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March 22, 2011: Bruins v. Devils

March 22, 2011

Ilya Kovalchuk will return to the Garden tonight with a resurgent Devils squad.

A Jacques Lemaire-led Devils team is a formidable team indeed. The Bruins beat the Devils cleanly in each of their previous outings this season, winning 4-1 in October and shutting them out 3-0 in November. But that was a markedly different Devils team they faced then, in personnel, and in spirit. The Devils are now without Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott, lost to trades, and Zach Parise is injured and rehabbing. And then, of course, there’s Lemaire to factor in. The story tonight will be far different.

As of writing, the Devils are seven points behind eighth-seeded Buffalo. They will have to clamber over the Leafs and Canes should they wanted to challenge for that eighth berth. Given their recent streak, anything is possible, really. Last year the Devils had a 103-point season and were seeded second in the East, before bowing out to the Flyers in the first round. A far cry from where they stand now, but, indicative of what the team is capable of.

Tonight, the Bruins will be looking for a heavy victory. The key issues plaguing the team at this time seem to be their dead power-play, killer defensive miscues and mistakes and lagging passage through the neutral zone and while on the rush. What does this amount to? A team that looks uninspired and not alert on the ice. This is cliched and overused, to be sure. But, it seems an apt description of the team at this juncture.

What will it take for a win? The team is streaky, so, perhaps a win tonight will kick-start a winning streak. There are 10 games left in the regular season, and to secure and maintain the third seed, the Bruins need to win any way they can.

In no particular order, here are five points and ideas for tonight’s game.

1) Lockdown Tim Thomas goaltending. Oddly, everyone discusses the Bruins’ shutdown defensive style. I am still confused about how this “shutdown style” is used to describe the Bruins when they have the highest shots against in the league. The reason the Bruins have succeeded thus far is due in large part to Thomas. He’ll need a return to his winning ways, which have been absent as of late and are a large factor. I think it’s important to play Rask wherever possible, as he may be called on in the playoffs and will need to be ready. Despite the losses, Rask has played extremely well when used.

2) Milan Lucic must demonstrate signs of life. The hulking power forward with a quick, hard shot has been gone the last five games. He’s been replaced by a ghost. I don’t know what’s happened and I wonder if he’s harboring an injury of some sort.

3) Consider bumping Marchand back to the fourth line. Yes, he’s had tremendous success on the wing for Bergeron. But, he also had success with Campbell and Thornton. Marchand has looked fatigued and has been making ineffective or ill-advised plays as of late. Scratching Paille and plugging in Ryder on the second line could be a wise move. Keeping Marchand on the penalty kill still is important, due to his knack for the short-handed goals. But I think he’s languishing with excess ice-time and defensive responsibilities on the second line. He could be moved back later.

4) Be bold. The Devils and the Bruins are both defensively-minded. One team will have to snap and strike first. The Bruins historically have benefitted from gaining the first goal more than most teams and are better at holding the lead.

5) Zdeno on Ilya. The whole game. Watch it.


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