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Five things to watch when the New Jersey Devils take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 2:
1. The 2nd pairing
I would expect Damon Severson to replace Mirco Mueller on the 2nd pairing but we won't get confirmation until later this afternoon.
Regardless if the 2nd pairing changes or remains the same, it must be a lot better than it was during Game 1.
The John Moore - Mirco Mueller pairing was out-attempted 18-12, out-chanced 6-2, and out-scored 1-0 during 14:51 together at 5v5. Mueller was also on the ice for a goal in the little time they were split up, and he handed Yanni Gourde a tap-in while shorthanded.
A similar performance from the 2nd pairing would almost certainly have the Devils trailing 2-0 in the series heading home.
2. Get to the net
The Devils did not generate many scoring chances in Game 1. When they did generate chances, very few came from high-danger areas.
That's their heat map at 5v5. A lot of attempts came from either outside the dot or above it. There wasn't much coming from the slot area or around the net.
Andrei Vasilevskiy hasn't been himself the last couple months. That's not going to show when he has an easy workload like that.
The Devils have some big guys like Patrick Maroon, Miles Wood and Brian Boyle. Those guys, in particular, need to get to the net more and start creating havoc, be it by screening or collecting rebounds.
3. Costly mistakes
If you're going to give a team like Tampa Bay a run for their money, you can't beat yourself. The Devils did that in the series opener. Patrick Maroon handed the Bolts the dagger goal with a brutal turnover at the offensive blue line. Mirco Mueller found a wide open Yanni Gourde for a tap-in while trying to clear the puck on the penalty kill. Miles Wood took a bad penalty that led to a power play goal. That's three goals put on a platter for the Eastern Conference winners.
The Lightning were the better team and deserved the win. Still, the Devils would have had a legitimate shot at stealing the game if they weren't so adamant about shooting themselves in the foot.
4. Keith Kinkaid
Kinkaid stopped 27-31 for an .871 save percentage in his playoff debut. He made some good saves, and was certainly not a key reason the Devils lost, but he has to hit another gear if the Devils are going to beat Tampa Bay. Sub .900 goaltending will almost never be good enough vs a 54 win team.
5. A duplicate performance
One thing the Devils did very well in the opener: quiet the Lightning's top line. The Devils took just one penalty so they weren't able to feast on the power play. Led by Sami Vatanen, the Devils really slowed them down at 5v5 as well. In ~8:30 of head-to-head time vs Nikita Kucherov and co., the Devils gave up just one (1) shot on goal.
If they can defend the big guns similarly well this afternoon, they should be in good shape.
Here are the projected lineups:
Taylor Hall - Nico Hischier - Kyle Palmieri
Miles Wood/Michael Grabner - Pavel Zacha - Patrick Maroon
Blake Coleman - Travis Zajac - Stefan Noesen
Michael Grabner/Miles Wood - Brian Boyle - Brian Gibbons
Andy Greene - Sami Vatanen
John Moore - Mirco Mueller/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 - Ryan Callahan
Victor Hedman - Dan Girardi
Ryan McDonagh - Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn - Mikhail Sergachev
Puck drop is just after 3:00 p.m. Eastern and can be seen on NBC, CNBC, SNO, SNE, and TVAS2
Note: data via NaturalStatTrick.com and Corsica.Hockey.
Five observations from Game 1
Eastern Conference playoff predictions: Round 1
Western Conference playoff predictions: Round 1
Five keys to success for the Devils vs the Lightning
Marcus Johansson has played better than given credit for