Canadiens vs Devils: Game Preview

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

With a future hall-of-famer in the New Jersey net, can the Habs conquer their kryptonite?

No goalie in recent history has caused the Habs as much heartache as New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur.

There's almost no other way to start a game preview, as the French-Canadian keeper's resume against his hometown team is simply amazing. Let's get the obligatory statistical mention out of the way - in his career against the Habs, Brodeur is 44-18-5-1, with a .930 save percentage and 9 shutouts. Basically, whenever the Habs have played the Devils for the last twenty years, they've faced Vezina-level goaltending.

Of course, it's worth noting that at the outset of the 2013-14 season, it looked like Brodeur's stellar run in the NHL might be coming to an end. At the 2013 NHL draft, the Devils spent their first round pick to acquire their goaltender of the future in former Canuck Corey Schneider. With a young, strong option in East Rutherford, the talks of torch-passing made the NJ goaltending conversation feel like a Canadiens opening ceremony. However, after a few games missed to injury, and Brodeur building some early-season momentum in his absence, Schneider finds himself back where he was in Vancouver - in the 1A spot of a goaltending platoon.

The aforementioned Brodeur momentum has manifested itself in the form of a 7-6-2 record this year, with a .910 save percentage and a pair of shutouts. The .910 appears unimpressive, but Brodeur's been a league average .915 at even strength. His overall numbers are weakened by his play on the penalty kill, but fortunately for Brodeur and the Devils, they haven't found themselves in that situation often while Brodeur is in net.

Brodeur's counterpart this evening, Habs goalie Carey Price, has been not too shabby himself. Price is coming off another strong effort, this time against the Toronto Maple Leafs, in which he stymied the Leafs with the exception of an unfortunate carom and an incredible skill play. With a recent streak of victories, Price's record has improved to 11-8-2, a standing which better befits his league-leading .937 save percentage. In his career against the Devils, which comprises 17 starts, Price has a record of only 7-9 despite providing at least average play. Again, even with a GAA of 2.42 against the Devils, it's difficult to get wins when the guy at the other end is playing every game like he's 2002-03 Roman Cechmanek.

If there will ever be an opportunity for Price to improve his numbers, it may be this evening, as the Devils are starved for offense following superstar departures in consecutive off-seasons. The Devils have scored less than any Habs opponent to-date, save for the slow-starting Flyers and sad-sack Sabres. The Devils actually added two decent forwards this summer, in former-Hab Michael Ryder and never-Hab Jaromir Jagr. While those two gentleman are each bonafide scorers, and each a good bet for 25 goals in any given season, it's nigh-impossible to replace what Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise bring overnight. In order to find success, the Devils have relied on strong possession play to keep the puck away from their net.

That reality makes the Devils something of a different beast compared to the Canadiens recent opponents, in that their roster configuration and strategy is tailored to their lack of firepower. New Jersey lacks the type of top gun that the Penguins, Capitals, and Leafs can offer, but their first line of Jagr-Zubrus-Zajac is still heavily-relied upon in the same way. As the home team, Montreal will again have the advantage of last change, so look for Plekanec and Co. to matchup against the Devils' best. The rest of the Devils' offence is spread out somewhat, as Patrik Elias and Michael Ryder have been playing apart of late. Montreal's middle six should matchup favourably regardless of deployment, meaning that tonight may be an opportunity for some of the Canadiens' colder players to get going. Alex Galchenyuk managed three points in three games against the Devils last year, and that type of production would be welcome this evening.

Based on news from earlier today, it appears that Michel Therrien has opted to reverse a confusing lineup decision this evening, leaving George Parros off of tonight's roster. In his place will be rookie Michael Bournival , who was in the press box for the Habs victory on Saturday night. While it's unfortunate that Ryan White will sit again this evening, Bournival's return allows the Habs to create arguably the league's best fourth line (Bournival-Prust-Moen), while Rene Bourque moves up to join Eller and Galchenyuk.

Following his best game as a Hab, Douglas Murray has earned a second consecutive berth in the lineup. He'll pair with Raphael Diaz, creating a dependable Diaz-Douglas duo that simultaneously does and does not provide 'D.' In his recap of the Leafs game, Andrew noted that it's likely all downhill from the lofty heights of 72.7% fenwick for Murray, but it's at least comforting to know that the big Swede at his best can be a serviceable sixth defender.

For a game preview from the opposing perspective, as well as a stats-oriented take on the Brodeur vs. Schneider controversy, check out In Lou We Trust.

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