The Devils take on the Washington Capitals Tuesday night in D.C., looking to rebound from the worst loss of a dismal season against another talented team fallen on hard times. Here’s what to watch for when the puck drops in the nation’s capital.
Get It On Goal
As E.J. Hradek pointed out in his Insider blog on Monday, it appeared the Devils were trying to be too fine with their puck placement in last Friday’s loss to the Nashville Predators. Attempting to snipe for the corners, the Devils instead ripped shots wide of goal entirely. That denied the Devs of any opportunity to poke home a rebound or two. Against the Caps, just getting it on goal could pay dividends. Neither Michal Neuvirth nor Semyon Varlamov has looked sharp during the Caps’ recent eight game skid. Until Sunday’s win over the Ottawa Senators, Neuvirth had posted a save percentage better than .900 just once in his previous five games. Get the puck on goal and you never know what can happen.
The First Is The Worst
The Caps have given up the first goal in seven of their last nine games. And while they halted their slide against the Sens on the road, fans at Verizon Center can still recall those recent hardships. If the Devils can get on the board first it will help rekindle those fresh, painful memories for Caps fans and add some pressure. Plus, it’s pretty important for the downtrodden Devils. Not only will it help with the team’s confidence, but the Devs sport just a .111 winning percentage when trailing at the end of the first period.
Ilya Kovalchuk may still be earning minus ratings every game, but his scoring is picking up. The Russian is as hot as he’s ever been this season, posting eight points in the last seven games. Perhaps the sight of a familiar opponent will further spur his success? Kovalchuk has faced the Caps 44 times as a member of the Atlanta Thrashers and has been better than a point-per-game player against the Southeast Conference foe (52 points). This season he hasn’t registered a point in either of the Devils’ previous two games against the Caps, which sounds like he’s due for a breakout performance.
Food For Thought
Trade Brodeur??!?!?! I know what you’re first thought will be when your read Scott Burnside’s blog post suggesting the Devils should deal Martin Brodeur, and yes, I find it amusing that fans of the Devils are concerned with heresy. But seriously, aside from Zach Parise and Travis Zajac, both seen as untouchable parts of the Devils’ core for the future, Brodeur probably has the most trade value and the market for goalies is pretty good right now, with possible demand in Tampa Bay and Washington, as Burnside suggests. It seems clear that the Devils are going down in flames this season and require some major moves to make sure they can afford Parise next season. It may be unpalatable, and GM Lou Lamoriello may never even consider it or the goalie may not waive his no-trade clause, but in theory, Brodeur is probably the best bullet in any potential trade arsenal. That begs an interesting question: Would Devils fans prefer another season or two of torment, possibly losing Parise in the process, or see Martin Brodeur close out his career in a different color jersey than Jersey’s?