New Jersey Devils Played Their Best Lineup Against Montreal

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 06: Taylor Hall
NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 06: Taylor Hall /

All season, at times there have been some curious personnel decisions made by Devils Coach John Hynes. But last night against Montreal, the Devils played their best lineup.

Sunday afternoon I, as many Devils fans typically do before the second game in a back-to-back scenario, paid very close attention on Twitter to the pregame media availability with John Hynes. It’s always interesting to hear the team news for the evening’s tilt. This was one time there was nothing at all to take umbrage with the Coach’s briefing. At long last, the Devils were playing what I would consider to be their best lineup. Here was some of the Easter afternoon “Good News” proclaimed by our fearless leader.

Damon Severson.  Hallelujah, Hallelujah! Damon Has Risen! He Has Risen Indeed! (to the healthy scratch suite). Let’s face it, Severson has been a defensive mess for weeks on end. Damon is frequently out of position, is part of the cause on a significant percentage of the odd man rushes the Devils give up, and is certainly not a physical presence in front of the net or along the wall. I’m not a huge Ben Lovejoy fan either, but Ben is a bit more solid on the back end and it was time for Severson to come out of the lineup. Some of the mistakes Severson makes are absolute killers. If you noticed last night, we did not see a lot of 2-on-1’s in Montreal. That is no accident.

John Hynes made several great lineup choices for the Montreal match.

Jesper Bratt for Brian Gibbons. Great move. A lot of Devils fans rag on Bratt about his reduced scoring, which is a fair criticism. But he’s still slick with the puck, makes really good decisions with the rubber disk in the defensive zone, is a creative passer in the offensive zone, and most importantly, fits the team’s identify in terms of the speed and skill he brings to the table. Given his youth, small stature, lack of production and the length of the season, I get that he sits once in a while. Bratt still brings a lot to the table, and I fully agree with him playing matches for the Devils in situations like back-to-back games when a touch of extra energy and a pair of fresh legs is not a bad thing.

Mirco Mueller. Even though Micro is Swiss, this is not an issue on which Devils fans can be neutral. It’s a total no-brainer to have him in the lineup. Mueller is solid with the puck, always seems to be in excellent position, knows how to jump into an offensive play without conceding an odd man rush, wins battles in the corners and is a big defenseman whose above average skating ability is the perfect complement to his imposing frame. I think it is particularly telling that Micro was selected to kill the 5-on-3 against Montreal. You can’t be placed into that role and be a fringe player. No way.

Travis Zajac. Playing him on a third line role with primary checking responsibility is genius. It does not matter what Travis is paid, he is not a skilled offensive player. No more Top 6 minutes for Zajac, please. But on a line with Coleman and Noesen, Travis is of tremendous value to the Devils. In the playoffs, the club can deploy a line like that up against the top unit of any high-flying opponent and feel really good about the match-up. Slotting Travis into this role is a cornerstone in helping the Devils to construct their best lineup. In the perfect world, I’d like to see Travis off the power play, but that might be asking a bit too much.

Keith Kinkaid. I know there is a school of thought that the Devils need Cory and need to get him right, which I can’t completely disagree with. New Jersey very well might need him at some point in the playoffs. But, until the point when the Devils clinch a playoff position, there is no way you can’t play Kinkaid. You just can’t. He’s playing too well and, just as importantly, the team believes in the “King Of The Emojis”. Jersey’s Team needs to go with the hot hand to be sure they do everything they can to get over the line.

All in all, Mr. Hynes’ late afternoon media briefing from Centre Bell was a joyous anthem indeed. It was great to hear that the Devils’ best lineup was selected to play at the Avenue des Canadiens-de-Montréal. If I myself were in Montreal, I might have been tempted to head down Rue Notre-Dame Ouest to Old Montreal to grab a celebratory chocolate croissant and visit the beautiful La Basilique Notre-Dame to say a few prayers of thanksgiving.

A great lineup, two one-goal wins and Florida was blown out Sunday in Beantown. It doesn’t get much better than that!