Devils Gameday Preview: Boston Bruins

The New Jersey Devils have played impressive hockey this week. They beat the Florida Panthers by a score of 7-3, and shutout the New York Islanders. Dougie Hamilton returned to the ice on Thursday night getting on the scoreboard with a goal and assist. Their next challenge will be the Boston Bruins who are currently sixth in the Atlantic Division.

New Jersey Devils Gameday Preview MacKenzie Blackwood, Nico Hischier and Dougie Hamilton
MacKenzie Blackwood, Nico Hischier, Dougie Hamilton (The Hockey Writers)

The last time these two teams met was May 4, 2021. The Devils earned two points thanks to Pavel Zacha’s overtime goal. Zacha, Jesper Boqvist and Yegor Sharangovich all scored in the win. MacKenzie Blackwood faced 36 shots and made 33 saves in the home victory. Let’s break down some storylines for the Bruins and Devils.

3 Storylines: Boston Bruins (6-5-0)

Jeremy Swayman Will Start in Net

The Anchorage, Alaska native got the call and will start in net for the Bruins. Jeremy Swayman has a record of 3-2-0 this season with a save percentage of .906. Today marks his 16th career NHL game. I reached out to my colleague and friend Hannah Garfield who covers the Bruins to ask her what Devils fans should know about the young goaltender.

Jeremy Swayman Boston Bruins
Jeremy Swayman, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

“Since making his debut last spring, Swayman has made an excellent name for himself in Boston and around the league,” said Garfield. “Road games have proven to be a challenge for him — out of his five games this season, he’s won the three he started at home and lost the two he started on the road. The 22, almost 23-year-old will be a challenge for the Devils’ young forwards. It’ll be a great matchup this season and for years to come.”

Taylor Hall Returns to Prudential Center

It is always fun when fans can see a familiar face. Taylor Hall was traded from the Devils to the Arizona Coyotes, who stated they would not re-sign him. After an odd and brief stint with the Buffalo Sabres, he found a home in Boston. This season he has seven points (three goals, four assists) in 11 games. He did not score in Boston’s last game against the Edmonton Oilers, and was benched at the end of Tuesday night’s game against the Ottawa Senators due to his poor play. When the media asked head coach Bruce Cassidy why he benched Hall, he had this to say:

“Turnover at the blue line when you have the lead in the third,” said coach Cassidy on Tuesday night. “We’re all trying to buy in to play behind their D unless you allow a free pass to get through there. It’s just winning hockey. You want to play winning hockey. It doesn’t matter who you are on the team and he got away from that.”

Related: Bruins Need Hall to Get Cassidy’s Message

The Bruins Have Struggled on the Road

This season, their road record is 1-4-0, only beating the Sabres. The Bruins have played a total of 26 games at Prudential Center and have an overall record of 15-6-5. It will be interesting to see if they will be able to find familiar success in Newark or if they will continue their road trip woes.

3 Storylines: New Jersey Devils (7-3-2)

Blackwood Plays Well Against the Bruins

As the Bruins’ website puts it, Blackwood was a thorn in the Bruins’ side last season. The Devils faced the team eight times and finished with a record of 5-1-2. It appears that Blackwood has the Bruins’ number, because the Devils played their best hockey last season against Boston.

Mackenzie Blackwood New Jersey Devils
Mackenzie Blackwood, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Blackwood made 42 saves on Tuesday night against the Islanders earning his first shutout of the season. After the game he told media there is something different about his team this season.

Related: 5 Takeaways From the Devils’ Convincing Win Against the Islanders

“In the past you’d see the schedule and some teams coming up and go ‘ugh’ these are going to be some tough games,” Blackwood said after Thursday’s victory. “This year, there’s a different aura in the room. The guys have a lot of confidence. You look at the schedule and you don’t care who you play because if you play your game you can compete with anyone. It’s fun coming to the rink and having these challenges.”

At the time this article was published the Devils did not announce their starting goaltender. If Jonathan Bernier starts tonight it will be his 400th career NHL game.

A Surging Power Play

The Devils power play has been surprisingly good as of late. Things were looking bleak when New Jersey went 0-18 over a five-game span. This week, they scored three power-play goals on six chances. The addition of Alexander Holtz made a difference against the Panthers as he earned his first NHL point assisting on Zacha’s power-play goal in the third period.

Michael McLeod Continues to Impress in Faceoff Circle

Michael McLeod is one of of two Devils who has played in 12 games and has not scored a goal. He’s had multiple opportunities, including a few breakaway chances. Where his game has truly impressed is in the faceoff circle. He leads all Devils centers with a faceoff percentage of 59.56, and is currently ranked 25th in the league.

Michael McLeod New Jersey Devils
Michael McLeod, New Jersey Devils (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

“He really skates well and opens the ice up for whoever he’s playing (with),” head coach Lindy Ruff said. “He creates a lot of chances on his own with his speed. I think even more now he’s been able to find guys around him. His play through the year improved. I think he’s a better player right now than he was at the start of last year. In Michael’s case, he’s worked hard on a lot of areas of his game to get to where he’s at.”

Players to Watch

New Jersey Devils: Dawson Mercer

Simply put, fans can’t help but notice Dawson Mercer when he is on the ice. Currently, he is ranked fourth among all rookies in points with eight. The 20-year-old moves the puck with confidence, and seems to have a talent for getting under the skin of his opponents. It will be interesting to see if he will be put in an opportunity to battle against Hall or Brad Marchand.

Boston Bruins: Brad Marchand

Marchand is playing very well this season. He has 16 points (six goals, 10 assists), which leads his team in all categories. He, along with line mates Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, have a combined 37 points. They are a line that can win a game on their own, and will test the Devils defensemen all night long.

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