The New Jersey Devils are struggling, but they’re also collecting points. In three games without Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey has collected a point in each contest but also lost three games they could have won. On a five-game point streak, the Devils are a confusing team lately.
Meanwhile, the New York Islanders are on something of a hot streak. They’ve won three games in a row, sandwiched between losses to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Realistically, there’s no shame in dropping games to the top team in the conference. The Islanders are as hot as they come right now, and the Devils have their work cut out for them.
Martin Brodeur is back and playing well. His ability to handle the puck takes pressure off a defensive rotation that failed miserably in his absence. While there are still some breakdowns, Marty has been able to control the game and keep opposing offenses from controlling the zone freely. Control of the puck will be crucial to shutting down a hot Islanders offense. The Islanders top line, led by John Tavares, has given opposing teams trouble. If Brodeur can keep the dump and chase out of the equation, New Jersey’s job gets a lot easier.
As always, if New Jersey can tame the top line of the Islanders, they’ll likely win. The Islanders have almost no depth, but they have streaky goaltending and a good top pairing on defense. The Devils have tons of depth through the bottom lines, but lack top-line scoring without Ilya Kovalchuk and don’t have a true top defensive pairing.
This should be a tight game, as nearly all Devils-Islanders meetings tend to be. Goaltending will keep both teams in the game, strategy will keep it close, and this one will be decided by a few bounces and some individual effort. Both teams are hot, and though the Islanders may be slightly hotter, the Devils are home.
Devils 3 – Islanders 2