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.
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 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.
During the offseason, The Devils’ Den will preview the matchup between New Jersey and their opponents. New Jersey, which finished second in the conference and won the Atlantic Division last season, will look to duplicate their success and finally get out of the first round of the playoffs this season. In today’s second schedule preview, we focus on an Eastern Conference opponent – the Boston Bruins.
Bruins vs. Devils – Historical Data
The Devils and Bruins have faced off 129 times, with the Devils compiling a 46-61-19-3 record against them. The Devils average 2.81 goals for against Boston while allowing 3.37 goals against. The teams faced off four times last season, with the Devils winning the season series, 3-0-1.
The Devils won the first game, 2-1, on October 29, 2010 in Boston. David Clarkson gave the Devils a lead, scoring his third goal of the season at 13:25 of the first period. Patrice Bergeron tied the score for Boston in the second, and both teams stayed tied until late in the third period. Dainius Zubrus played hero, scoring the game-winning goal at 18:34 of the final period. Yann Danis made 31 saves in his Devils’ debut.
Almost a month later, the Devils defeated the Bruins in a shootout, 2-1. Zach Parise started the scoring, recording his 14th goal of the season at 9:45 of the first period. It would remain that way until the third period, when Blake Wheeler tied the score only 12 seconds into the period. In the shootout, the teams traded goals in the second round, with Wheeler and Parise both scoring. After David Krejci missed in the third round, Jamie Langenbrunner buried his opportunity for the win.
The game also carried extra significance. Martin Brodeur surpassed Patrick Roy for the most minutes played by a goaltender in the second period, breaking yet another record. The Devils also lost Clarkson to an ankle injury. In the first period, Clarkson blocked a shot from Zdeno Chara at the point, which would impact his health throughout the season.
The Devils extended their winning streak to three games over the Bruins with a win, 3-2, at the
Prudential Center on March 15. Rob Niedermayer began the scoring at 9:58 of the first period, scoring his ninth goal of the season. Clarkson and Parise scored goals 45 seconds apart, and the Devils held a three goal advantage at the first intermission. Wheeler scored a goal in the second period, and Bergeron scored in the third to make the game interesting. But the Devils would hold on to win the game.
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 Bergeron fired home the game-winning goal with 19 seconds left in the extra period. Brodeur stopped 33 shots in the losing effort. Tuukka Rask stopped 21 shots for his fifth shutout of the season.
Devils vs. Bruins – This Season’s Matchup
The Devils and Bruins will once again face off four times this season, the first of those meetings coming on October 16. The Devils also will end the 2010-2011 season against each other. The Bruins made a big splash this offseason, signing second overall pick Tyler Seguin to an entry-level contract. The team also retained several players, re-signing Wheeler, Mark Stuart and Mark Recchi, among other players. The team also now has a clearer goalie picture, with Rask taking the reigns as the number one starter.
The Devils played well against the Bruins last season, but the team hasn’t historically done well against Boston. For the past few seasons, Boston has challenged for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. While they’re not a perennial power in the conference, the Bruins continually play tough games against the Devils. I would expect those four games to be tough and hard fought, and it seems as if a budding rivalry will continue to grow next season.
Other Important Stats
Bergeron became a Devil killer last season, netting three goals in four games against New Jersey. He was the most prolific scorer against the Devils last season. Meanwhile, the Devils depended on Clarkson and Parise, who both recorded three points (two goals, one assist) against Boston.
In the continuing “Eastern Conference Playoff Preview” series, I’ll preview the Boston Bruins. The team, currently sitting eighth in the division, have continued to hold off the Atlanta Thrashers and the New York Rangers for the last spot in the playoffs. With injuries and a lack of scoring, the Bruins look to be one of the weakest playoff teams in the division.
One of the worst injuries for this team came when Marc Savard was concussed by Matt Cooke. Although he didn’t wow anyone with his offensive prowess, he still brought a gritty presence to the team. Without him, Boston has seemed to struggle without him. They shouldn’t have a problem scoring, with players like Patrice Bergeron, Marco Sturm, and surprise players like David Krejci. But the team ranks 30th in the league in scoring, with 182 goals scored this season. The team’s -33 plus/minus ranking isn’t great either. Both of those things show Boston’s lack of scoring depth. With the possibility of facing the Washington Capitals in the first round, that lack of scoring can really put the Bruins in a hole.
Zdeno Chara leads an average defensive squad for the Bruins. Chara leads all Bruins defenseman in goals, assists and points. He’s also the plus/minus leader. After Chara, there’s not much on the blue line. The defense, as a whole, ranks 30th in the league in goals against. A lack of scoring and a lack of defense? That doesn’t bode well for the playoffs.
Maybe one of the only bright spots for Boston is the emergence of goalie Tuukka Rask. The 6-3 Finn has solidified the number one position in Beantown, going 19-12-4 with a 1.99 goals against average. He’s far outplayed former Vezina winner Tim Thomas. His G.A.A. and save percentage (.930) are very, very good. If there’s one person keeping Boston afloat, it’s Rask. His play could lengthen a series. But without any solid scoring options or defensive play, it looks like it’ll all be on him to win them a series.
So, does Boston stand a chance in the playoffs? Like many of the lower seeds, they don’t look great. They lack a scoring offense, and the team’s defense isn’t that much better. The only bright spot, Rask, can’t steal them a playoff series. With Boston barely hanging on to the eighth seed, it might be a one-and-done year for the Bruins.
Tonight’s Matchup: The Chicago Blackhawks (47-22-7) face off against the New Jersey Devils (44-26-6). This is the second and final meeting between the teams this season. Chicago leads the series, 1-0.
The Last Blackhawks Game: Chicago blanked the Minnesota Wild, 4-0, Wednesday night in Minnesota. The Blackhawks, only 3-5-2 in their last 10 games, received stellar goaltending from Antti Niemi, who stopped 21 shots for his seventh shutout of the season.
The Last Devils Game: The Bruins defeated the Devils, 1-0, in overtime Tuesday night in Newark. Jersey’s Team was behind the eight ball all night, allowing Boston to double their shot total (22-11) by the end of the second period. Boston center Patrice Bergeron knocked in a rebound to an open net with 18 seconds left in overtime to give Boston the win.
The Last Blackhawks – Devils Game: The Blackhawks defeated the Devils, 5-1, on New Years Eve in Chicago. Jonathan Toews had a goal and an assist, and John Madden tallied a goal against his former team. Jamie Langenbrunner broke up the Cristobal Huet shutout with 1:33 remaining in the third period.
Tonight’s Matchup: Just when I think I have the Devils figured out, they go and do the complete opposite. For the past few weeks, the Devils have played really well against playoff opponents, but terrible against non-playoff opponents. In their past two games, they’ve flipped the script. The Devils have lost two straight to playoff teams (Philadelphia and Boston), scoring one goal in both contests combined. What’s worse is the effort the team showed. In both games, the Devils were thoroughly outplayed by their opponent. It’s this inconsistency that drive me (and every other fan) crazy.
The team, much like the situation a few weeks ago, realizes they need to break out of the slump. Yesterday, the team held a meeting, attempting to address these concerns. The last time they held one of these meetings, they won four of their next five games. But meetings can only go so far. It’s time for action, and while the Devils looked to turn a corner last week, they’re right back at square one now. Langenbrunner realized the need to simply play better.
“There are certain points in the season where you need to be doing certain things to be successful and we haven’t done that in the last two games,” Langenbrunner told The Bergen Record. “There isn’t time to let it snowball. Do you need a meeting to fix that? There’s got to be a mindset change and I think we’ll be all right.”
The team needs to put a solid effort together tonight. Niemi is a solid young goaltender, and the Blackhawks are a deep and talented team. The Devils can’t sit back and wait for their opportunity. They need to come out attacking and pressuring Chicago. I believe Devils coach Jacques Lemaire should return Travis Zajac and Brian Rolston to the second line with Ilya Kovalchuk. They seemed to be doing well together and producing offensively. Patrik Elias cannot play with Kovalchuk, as we saw in Tuesday night’s game. Reuniting that second line combination gives the Devils two good scoring lines, which they will need against a potent Chicago team.
A win tonight would put the Devils into first place in the Atlantic Division and second place in the conference. These are two big points on the table, and the Devils need the points. Gametime is 7 p.m., and you can catch the action on the NHL Network and MSG Plus or on the radio on WFAN.