New Jersey Devils: 4 Goals for the Last Game of the Season

Peter MillsContributor IIIApril 7, 2012

New Jersey Devils: 4 Goals for the Last Game of the Season

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    The New Jersey Devils will play their last game of the 2011-12 season today when they face off at home against the Ottawa Senators at 3 pm (ET).

    At first glance, the game does not seem to have much importance to the Devils. They sit at sixth place in the East. The Philadelphia Flyers are three points above, the Senators eight points below. The Senators have a chance at moving in the rankings, but not in a way that affects the Devils.

    And to some extent, that is all true. This game is not a normal regular-season game; with things set as they are, there is not any particular outside pressure.

    That being said, there are still important things to watch for. This is the Devils' only practice before the playoffs, when every game becomes crucial.

    Here are four goals the Devils should have for their regular-season finale. 

First-Line Magic

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    With Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and Travis Zajac all starting to look their old, respective selves, the Devils' first line appears formidable.

    Though all three players were held pointless against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday, in three games before that they combined for five goals and seven assists.

    However, the numbers can be slightly deceptive as well. Kovalchuk accounts for three of those goals, and one of them came on an empty net while another came directly following a power play.

    If the three can have an impressive game together and show off some of the chemistry that they most certainly have, it will be a reassuring glimpse of things to come for the playoffs.

Keep Up the Quality of Play

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    The Devils are pretty hot right now. After a brief rough patch in March, the team has hit its stride in the form of a league-high five-game winning streak.

    It's always nice to go into the playoffs on a high note, and the Devils will surely be trying to win out there.

    However, it's not the W that's most important in this case. As mentioned earlier, this game does actually hold some importance to the Senators in terms of playoff positioning.

    It would be great if the Devils do win, but more important that than is that they play well. It would be rough to see Ottawa grind out a win in a hard-fought battle, but as long as the Devils show what they're capable of, that should be enough.

    What they're trying to avoid is a flat performance where they don't even look like they belong in the same league as their opponent.

Shore Up the Question Areas

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    There are certain areas where the Devils may feel less than confident. Every team has some, though obviously the best teams have the fewest. The Devils have their share.

    First up is shaky goaltending.

    Martin Brodeur's season stat line of 30-21-4, .907 save-percentage and 2.41 goals-against average doesn't tell the story of his season. Marty started out looking quite questionable at times, as well as missing some patches due to injury.

    The goaltending great has steadily improved as the season wore on, but he's not faultless. In the past five games, he's twice given up four even-strength goals, once on just 20 shots (the other on 27). A few flashes of the glove and no face-palms should be enough to keep him confident going into the postseason. A shutout might be greedy.

    Other questionable areas include the Devils' terrible faceoff numbers and the Devils' power play. which is at best average. Zajac's return from injury will help their overall faceoff numbers, as he's been their go-to man when healthy the past few years.

    As far as the power play goes, much like the game, it's more important that they show high-quality play than that they actually yield success. A power-play goal would be sweet, but I'd settle for forcing some great saves out of Ottawa's goalie.

Stay Healthy!

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    This is something that applies to every team once it knows it'll make the postseason. You don't let important players get hurt.

    The Devils lost Jacob Josefson to a wrist fracture against the Islanders last week, and he looks to be out at least a month. An injury to any number of important players would be extremely costly in the playoffs, and in the end would likely spell doom.

    So the Devils need to play carefully. You can be sure the Senators will too. Not soft hockey—not at all. But not reckless hockey, either.

    Because now, they have much more important things to focus on.