By Jeff O'Connor
The New Jersey Devils fell in Pittsburgh last night 3-0. The offense didn't put any pucks in the net and the defense was pretty good, overall, despite a key breakdown or two.
Tonight, they have a chance to bounce back in their home opener as they host the New York Islanders. The Isles had a strong 2013 season and are hoping to take the next step. The Devils need to prove that they're ready to bounce back from a dismal campaign last year.
Lines for tonight's game:
Goaltender: Martin Brodeur
Here are some thoughts on tonight's game
1. The first look at Martin Brodeur- He's back. No. 30 will make his season debut for the Devils tonight. Originally slated to start the season opener, he was pushed back to tonight's contest due to the recent passing of his father. In Marty's first action in preseason, he saw these same Islanders and gave up four goals on 13 shots in 40 minutes. Hopefully, that was just him shaking off the rust. He looked better in Montreal but still allowed three goals. Also, another topic of discussion is him playing the puck. We'll get to see firsthand how hybrid icing and the extra space behind the net allow him to handle the biscuit.
2. Stay off the PK- Last year, the Islanders ate the Devils alive on the power play, netting eight markers in five games. They converted at a 34.7% rate against the Red and Black last season. Last night, the Devils did a great job staying out of the box as they only took one penalty.
3. Take the zero off the board ASAP- They don't have to score the first goal, but they need one relatively. The last thing this team needs is to here about how they've gone 80 minutes, 100 minutes, 120 minutes, etc. without scoring a goal. As soon as they get that first marker, they'll loosen up and things should flow a little bit better. The Islanders don't have a lot of depth after the first D pairing; the Devils should be able to exploit some mismatches there.
4. More communication- Last night, at both ends of the ice, the team looked like a new group playing together. That's fine for the offense, since there are so many new guys. Jagr and Clowe, specifically, were often bunching up or bumping into their own players. Hopefully that improves a bit tonight. The defense had some miscommunication as well, more so on odd-man rushes. On the first goal, Larsson wasn't sure to commit to the shooter or the cutter and the Devs fell behind. Again, hopefully that's just the first game jitters. When the Pens didn't have speed through the neutral zone, the Devils defense was very stout. With some older guys in the lineup on D, they'll need help from the backchecking forwards to take away their rush from blue line to blue line.
Prediction- Devils 4 Islanders 2
I'm expecting a roller coaster type game on the scoreboard. Devils fall behind early, but answer back to tie the game before the first period ends. They'll take the lead in the second but the Isles will tie it up early in the third. They'll get a clutch goal with under 10 minutes to go and pump in an empty netter to seal it. Brodeur will look shaky early on, but will get better once the game goes along. The offense will still look like a work in progress, but they'll get a handful of garbage goals and play a more gritty, physical game in the offensive zone.
For those of you going, enjoy the experience of a home opener.
We'll have our Instant Insight piece up after the conclusion of the game.