Jersey’s hockey team missed an opportunity to tie its first-round series 2-2 vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night in Game 4. Game 5 presents opportunity for the New Jersey Devils.
- New Jersey Devils (1-3)
- Tampa Bay Lightning (3-1)
- Playoffs, TB Leads 3-1, April 21, 3:00 p.m. ET, The One Jersey Network, NBCSN, SN360, TVAS2
- Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida
The New Jersey Devils will need to make history this spring or their season will be history.
An NHL team has only come back to win a series when trialing 3-1 on 28 occasions in the history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and one of which was the 1999-2000 Devils during the Eastern Conference Finals against the Philadelphia Flyers.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 19, 2018
Here are three keys for New Jersey to get back in the series:
1. Put the series in the ‘Palm’ of his hands
Forward Kyle Palmieri earned his first goal of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs last game when he found the back of the net on the power play 8:23 into the first period. Palmieri had been a consistent offensive threat for Devils since coming over from Anaheim back in 2015, but New Jersey needs him now and more than ever.
— x – New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) April 19, 2018
The New Jersey native has proven to be clutch since donning a Devils’ sweater, and it’s time for him to rise and put the series in the palm of his hands. Palmieri’s linemates, Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier, have received a majority of attention from Tampa this series, and the winger will need to take advantage of that aspect.
There’s potential time and space for him to create more offense while using Hall and Hischeir as decoys on Jersey’s offensive attack, or Head coach John Hynes could consider giving No. 21 more ice-time and using him on a different line.
Note: Palmieri had two shots last game … let’s see what can happen when he can record four or five in a contest.
2. ‘Again.’ Cash in on the power play
As noted above the Devils received a power-play goal from Palmieri (five-on-three) to open the scoring for the first time in the series, but Taylor Hall and company failed to convert on the team’s next five power-play opportunities. Yes, the Devils lost their quarterback for the power play, Sami Vatanen, for most of those man advantages (upper body injury); but the Devils need to find a way to cash in on the power play more than once to beat Tampa.
New Jersey needs more movement from all five skaters in the offensive zone when it’s on the man advantage. The Devils moved the puck well last game in Tampa’s end, but for a majority of the time, the puck was held to the outside. One of the Lightning’s weaknesses is their bad habits of watching and following the puck in the defensive zone.
The Devils could use more movement and players without the puck crashing the net in order to create better scoring opportunities.
3. Tighten up in the defensive zone
It was obvious that the Lightning’s top line of J.T. Miller, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov haunted the Devils all night long in Game 4, especially when the trio had puck possession beneath the dots in the offensive zone. While the Devils will have a disadvantage right off the bat on the road (not having the last line change), this hockey enthusiast believes that New Jersey needs to trust themselves more often in the D-zone.
Jersey clinched a playoff berth for a reason … and “speed” was a characteristic brought up often as to why.
As a unit, the Devils should be more confident and aggressive when defending the Bolts’ top skaters. There’s no time to play things safe and collapse in the defensive zone, either. The more aggressive attack could take the Lightning by surprise, plus help Cory Schneider and company steal Game 5 on the road.