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 Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (1-4-1) face off against the Montreal Canadiens (3-1-1) at the Bell Centre in Montreal. This is the first meeting between the teams this season.
The Last Devils Game: The Devils lost to the Boston Bruins, 4-1, Saturday at the Prudential Center. After a scoreless first period, Dainius Zubrus opened the scoring, giving the Devils a 1-0 lead at 3:45 of the second period. But that would be all the Devils would get, as Boston came roaring back to put the game away. Jordan Caron scored at 5:38 to tie the game at 1-1. Michael Ryder scored the eventual game-winning goal, connecting off a feed from Tyler Seguin to put the Bruins ahead, 2-1. Shawn Thornton increased the lead to 3-1 at 16:43 of the second. Milan Lucic capped the four-goal outburst, scoring at 18:09 to put the Bruins ahead, 4-1. Tim Thomas finished with 31 saves for the win. Martin Brodeur stopped 31 shots in the loss.
The Last Canadiens Game: The Canadiens defeated the Ottawa Senators, 4-3, Sunday at the Bell Centre. Trailing 3-1 in the second period, the Canadiens scored four straight goals to take the lead. Jeff Halpern began the comeback, netting his second goal at 13:39 of the second period. Andrei Kostitsyn tied the game, 3-3, at 17:29 of the second. Tomas Plekanec played hero, scoring the game-winner at 16:01 of the third period.
The Last Devils – Canadiens Game: The Devils won the final game of the series last season, 4-2, on March 27. Patrik Elias struck first for the Devils, giving the team a 1-0 lead with a powerplay goal at 8:11 of the first period. The teams traded goals in the second period, with the Devils holding a 3-2 advantage at the end of the second period. Brian Rolston added an empty-net goal in the third period to clinch the win.
Last season, the Devils won three of four from the Montreal Canadiens. For a full analysis of the historical matchup between the two teams, click here.
Welcome Home Marty! Brodeur makes his 60th career start against the Canadiens tonight, his most against a non-Atlantic Division opponent. In 30 appearances at Montreal, Broduer is 17-12-1 with a 1.80 goals against average, a .935 save percentage and four shutouts. In his career, Brodeur is 38-16-5 against the Habs, with a 1.78 GAA and eight shutouts. Brodeur admitted yesterday that he hasn’t been sharp to begin the season, but these meetings always seem to bring out the best in the veteran netminder.
Tonight’s Matchup: The Devils took three days to practice, and coach John MacLean put the team to work. They skated hard, practiced game situations and made significant moves throughout the lineup. But captain Jamie Langenbrunner said the positives from practice mean nothing if they don’t translate to a win.
“It depends on how we come out of it,” Langenbrunner said to Tom Gulitti. “We did have a good week of practice where we got the battle and work back in our game, but it’s how we respond on the ice tomorrow night for 60 minutes that counts. No one gives you any points for a practice.”
The Devils couldn’t be walking into a better situation to earn their second win of the season. Despite Montreal’s early success, New Jersey has always played them well, especially in their own building. The Devils are 8-2-0 in their last 10 games at the Bell Centre, and the team holds an overall record of 22-23-4 all time in Montreal. An almost .500 record against a team in their own building is respectable.
One thing New Jersey will have to do is meet the energy and pressure from the Canadiens. The Bell Centre will be loud, and the building will be a sellout. The Devils will need to respond to that energy and attempt to silence the crowd early. With some solid scoring and surprising play from Carey Price, the Canadiens won’t be a cakewalk. But the Devils, with four days to prepare, should be able to handle them in Montreal.
Game time is 7:30 p.m., and you can catch all the action on MSG Plus or WFAN 660.Remember to come back to The Devils’ Den for our live game blog, beginning at 7:15 pm!
Here are tonight’s starting lines, based off of the Devils’ pairings from practice yesterday:
Forwards: Zach Parise – Travis Zajac – Dainius Zubrus; Patrik Elias – Jacob Josefson – Ilya Kovalchuk; Rod Pelley – Jason Arnott – Jamie Langenbrunner; Adam Mair – Tim Sestito – David Clarkson
Defenseman: Henrik Tallinder – Matt Corrente; Matt Taormina – Colin White; Andy Greene – Olivier Magnan – Grenier
Goalies: Martin Brodeur; Johan Hedberg