The New Jersey Devils enter a difficult back-to-back set of games this weekend with some much needed momentum following their victory last night over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Some observations from this important win are:
- The Rangers controlled much of the action and dictated the tempo for most of the game but the Devils looked very resilient and capitalized on situations to score goals at crucial times
- The stick handling and puck playing capability of Martin Brodeur impacted the Rangers forecheck causing it to dissolve into a non-factor.
- The Devils played very solid defensively even after Anton Volchenkov left with an injury and the team was down to five defensive players.
- New Jersey needs to improve their breakouts – many times last night they had an opportunity to create offensive situations with a numbers advantage and they could not execute it properly
- New Jersey was 0 for 3 on the power play against the Rangers and in one power play situation they had only one good scoring chance. The Devils had improved their power play in recent prior games, but they have to drive the puck to the net more frequently and aggressively in those situations.
- Devils played very well on the penalty kill holding the Rangers scoreless on 5 penalty kill opportunities. New Jersey also created some scoring chances shorthanded which was impressive.
- Marek Zidlicky had a very good overall game and played very smart and aggressively as well. That is a good sign for him and for the Devils because he plays an important role on this team
- The Devils need to be more careful handling the puck in their own end of the ice, they gave possession back to the Rangers in their own defensive end too often last night – they need to tighten that up.
New Jersey has been dealing with injuries throughout this season, and the situation seems to be getting worse: Patrik Elias remains unable to play due to a stiff back, and as mentioned earlier Volchenkov left the game last night with an injury.
The Devils are getting thin on defensemen with Jon Merrill and Bryce Salvador also injured at this point. In the short term I would expect Mark Fayne to get an opportunity to play in the absence of Volchenkov.
I liked the way New Jersey moved the puck at points in the game last night, especially in the third period. The line with Jaromir Jagr, Travis Zajac, and Dainius Zubrus has certainly played well recently.
That pass from Jagr to Zajac which resulted in Zubrus netting the game winning goal was sensational. The Devils need to move the puck more frequently in that way through the neutral zone to create offensive scoring opportunities.
The Devils should also look to use the stretch pass more often to push the puck down the ice.
New Jersey has two games at home this weekend against two tough opponents. First, the Los Angeles Kings will visit the Prudential Center for the first time since the 2012 Stanley Cup Final (www.nhl.com). Then, on Saturday night, the rival Pittsburgh Penguins come to New Jersey for what promises to be a very exciting matchup.
I think the Devils can build on this momentum from the win over the Rangers and play well over the weekend. The games this weekend are important because the Devils then embark on a road trip to the West Coast next week.
The win over the Rangers was a “gut check” game for the Devils, it will help them moving forward into the more difficult games in the weeks to come.