If there were one team in the Eastern Conference that the New Jersey Devils would like to play right now, it would be the Washington Capitals. The 5 wins in 15 games Washington Capitals. The last time these teams played, it was only several games into the season. The Devils won by a count of 3-2 in an overtime thriller that can only be deemed as an “ugly” win. Their power play was poor. Their 3rd period play wasn’t any better. This Devils team took 5 straight penalties compared to the Capitals taking 0 the whole period. Sound awfully familiar? Well it should because it’s exactly what happened in the Devils last game on Monday night against the Ottawa Senators; a game in which they took 4 penalties in the 3rd period and couldn’t convert on a single power play opportunity for the entirety of the game. I think were starting to get the picture in terms of what the Devils need to focus on for tonight’s 7 p.m. EST game against the Capitals:
Devil’s Keys to Success:
-The Devils power play needs to be more successful. How can they accomplish such a task? Simple! Get the puck moving from side to side and then send it down low near the bottom of the circles because in the Capitals most recent game against the New York Rangers, the Capitals forwards on their penalty kill continuously put strong pressure on the Rangers point men. That means Ilya Kovalchuk will be shadowed, making it harder on him to get shots off. Getting the puck down low will create odd-man mismatches in favor of the Devils.
-The Capitals power play is one of their strongest assets. This year, although extremely highlighted on their power play, Alex Ovechkin hasn’t been much of a factor. The Capitals are setting him up in areas that force him to take shots from distance along the left-hand boards with absolutely no screen in front. To combat this, the Capitals have incorporated a nifty set of backdoor plays. They especially like to go cross ice at the blue line, then send it to Mike Ribeiro down low near the red line so the forward playing in front of the goalie can sneak back into the slot where he gets fed a one-timer. The Devils need to be aware of this and make sure to stick with their assignments in their own zone.
-The Devils MUST jump on Braden Holtby early. This is a confident kid after the game against the Rangers. The Devils must try and get some indirect goals off of cross-ice passes from their blue-line defensemen to down-low forward. If the passing lanes aren’t open, then the defensemen need to do a better job at getting the puck on net to either create a rebound or give their forwards a chance for a deflection. Us fans haven’t seen much of either in the last several games.
-Contain Ribeiro, especially if he is on a line with Ovechkin. His skating may have gotten slower, but he is still a premier play maker because of his great vision on the ice. Travis Zajac will be a huge factor in whether or not that line scores.
-Conditional key: If Mike Green is out of the lineup, that leaves John Calrson as the biggest offensive threat on the Capitals blue line. The Devils should keep a forward close to him at all times because: a. he has a cannon of a shot and b. he is known to give up turnovers and sometimes gets lazy on the backcheck. The Devils are a team that can really take advantage of that.
Devils Projected Lineup
Starting Goalie: MARTIN BRODEUR
Capitals Projected Lineup
Green (questionable; game time decision)
Starting Goalie: Braden Holtby
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