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Five things to watch when the New Jersey Devils take on the Calgary Flames in this season's second, and final, edition of the Todd Cordell Bowl™:
1. It's not getting easier
The Devils have lost six consecutive games and scored two goals or fewer in seven of the last eight. Their offense has been awful and there's not much reason to expect any different tonight.
Beyond the barrage of injuries that make finding the back of the net with any consistency almost impossible, the Devils have to deal with one of the better teams in the league that's played very well defensively of late.
Over the last 10 games, the Flames sit 3rd in attempts against/60 and 6th in chances against/60. That's not exactly good news considering the Devils sit 31st in attempts and chances for/60 over the same span.
Barring some really poor goaltending, I'd expect another small number for the Devils in this one.
2. Penalties, penalties, and more penalties
New Jersey and Calgary have both dealt with serious discipline issues of late. Over the last 25 games, only three teams have spent more time killing penalties than the Devils. Just five can say the same about the Flames. If the last few months are any indication, we'll probably see a lot of special teams play in this one. That'd be bad news for the Devils considering the Flames actually have plenty of talent to trot out on the man advantage.
3. A get right spot for the top line
On aggregate, Calgary's top trio of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Elias Lindholm has played fantastic this year. If we isolate the last month and change, they look far less impressive.
Over the last 15 games, they carry the three lowest Corsi For percentages among Flames forwards and have combined for just four goals at 5v5. Four!
While the Devils have defended pretty well of late – they've resorted to low-event hockey with all of their offensive talent missing in action – they do not have a line anywhere close to the caliber of Calgary's top unit. I think that could shine through tonight, especially with the Flames controlling the matchups and able to keep Gaudreau and co. away from Travis Zajac and Blake Coleman.
4. Damon Severson stepping up
Not many Devils are playing good hockey right now. Somehow, Severson is playing some of his best. At 5v5, he leads Devils blueliners in Corsi For% (54.55%) and Scoring Chance For% (54.10%) over the last five games. He's also chipped in offensively with four 5v5 points in that time, while no other player on the Devils has recorded more than two.
With so many injuries, the Devils need him to help lead the offense. He's doing that.
5. Stealing the show
Calgary ranks 2nd in shot attempts and 3rd in scoring chances over the last 10 games. Though they haven't scored a ton of goals in that stretch, it's not for a lack of opportunities. Generating them in bunches has not been an issue, and I doubt it will be tonight against New Jersey.
Mackenzie Blackwood, who owns a .932 save percentage through 16 NHL appearances this season, will have to be on his game for the Devils to have a chance.
Here are the projected lineups.
New Jersey Devils
Blake Coleman - Travis Zajac - Drew Stafford
Kenny Agostino - Kevin Rooney - Stefan Noesen
Eric Tangradi - Michael McLeod - Nick Lappin
John Quenneville - Blake Pietila - Joey Anderson
Andy Greene - Damon Severson
Will Butcher - Connor Carrick
Egor Yakovlev - Steven Santini
Calgary (via DailyFaceoff.com)
Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Elias Lindholm
Matthew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik
Sam Bennett - Mark Jankowski - Austin Czarnik
Andrew Mangiapane - Derek Ryan - Garnet Hathaway
Mark Giordano - T.J. Brodie
Noah Hanifin - Travis Hamonic
Oscar Fantenberg - Rasmus Andersson
Mike Smith/David Rittich
Puck drop is just after 9:00 p.m. ET and can be seen on MSG+ and SNW.
Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com
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