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Five things to watch when the New Jersey Devils take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 4:
1. Cory Schneider's play
The Devils have played well in stretches of each game. In saying that, they've been out-chanced at 5v5 in each game. Even with Tampa Bay's top line struggling – particularly against Sami Vatanen – the team is still generating plenty of good looks. Tonight should be no different so Schneider will have to really good once again if the Devils are going to draw even.
2. Pavel picking it up
The Devils need more offensive contributions from a lot of guys. Pavel Zacha is at or near the top of the list. Through almost 45 minutes of ice in this series, Zacha has registered just one shot on goal, one scoring chance, and two shot attempts. He hasn't picked up a point yet, either. If he's going to play ~15 minutes per night and center the 2nd line, the Devils need more from him offensively. I think Marcus Johansson's return could really help. With his playmaking ability, he should be able to get the puck to Zacha more in scoring areas.
3. The penalty kill
Despite taking only 10 penalties in the first three games (a respectable 3.33 per), the Devils have conceded five power play goals. Five! They've only been shorthanded for 12:19. That's good for a cool 24.3 power play goals against/60. For perspective, the New York Islanders finished 31st in that category during the regular season and they gave up 9.81/60.
The Devils must find a way to slow the Lightning down – perhaps giving Alex Killorn less breathing room in the slot would help – if they're going to stick around in this series.
4. Taylor Hall vs Dan Girardi
Hall saw 4:40 of Girardi over the two games in Tampa. In Game 3 alone, he almost matched that playing close to four minutes against him. A couple extra shifts may not seem like much but it doesn't take long for a player like Hall to expose a team's weakness.
You could argue Hall's best chance in Game 3 came when Girardi was on the ice. Vatanen hit Hall in motion with a stretch pass and the latter blew by Girardi and ripped one off the crossbar.
5. The 4th line is a problem spot
Miles Wood has not had a good series. At 5v5, the Lightning have out-chanced the Devils 22-7 (24.14 SCF%) with him on the ice.
Brian Boyle has not had a good series. At 5v5, the Lightning have out-chanced the Devils 14-8 (36.36 SCF%) with him on the ice.
Drew Stafford has only played 5:30 at 5v5 and the Lightning out-chanced the Devils 4-1 (20.00 SCF%) in that time.
With the way they're playing, John Hynes might be forced to shorten the bench and primarily ice three lines. The good news is there is an extra day off before Game 5 to recover.
Here are the projected lineups:
Taylor Hall - Nico Hischier - Kyle Palmieri
Marcus Johansson - Pavel Zacha - Patrick Maroon
Blake Coleman - Travis Zajac - Stefan Noesen
Miles Wood - Brian Boyle - Drew Stafford
Andy Greene - Sami Vatanen
John Moore - Damon Severson
Will Butcher - Ben Lovejoy
Tampa Bay (via DailyFaceoff.com)
J.T. Miller - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Tyler Johnson
Yanni Gourde - Anthony Cirelli - Alex Killorn
Chris Kunitz - Cedric Paquette - Cory Conacher
Victor Hedman - Dan Girardi
Ryan McDonagh - Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn - Mikhail Sergachev
Puck drop is just after 7:30 p.m. Eastern and can be seen on SN, MSG+, GOLF, SUN, and TVAS2.
Note: data via NaturalStatTrick.com and Corsica.Hockey.
Five observations from Game 3
Five observations from Game 2
Five observations from Game 1
Eastern Conference playoff predictions: Round 1
Western Conference playoff predictions: Round 1