The New Jersey Devils have seen their play decline a bit since taking over the top spot in the Eastern Conference with consecutive wins over the Pittsburgh Penguins. First, the New Jersey Devils had a lapse against the Philadelphia Flyers where they allowed three goals before battling back for an exciting win. The following night, the same New Jersey Devils defense had two more three-goal lapses as they fell to the New York Islanders on Long Island.
To me, the loss to the New York Islanders is far from troubling. The Islanders were healthy, rested, and waiting for the New Jersey Devils on Saturday. One day after grinding out a physical rivalry game with the Flyers, the Devils traveled to New York with their backup goaltender between the pipes. As good as Johan Hedberg has been this year, losing on the second game of a back to back with your backup goalie in net really isn’t all that troubling.
What is troubling is the way the New Jersey Devils have given up their goals in the last two games. After suffocating some of the best scorers in hockey, the New Jersey Devils allowed three separate three-goal bursts in their last two games. Defensive lapses have marked their past few games after strong defensive play characterized much of their success this season.
The Ottawa Senators have seen their awesome start to the year come crashing down due to injuries. First, Jason Spezza was lost to back surgery. A few weeks later, Erik Karlsson, one of the most exciting players in hockey was lost when his Achilles’ was cut by a skate, requiring surgery. Milan Michalek is also out with a lower body injury, as the Senators limp through February.
The Devils must take advantage of the injuries that the Senators have suffered. Ottawa always seems to play New Jersey tough, but without their best players the Senators are not the same team they were to open the year. New Jersey is vulnerable here, as Ottawa’s goaltending can beat anyone and the Devils will be fatigued, but New Jersey is the better team and must find a way to win on home ice.
Consistent defense in front of Martin Brodeur, and grinding away at the limited depth of the Ottawa Senators will be key to a Devils victory. With the addition of Andrei Loktionov, the Devils have four solid lines to take advantage of the depleted Senators roster.
New Jersey 3 – Senators 2