Follow me on Twitter @ToddCordell
Five things to watch when the New Jersey Devils take on the Toronto Maple Leafs:
1. Discipline is key
Since February 23rd, the Devils have converted on a remarkable 29.8% of their power plays. Taylor Hall has been an absolute weapon, Will Butcher's put on a passing clinic, and Patrick Maroon's net-front presence has certainly made an impact as well.
As good as New Jersey's power play has been, it doesn't hold a candle to Toronto's. The Maple Leafs have scored 19 goals on 44 tries over the same span. That's a 43.2%(!!!) success rate.
With the way these power plays are clicking, either side will be in deep trouble if they don't stay out of the box.
2. Use last change
I'd get Taylor Hall out against Roman Polak every chance possible. It's a dream matchup from New Jersey's perspective.
Looking at 5v5 numbers, no defender on Toronto has been worse at suppressing shots than Polak. No defender on Toronto has a worse Expected Goals For% than Polak. No defender on Toronto has a worse penalty differential (-11) than Polak.
He's not good defending in space, he's slow, and he is prone to taking penalties. Feed Hall the puck on the left side and let him blow right by Polak or draw a penalty while the latter tries to keep up.
3. A stiff matchup
Should the Devils get into the playoffs, which appears quite likely, the Andy Greene - Sami Vatanen pairing is going to play big minutes against top competition on a nightly basis. Perhaps none better than what they'll face vs Toronto tonight.
The objective in hockey, obviously, is to out-score the opposition, and only one line has fared better at doing so than the Maple Leafs' top trio.
4. Keith Kinkaid
He has mostly been sharp for months now and the last couple games were no different. That said, they were against a tanking Montreal team and a rebuilding New York team, both of which were missing several key players due to injury.
Toronto is a completely different animal. They're very potent offensively and have skill on all four lines. They may generate as many quality looks as Montreal and New York combined so Kinkaid will need to be good once again.
5. Will Butcher's shooting
Last game vs New York marked just the third time in 27 games Butcher had taken five shot attempts or more. He has a good, accurate, shot and the offense opens up more when he's more trigger happy. Hopefully he'll be a little more willing to shoot following his two-goal performance. He definitely gets plenty of opportunities to do so, especially on the power play.
Here are the projected lineups:
Taylor Hall - Nico Hischier - Kyle Palmieri
Michael Grabner - Pavel Zacha - Patrick Maroon
Blake Coleman - Travis Zajac - Stefan Noesen
Miles Wood - Brian Boyle - Brian Gibbons
Andy Greene - Sami Vatanen
John Moore - Mirco Mueller
Will Butcher - Ben Lovejoy
Toronto (via DailyFaceoff.com)
Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
Patrick Marleau - Nazem Kadri - Mitch Marner
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Connor Brown
Leo Komarov - Tomas Plekanec - Kasperi Kapanen
Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner - Nikita Zaitsev
Connor Carrick - Roman Polak
Puck drop is just after 7:00 p.m. Eastern and can be seen on MSG+ and TSN4.
Note: data via NaturalStatTrick.com and Corsica.Hockey.
Another monster night from Hall leads Devils past the Rangers
Marcus Johansson has played better than given credit for