Thanks to a victory by Atlanta over the Pittsburgh Penguins, plus a thorough routing of the Islanders by a score of 7-1, the Devils have locked in first place in the Atlantic Division and another Atlantic Division title – their ninth in team history.
Depending on the outcome of tomorrow’s game against the Buffalo Sabres, the Devils will be finishing second or third in the Eastern Conference. They will drop no lower than third. But will the Devils concern themselves with keeping one leg up over Buffalo with another game tomorrow?
I would like to point out now that the Devils only three possible opponents are Boston, Philly, or Montreal. I’ll explain why at the end of this post.
Getting back to tonight’s matchup, there really isn’t much to report on. The Devils completely shut the Islanders out tonight – with the exception of one goal. The Islanders only made 19 shots on goal, where as the Devils had a total of 37. The Islanders did try to fight their way into contentions, but failed and the Devils took two of five power play opportunities to score. The Islanders scored their only goal on one of three opportunities.
Perhaps the best story to come out of the decisive win is the scoring that came across the board from the Devils. Players like Patrik Elias scored twice, Travis Zajac had four assists, and Ilya Kovalchuk had a goal and two assists, Zach Parise had a goal and two assists, and three defensemen stepped up to make assists on four of the goals.
An overall strong effort by much of the Devils team, with the big names coming through to really shut down the Islanders, albeit not a extremely competitive team as their position in the standings show, is still a good accomplishment to have with only a single game left before the post-season begins. If for nothing else, it will build confidence.
The Devils are also one step closer to the Jennings trophy, awarded to the team with the fewest goals allowed. The Devils would need to give up seven goals to Buffalo on Sunday in order to give up that award. That award should be noted in not only Brodeur’s award list, but also the entire Devils team. Not only have the defensemen stepped up and played an excellent season, but coaching has once again instilled defense team wide so that even the offense comes back to lend a hand to the defense during the course of the game. This eases some pressure and even causes turnovers which lead to offensive rushes.
On a final note, some playoff matchups have been decided in the East (finally). Pittsburgh will be playing against Ottawa. And that’s about it… I thought there was more.
If the Flyers win tomorrow, they will be playing against the second place team, Devils or Buffalo depending on tomorrow’s outcome, and Montreal will see their first round matchup against the Washington Capitals. The loser of tomorrow’s game (again, Devils or Buffalo) will then be playing up against the Boston Bruins.
Now if the Rangers win, things shuffle a little more. The Rangers would then play the Washington Capitals, Montreal would play the second place team, and Boston, like the previous scenario, would be playing the third place team.
So the only two games that will make changes in the lineup are the Devils – Buffalo game and the Rangers – Flyers. It should be a very interesting day on Sunday.