New York Islanders (31-37-11) at New Jersey Devils (34-29-16)
|Date & Time||Friday April 11, 2014, 7:30 PM (EDT)|
The Line: New Jersey Devils -175 / New York Islanders +159 --- Over/Under: 5.5
|TV Channel||Stream NHL games all season on ESPN+ for only $4.99 a month. Sign up now!|
The New Jersey Devils head into their final two games of the season knowing that they won't be in the post season for the third time in the last four seasons. For a franchise that has been built on excellence over the last two decades it's a serious fall from grace and one that needs to be looked at from the top down. General manager Lou Lamiorello said on Thursday that he was disappointed with the season and that it's unacceptable. Lamiorello also went on to state that he believes just making the playoffs is a failure and that what matters is winning championships. Sure, it's understandable that someone who has won as much as Lamiorello might feel that way, but openly stating it after being the architect behind another disaster of a roster just makes him look bad. Right now the Devils just don't have enough offensive talent. It's unfair to blame the general manager for Ilya Kovalchuk's departure to Russia, especially after everything the club did to get him that contract that he signed, but it doens't make up for so many of the other moves. Martin Brodeur's presence was more of a hindrance than a help this year, and it's not crazy to think that New Jersey would have been in much better shape had Cory Schneider really gotten the bulk of the work in goal. The National Hockey League gave the Devils back their first round pick this season, but sitting at 30th overall the Devils will need to draft better than they have recently if they want to find an impact player. Jaromir Jagr has been the best player on this team night in and night out, and at 42 years old that's tough to accept. Bryce Salvador and Anton Volchenkov can't continue to anchor the defense corps. Adam Larsson needs a regular spot in this lineup and a chance to prove he was worth the No. 4 overall pick a few years ago. Travis Zajac needs to prove that he can be this type of player consistently. More importantly the Devils need to get their identity back. This is a hockey club that for a long time you knew the type of war it was going to be when you played them. Of late, it's just a mish mosh of players that look completely disorganized out their on the ice. Thursday night they'll get to face a division rival and another club that has a lot of these same problems.
For the New York Islanders it was supposed to be about taking that next step after the club found their way into the playoffs last season and managed to give the Pittsburgh Penguins a scare in the process. Instead, it was two steps backwards for a team that really looks like they already have one foot out the door on their way to Brooklyn. John Tavares' injury in the Olympics was devastating, but this club wasn't heading back to the playoffs this year anyway. Jack Capuano hasn't been given much to work with from general manager Garth Snow, but as long as Charles Wang is in charge there isn't going to be a change there. New York couldn't get a deal done with Andrew MacDonald and that's another key blow to their defense corps as they traded him away to the division rival Philadelphia Flyers. If Snow hasn't figured out yet that he needs to use all of his available resources to shore up the back end then there really isn't any hope for him or Islanders fans. One thing you can give the players credit for is that they don't ever quit, but they just don't have enough to consistently match up with most teams in this league. Thursday night they played a strong game in Montreal against a Canadiens team that clearly wasn't into the game, but it showed what this team can do when they play a little defense and get some goaltending. For whatever reason the Islanders always seem to give the Devils fits and with both teams traveling back from Canada on Thursday night there really shouldn't be an advantage for either club. With Schneider in net the Devils should have the edge but Brodeur will probably get at least one of these last two Devils games.