February 22, 2024

Bryce Salvador

Hey, everyone!

The energy of the Hudson River Rivalry is exactly what the doctor ordered for the Devils tonight, especially with the hostile environment of the Rock when the Rangers are in town. For me, this game is a perfect opportunity for the Devils to reset, snap NYR's 8-game W streak, and pick up another huge 2 PTS as they continue fighting for a playoff spot!

When I talk about the Devils needing to "reset" tonight, it's about putting that 6-2 L in WSH in the back burner. Optimistically, I see that game as a one-off mental lapse and more of a “downer" game for the Devils coming off such an emotional high with the Stadium Series. And, no, that’s never an excuse for the result; the players will be the first to tell you that with how desperate they are for every point up for grabs right now. However, I’m hopeful that the Devils can reset, get back to their tight DZ structure, and limit the uncharacteristic mistakes they were making against WSH.

It starts with your coverage below the hash marks and around the net front. You have to limit 2nd chances opportunities tonight, or NYR will make you pay the same way they did back on Nov. 18 with their late GWG. This is something I'll dive into on tonight's pregame show, but, I expect the Devils to be much better in that area tonight. It would certainly be helpful if John Marino is ready to return to the lineup after missing the WSH game with an illness — if he does suit up, it would be interesting to see if the Devils go 11F/7D.

Now, I’m not putting this game all on one player’s shoulders, by any means! But, for me, winning tonight's game starts with NJD#86 putting the team on his back and doing what he does best, that being his ability to rise to the occasion in big games against the Rangers. Jack has consistently allowed his team to lean on him in this matchup, and to be quite frank, I expect no different tonight! Now, again, I don't want to put all the weight on Jack's shoulders, but it's going to be his job to turn this game into a track meet and put NYR on their heels.

The Devils, who create the highest rate of rush chances in the NHL, can expose NYR’s poor transition defense (conceding the 4th highest rate of rush chances) by pushing the pace of play and creating end-to-end offense / odd-man rushes. Hopefully, in the long-change 2nd period especially, Jack can take control of the game to prevent the Rangers from slowing down play and extending OZ Possession time in the Devils' DZ.

When it comes to special teams, I simply hope to see the Devils' PP & PK be a positive momentum changer for the Devils. 2 PPG in the last 13 GP and 1 PPGA in each of their last 4 games is not a recipe for winning hockey games, regardless of the process. 

For me, it's the PP that needs to get going again tonight. Not only are the results not good enough as of late, but it's the fact that the Devils are losing momentum after their failed PP opportunities. Too often over the recent stretch of games, we see the PP not convert, and the Devils subsequently concede a goal (such as the goal against 27 seconds after their failed PP opportunity in WSH). This NYR team loves to run you into the ground with their special teams — so, the Devils need to get out of this funk or it could cost them the points they desperately need tonight. Erika and I will discuss this more in-depth during our pregame show, starting at 6:30 PM on MSGSN. Join us!


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