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 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.
The Matchup: The Boston Bruins (34-29-12) face off against the New Jersey Devils (44-26-5). This is the fourth and final meeting between the two teams this season. The Devils currently lead the season series, 3-0-0.
The Last Bruins Game: Boston lost to the Buffalo Sabres, 3-2, last night in Boston. David Krejci gave the Bruins an early 1-0 lead, but the Sabres responded with three straight goals to take a lead. Bruins coach Claude Jullien pulled Tim Thomas after he gave up three goals on 14 shots. Tuukka Rask stopped 19 shots after coming off the bench. Ryan Miller stopped 40 shots in the victory.
The Last Devils Game: The Flyers thumped the Devils, 5-1, Sunday in Philadelphia. Martin Brodeur allowed four goals on 19 shots and was pulled after the second period. The Devils broke Brian Boucher’s shutout with Ilya Kovalchuk’s 39th goal of the season. Boucher made 32 saves for his sixth win of the season.
The Last Bruins – Devils Game: The Devils defeated the Bruins, 3-2, March 15 in New Jersey. Rob Niedermayer, David Clarkson and Zach Parise scored three goals on 12 shots against Thomas, chasing him from the game in the first period. Blake Wheeler and Patrice Bergeron scored to pull within one, but the Devils held on for the win.
Tonight’s Matchup: The Devils need to play better than Sunday in Philadelphia.That game was an absolute stinker, and I think it was expected after a playoff-clinching game Saturday against Montreal. But this late in the season isn’t a great time to turn in stinkers. The Devils currently sit two points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Atlantic Division title. As I discussed here, the Devils want to be in position to clinch the second seed. The only way to do that is defeat quality opponents, and the team has one in Boston tonight.
It seems like the Devils elevate their game when playing playoff-bound teams. A great example is this weekend’s game. The Devils played a solid game against the Canadiens, going 2-for-3 on the powerplay and dominating play. That’s what they need to do tonight. The Devils will face Rask, one of the best goalies in the league, tonight at the Rock. They need to pressure the Boston defense early and often. If they can jump ahead and control the play, they should do well. Not only that, but Boston is playing in the second game of a back-to-back. The Devils, who had the day off yesterday, should be the fresher and more explosive team in this game. I think the Devils will return to their 60-minute effort tonight and play a solid game against a struggling Bruins team.
Gametime is 7:00 p.m., and you can catch all the action on MSG Plus and WFAN Radio.
Here are the lineups from today’s practice:
Forwards: Zach Parise – Patrik Elias – Jamie Langenbrunner; Ilya Kovalchuk – Travis Zajac – Brian Rolston; Dainius Zubrus – Rob Niedermayer – David Clarkson; Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond – Dean McAmmond – Vladmir Zharkov; Rod Pelley – Jay Pandolfo
Defenseman: Andy Greene – Bryce Salvador; Colin White – Mike Mottau; Martin Skoula – Paul Martin; Mark Fraser – Anssi Salmela
Goalie: Martin Brodeur