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Some New Jersey Devils thoughts on this off-day while we await their 1st round opponent:
I think John Hynes just might have found something with the new-look 2nd line of Miles Wood, Pavel Zacha, and Patrick Maroon. That trio possesses a nice mixture of speed, skill, and power, and they're very difficult to slow down when they get the puck down low and start working the cycle.
They managed to score four goals, and post positive possession numbers, over the course of two games against playoff teams and they looked very sharp while doing so. The sample size is small, obviously, but the early returns suggest this line may be a keeper.
Despite the best efforts of officials – the Jake Gardiner trip and the dive vs Washington were bad calls – Nico Hischier finished with a plus-22 penalty differential on the year, which was good for 5th in the NHL. Only Johnny Gaudreau (+30), Connor McDavid (+28), Brock McGinn (+23), and Matthew Barzal (+23) finished ahead of Hischier in that category.
If he can consistently put the Devils on the power play, while being a very productive player in his own right, he's going to provide a ridiculous amount of value to the team.
It won't be much longer until we find out who New Jersey's opponent will be in the playoffs.
I'm not going to go too in depth on potential matchups – I want to save that for my series preview – but I will say I'd rather square off against Tampa Bay, which can only happen if Florida beats Boston today.
I think the Bolts are leakier defensively. They are much more likely to turn games into a track meet and trade chances. I think that's a good thing for a Devils team that possesses a ton of team-speed and likes to play with pace.
The Bruins are a dominant possession team that plays a slower, grind-it-out type style and I'm not sure the Devils are built for that. The Bruins also have maybe the best two-way line in the league and they're better equipped to slow down stars like Taylor Hall than the Bolts are.
You can make an argument both ways but I think the Devils have a better chance, although still not a great one, against the Lightning. Let's see who they get.
Devils clinch playoff spot with win over Maple Leafs
Marcus Johansson has played better than given credit for