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If Devils’ DeBoer loves Parise, Zajac, he needs to set them free

Harrison Mooney
Puck Daddy

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AP

Zajac and Parise could use more opportunities to do stuff like this.

It goes without saying that if Peter DeBoer wants his Devils to win Game 2, he's going to have a make a few adjustments. For one, stop dumping the puck into Drew Doughty's corner -- Doughty turns it around so fast he's basically Gloria Estefan on ice.

For another, attack the Kings, who have yet to face a single playoff team that attempted to storm their Bastille.

But the most important adjustment DeBoer needs to make is getting Zach Parise and his linemates away Anze Kopitar and his. Immediately.

DeBoer loves Parise and Zajac, so it has to be tempting to play their line head-to-head with Kopitar's. After all, Parise and Zajac are highly-skilled forwards, capable of outplaying a long list of the league's elite lines. But if Game 1 is any indication, the Kopitar line isn't on that list.

On Wednesday in Game 1, DeBoer matched Parise's line against the Kopitar line as much as he could. It had the effect of pinning New Jersey's first line in their own zone for much of the night.

We'll use Corsi (plus/minus for shots directed at the net rather than goals) to illustrate this: Zubrus finished a minus-3 in Corsi. Parise and Zajac finished tied for a game-worst minus-9. Meanwhile, Kopitar was a plus-5, Dustin Brown finished a plus-6, and Justin Williams was plus-9, tops in the game among forwards.

In short, matching Parise's line versus Kopitar's line reduced New Jersey's best wave of attack to their worst while barely denting the effectiveness of the Kings' top trio.

Since Darryl Sutter rolled his lines practically all game with little regard for who they were deployed against, we can safely surmise that Peter DeBoer worked hard for this matchup.

He needs to knock it off, post-haste.

Stop wasting your best weapon. Let Patrik Elias's checking line chase Kopitar and Brown around. You can't afford to keep Parise's line, which accounts for a third of New Jersey's postseason goals and is comprised of their two best even-strength scorers, from the best opportunities to beat Jonathan Quick and the best opportunities to play in the LA end. Travis Zajac can't finish a game with only 4 of 18 faceoffs in the offensive zone.

Normally, I'd say a one-game sample size isn't enough to call a tactic a failure, but Peter DeBoer doesn't have time, especially when we have a three-series sample size telling us what happens when the Kings head back to Los Angeles with a two-game lead. The Devils need to try something different right away, and that something is letting Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, and Danius Zubrus play offense.

Rather than work for a matchup versus the Kopitar line, DeBoer would be wise to work for a matchup against the Richards line, who aren't nearly as adept at keeping the puck outside their blue line.

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