April 18, 2018
By Tommy Zilinski
The New Jersey Devils and Tampa Bay Lightning will square off in their fourth game of a best-of-seven series tonight at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils won their most recent game in a come-from-behind thriller on Monday night, but the Bolts have a 2-1 lead in the series. Defeat is not an option tonight, as a loss would send them back to Tampa on the brink of elimination. Fortunately, the Devils still have home ice advantage, so Head Coach John Hynes controls the matchups and the team will have a raucous home crowd pushing them over the edge.
In Game three, the Devils defeated Tampa Bay by a final score of 5-2, two of which were empty-netters. New Jersey did a great job of getting under the Bolts skin, which combined with their speed and grit, led to seven power play opportunities for the Devils. The Bolts are aware of their undisciplined play; you can bet they’ll come out much better tonight.
The New Jersey Devils can accept nothing short of unconditional victory tonight. There are no excuses, this series must be tied at any cost when the final horn sounds in Jersey tonight. Let’s get it done. Let’s Go Devils!
Keys To Victory
Make the Most of the First 10 Minutes – The fans will be loud and energized after Monday’s game. The Devils will have the fans behind them with their full energy, so they must use the first 10 minutes to get consistent offensive zone pressure, put Tampa on their heels, aim to draw a penalty, and most importantly of all…
Score the First Goal – So far, the Lightning have scored the first goal in every game this series, and that needs to change. It’s much easier to defend a lead than claw your way back just to even up a score. Utilize the fan’s energy, and make that red light behind Andrei Vasilevskiy go off at least once in those first 10 minutes I mentioned earlier. This will really put Tampa on their heels and make the Devils job a lot easier.
Near-Perfect Goaltending – Cory Schneider had a phenomenal game on Monday night (it’s been a while since we could say that, and it feels great). Having said that, he must have another all-star caliber (if not completely flawless) performance for the Devils to walk away with a win. Tampa’s offense is too dynamic and talented for him to have an anything less.
Full 60-Minute Game – It’s no coincidence the first game New Jersey played a full 60 minutes for was the contest they won. The Devils had their legs going all night, looked solid on the breakout and through the neutral zone, and their defensive awareness was high. However, even if New Jersey can replicate that same effort, they’ll need to step it up another 10-15 percent, because the Bolts will bring their very best.
Special Teams & Discipline – Penalty killing has been the Devils’ Achilles heel all series. They just cannot solve the Bolts power play, which has gone 5-for-10 (50%) on the man advantage so far this series. Alex Killorn, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov are always a threat when on the ice, and the first two have made the Devils play a number of times already, and it’s only a matter of time before Kuch strikes as well.
The Devils need to stay out of the box – seriously, no more than two penalties. Their power play also needs to click because going 1-for-7 again against the most offensively dynamic team in the East isn’t good. The Bolts don’t normally take a lot of penalties, and they’re going to be extra disciplined tonight after taking seven minors in Game 3, so New Jersey will need to take advantage of every chance they get on the man advantage.
Physicality – Game 4 got ugly fast in the closing minutes, and I expect that the emotions will carry over into tonight’s game, especially if the score gets out of hand. The Devils were able to draw so many penalties against the Bolts because their physicality was getting under the skin of the team in white. Continue laying hits and continue with the extracurriculars after the whistle to continue throwing the Bolts off their game.
For New Jersey
For Tampa Bay
*= game-time decision
Players To Watch
Marcus Johansson – MoJo looked great in his first game back. His playmaking abilities were sorely missed, along with his silky smooth hands and his power play presence. Look for him to build on his performance tonight.
Alex Killorn – Now I know why he’s nicknamed Killer. He’s been killing the Devils, especially on the Bolts’ power play. He’s a good, strong net-front presence that can tip the puck well, or dish passes out to the wingers and point-men. Whoever the defender assigned to him is (and I pray it’s not Ben Lovejoy) needs to tie him up and keep his stick lifted as much as possible, especially while the Devils are on the penalty kill. Don’t leave this man unchecked, especially in front of the cage.
New Jersey will be able to leverage the power of their home crowd and will feed off their energy. The Devils will come away with a 5-3 victory over the Bolts and will head back to Tampa with an evened up series.
To make the game more interesting, we are playing tonight’s game on www.statementgames.com for the chance to win cool prizes. Our two lock statements are:
Sami Vatanen Will Play OVER 23.00 Minutes
Victor Hedman Will Play OVER 26.06 Minutes
Where To Watch
The puck drops shortly after 7:30pm and tonight’s action can be seen on the GOLF Channel (lol), MSG+ and SUN Sports. We also invite you to follow us on social media as we provide live play-by-play and instant reaction and analysis to the game.
A Note to the Fans
Devils fans, your team needs you tonight. No matter what happens, you need to be loud, proud, raucous, and supportive. Taunt the Bolts (especially Hedman and Sergachev for their actions in Monday’s game), cheer every chance you get, and start some “Let’s Go Devils!” or similar chants at every opportunity. Before the Devils take the ice for the game, they should be able to feel the building shaking because of the noise levels. Any noise with the intent of defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning is authorized.