New Jersey Devils at New York Rangers, 7 pm
Madison Square Garden, Newark, New York
TV: MSG+ Radio: WFAN 101.9 fm, 660 am
Goaltender: Martin Brodeur
With another clash against their biggest rivals on tap tonight, the Devils come into Tuesday night's contest at Madison Square Garden fresh off of a 5-0 win over the Nashville Predators.
The Blueshirts have been hot as well, as they sport a three game win streak and a 7-3 record over their last 10 games.
The question becomes, how can the Devils beat the Rangers? This is a vastly different team than we saw at Prudential Center earlier in the year. Carl Hagelin and Ryan Callahan are both back in the lineup and playing well. Brad Richards has been excellent and Henrik Lundqvist seems to have found his groove again.
This is a very different Rangers team than they were under John Tortorella. Alain Vigneault has this team playing aggressive hockey that has led to more goal scoring. Certainly though, that has come at the expense of the defense at times, as the Rangers don't quite have that "block every shot" mentality.
So, let's break down a couple of plays from their last game against the Florida Panthers and try to get a feel for what we may see tonight and how the Devils can pull out a win.
This is a dangerous unit right now. With young speedsters like J.T. Miller and Chris Kreider in the lineup, there is some speed. This goal in transition off of a turnover shows exactly the kind of skill level the Rangers have right now.
As we see in the image, the Panthers tuned the puck over, Kreider gains the zone, but waits for help. Ryan McDonagh alertly jumps into the play and sets everything up. Krys Barch tried to cancel out McDonagh and got himself out of position which allowed Kreider to find open space for a pass. The biggest issue here was that the Panthers chased. Barch played himself out of position and no one picked up Kreider which allowed for the opportunity. For the Devils, they'll need to keep the Ranger forwards in front of them, but also be aware of defensemen entering the play. The Rangers are a team that will make you pay if you cough up the puck at neutral ice. New Jersey must limit the turnovers.
Florida scores here on the power play. The biggest thing to take away here, is that Kris Versteeg is just sitting in the slot with no one really covering him. They had a man on a body down low, but Versteeg was uncovered. He partially fanned on the shot, but Alexander Barkov was able to bang it home. What the Devils need to do is put bodies in front of the net. Get rebounds, get the defense scrambling and good things can happen.
Some thoughts for tonight's game:
The Devils have learned to win hockey games over the last few games. However, those contests were against weaker opponents with noticeable flaws in their personnel. The Rangers pose a much more rounded opponent. While I think they will lose, they'll play hard and be in it until the final few minutes. While it will mean no points, I expect this game to be a useful building block that will propel them to play better against high quality opponents.