’s goal at 43 seconds of the third period extended the Bruins lead to 3-0 in the third period of their game tonight at the TD Garden.
With Henrik Tallinder pinching down the boards, Mark Recchi created a turnover near the blue line. The veteran left-winger carried the puck through the neutral zone and fed Wheeler near the Devils’ blue line. Wheeler carried it to the circle and fired a wrist shot toward the net. The puck glanced off of Colin White’s stick and through the legs of Martin Brodeur for Wheeler’s fourth goal of the season.
The Bruins and Devils each put seven shots on net in the second period. Through two periods, the Bruins lead in shots, 17-14.
Nathan Horton’s goal at 43 seconds of the second period put the Bruins ahead, 2-0.
Milan Lucic carried the puck into the neutral zone, and passed cross-ice to Horton. The right-winger carried the puck across the line and let go a wrist shot near the top of the circle. The puck beat Brodeur stick side for Horton’s eighth goal of the season.
There was a delay midway through the second period as the crew at TD Bank fixed broken glass.
The Devils penalty killers have been busy tonight. In the first period, they faced a 5-on-3 chance, in which they allowed a goal. But down 2-0, the P.K. players killed off a four-minute double minor to Mattias Tedenby for high sticking.
The Bruins led the period in shots, 10-7.
Michael Ryder’s powerplay tally at 15:26 of the first period put the Bruins ahead, 1-0.
With both Matt Corrente and Adam Mair in the box, Ryder received a pass from Patrice Bergeron near the goal line. The right-winger held the puck and fired a shot on Brodeur. The puck snuck through a gap between the Devils goalie and the near post for Ryder’s sixth goal of the year.
Both teams have had excellent scoring chances throughout the first few minutes of play. Patrik Elias gave the Devils a great opportunity within the first minute of play. Breaking in on a 2-on-1, Elias held the puck and cut across the slot. Tim Thomas came out of the net, and Elias looked to have a wide-open chance. But Thomas kicked out the pad to make a save, and stoned Mattias Tedenby with the back of his knee on a rebound attempt.
Brodeur made his own great save, using a poke check to deny Daniel Paille on a breakaway opportunity.
While Paille broke in alone on Brodeur, Rod Pelley and Adam McQuaid dropped the gloves near center ice. Though Pelley dropped McQuaid immediately, the Bruins rookie got up and made it an even fight. Eventually Pelley dropped McQuaid to the ice for the win.
Here were the starting lineups:
Patrik Elias – Jason Arnott – Mattias Tedenby; Colin White – Matt Taormina; Martin Brodeur
Jordan Caron – Blake Wheeler – Mark Recchi; Dennis Seidenberg – Mark Stuart; Tim Thomas
The New Jersey Devils (5-10-2) travel to Boston to face off against the Boston Bruins (8-5-1) at TD Garden in Boston.
The Devils are looking to put together their first win streak of the season. After a win, New Jersey is 0-4-0 and has been outscored, 15-4.
Captain Jamie Langenbrunner and rookie defenseman Matt Taormina will miss tonight’s game with injuries. Both players had a MRI taken Monday, but won’t know the results until tomorrow.
Matt Corrente will step in for the injured Taormia. The rookie defenseman missed seven games with a non-displaced fracture of his right hand.
Martin Brodeur starts in net for the Devils. Tim Thomas will get the start for the Bruins.
Here were the line combinations during pre-game warmups:
FORWARDS: Ilya Kovalchuk – Travis Zajac – Alexander Vasyunov; Patrik Elias – Jason Arnott – Mattias Tedenby; Brian Rolston – Dainius Zubrus – David Clarkson; Rod Pelley – Adam Mair – Stephen Gionta
DEFENSEMEN: Colin White – Henrik Tallinder; Andy Greene – Anton Volchenkov; Olivier Magnan – Matt Corrente
GOALIE: Martin Brodeur
The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (2-5-1) go across the river to face off against their hated rivals, the New York Rangers (3-2-1). This is the first of six meetings this season.
The Last Devils Game: The Devils were thrashed by the Sabres, 6-1, last night at home. I’m still peeved about the loss, but here’s three things to note:
1. The Devils looked terrible in their own zone.
2. Johan Hedberg wasn’t given any support.
3. The team played lackluster and, frankly, worse than an AHL team.
The Last Rangers Game: The Rangers defeated the Boston Bruins, 3-2, last night in Boston. The Rangers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period with goals from Artem Anisimov and Alex Frolov. Zdeno Chara cut the lead to 2-1 with a powerplay tally at 19:55 of the period. The Rangers extended their lead in the second period, with Marc Staal giving the Blueshirts a 3-1 lead. Nathan Horton continued his hot start, pulling the Bruins to within a goal at 12:27 of the period. The Rangers would blank the Bruins in the third for their second straight win.
The Last Devils – Rangers Game: The Rangers defeated the Devils, 4-3, in a shootout during a late season meeting last year. The Devils once again scored first, with Ilya Kovalchuk giving New Jersey an early 1-0 lead. Brandon Dubinsky tied the game with a powerplay goal in the second period, tying the game at one. The third period followed the same script as the fourth game, with the Devils wasting leads. Patrik Elias put the Devils ahead, 2-1, early in the third period. Anisimov tied the game at 9:40 of the second period, and the scoring gates were opened. Jamie Langenbrunner gave the Devils a 3-2 lead at 12:37 of the period, but the Rangers answered that tally with one of their own. With their net open, Chris Drury scored at 19:43 to tie the game and send it to overtime. The teams remained scoreless through the extra period, and Erik Christensen was the only player to score in the shootout. (For a full recap, click here.)
For a full recap of the historical rivalry, check our preview here.
Tonight’s Matchup: The Devils looked terrible yesterday. Once again, the team didn’t put in the sixty-minute effort. They played well for seven minutes, then quit on the game. They left Hedberg out to dry, they played terrible defense, and they stopped creating scoring chances. Overall, it was a game to forget, which many of these early season games have been.
Last night’s effort was lifeless and lazy. I turned off the game after the fourth goal, and most people left the arena before the third period began. I think it’s safe to say that, heading into this matchup, the Devils are a train wreck. There’s no leadership on or off the ice, MacLean may as well be talking to a brick wall, and the players look bored and lost. None of that is a recipe for success, and it’s evident from these blowouts that the Devils players either aren’t ready or aren’t willing to give the effort needed to be a consistent force night in and night out.
Tonight’s game against the Rangers gives these Devils a chance to break out of this funk. If the team can’t get motivated or excited for this matchup, then I don’t know what MacLean can do. The Rangers have won two in a row, and they look good right now. The Devils have a chance to go into Madison Square Garden and take it to their rivals. The Devils have showed about 123 minutes of solid play, and those minutes ended up in two shutout wins. This is a deep and talented team that plays well when it wants to. Today needs to be one of those days.
We as fans may have loftier than normal expectations for this team, but we’re not seeing anything out of the Devils right now. Today gives New Jersey a chance to redeem last night’s disaster of a performance. MacLean tried to make a statement by sitting Kovalchuk, one that ultimately backfired. The Devils need to show themselves and the fans that this slow start is merely a fluke, and they can do that today against a rival. But if the team fails to show up, then the players and coaches will confirm what we all suspect – there’s a major divide in the locker room, and no one has stepped up to address it.
Game time is 7 p.m. and can be seen on MSG Plus or heard on WFAN 660 AM. Remember to check in with The Devils’ Den for a live game blog tonight! Here are tonight’s potential line combinations:
Forwards: Zach Parise – Travis Zajac – Dainius Zubrus; Rod Pelley – Jason Arnott – Jamie Langenbrunner; Patrik Elias – Jacob Josefson – Ilya Kovalchuk; Adam Mair – Tim Sestito – David Clarkson
Defenseman: Andy Greene – Olivier Magnan-Grenier; Colin White – Matt Taormina; Henrik Tallinder – Matt Corrente
Goalies: Martin Brodeur, Johan Hedberg
The Matchup: The Boston Bruins (1-1-0) face off against the New Jersey Devils (1-3-1) at the Prudential Center. This is the first meeting between the teams this season.
The Last Bruins Game: The Bruins blanked the Coyotes, 3-0, last Sunday at the O2 Arena in Prague. After a scoreless first period, Milan Lucic gave Boston a 1-0 lead at 12:11 in the period. Nathan Horton extended the lead, putting Boston ahead, 2-0, at 19:57 of the period. Tyler Seguin then scored his first NHL goal to increase the lead and put the Bruins ahead, 3-0. Tim Thomas stopped 29 shots for the shutout.
The Last Devils’ Game: The Devils lost to the Avalanche, 3-2, last night at the Prudential Center. Despite outshooting Colorado 17-3 in the first period, the Avs took a 1-0 lead into the locker room thanks to a powerplay goal by Cody McLeod. TJ Galiardi extended the Avalanche lead to 2-0 at 11:48 of the second period. Matt Taormina cut the lead to 2-1 with his first NHL goal at 14:48 of the second period. Chris Stewart put the Avs ahead by two, scoring at 4:31 to put Colorado ahead 3-1. Ilya Kovalchuk cut the lead to one once again, scoring at 8:49 to bring the Devils’ within one. But they couldn’t finish their opportunities, and lost to the Avalanche.
The Last Bruins – Devils Matchup: The Bruins took the last meeting of the season, shutting out the Devils, 1-0, on March 30. Both teams played to a scoreless draw until overtime, when Patrice Bergeron fired home the game-winning goal with 19 seconds left in the extra period. Martin Brodeur stopped 33 shots in the losing effort. Tuukka Rask stopped 21 shots for his fifth shutout of the season.
For a full recap of the team’s historical matchup, click here.
Shaking The Rust (And Lag): The Bruins haven’t played in six days because they opened their season in Prague. That’s a long layoff, and we’ll see if that has any negative effects in tonight’s matchup.
Tonight’s Matchup: The Devils need to finish, plain and simple. They had 43 shots on Craig Anderson last night, and many were quality scoring chances. In three games, the Devils have put 109 shots on net and have only four goals to show for the effort. They need to start getting it done on the offensive end and burying their opportunities.
But last night’s game was also positive. The Devils were aggressive on the forecheck and really imposed their will in the first period. Brodeur didn’t have the best night in net, getting beat high on the three goals. But the team had another good effort last night. The Devils get to take on a team that hasn’t played in six days. Not only should the Devils have more jump in their step, but they should pressure the Bruins into several mistakes.
Game time is 7 p.m., and you can catch all the action on MSG Plus.