Today’s NHL Predictions features the New Jersey Devils as they take on the Edmonton Oilers. This matchup marks the third game of a five-game homestand for the Devils. The Devils (16-12-2) enter tonight after a heartbreaking OT loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. Meanwhile, the Oilers (13-15-1) are coming off a 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders, and are embarking on a three-game NY/NJ road trip.
The Devils and Oilers last played a little over a week ago. In a game that resulted in a 4-1 loss for the Devils, they were severely outplayed on the tail end of their Pacific Northwest road trip. The game featured a terrible goaltending gaffe by Akira Schmid leading to a Connor McDavid goal which saw the Oilers win their seventh game in a row. Entering tonight, the Devils are 0-1-1 since the start of the homestand. While the Oilers have cooled down significantly, losing their last three games.
NHL Predictions: New Jersey vs. Edmonton
Three Keys to Victory for New Jersey
Bounce Back From Jack
Jack Hughes has not been himself lately. Devils fans will freak out if you say that but it’s true. Over the past seven games, Hughes only has five points. Only one of which was scored at 5v5. His recent poor play culminated against the Flyers the other night. Hughes was at fault for not one, but two Flyers goals including their OT winner. You want your star players to make plays, but Hughes has been uncharacteristically poor with the puck. Blindly shooting pucks to the centre of the ice twice cost the Devils two valuable points. Fortunately, Hughes doesn’t stay in slumps for very long, and against Connor McDavid, the Devils will need his star power. There aren’t many underlying analytics to explain why he’s been off his game lately. But when you watch him now, compared to a month ago, it’s obvious to see.
Stoppable Force Vs Movable Object
The Devils currently have the second-worst home record in the Eastern Conference and are tied for the third-worst in the league. Edmonton is a lowly 4-9 on the road and 1-5 on the East Coast. Something has to give, right? The Devils currently have a -6 goal differential at home this season. For comparison, they had a +32 goal differential last season, and that’s including an eight-game home losing streak. On the other hand, the Oilers have a -12 goal differential on the road this season. And again for comparison, the Oilers had a +33 goal differential on the road last season. To put it simply, the Devils have been a poor home team, and the Oilers have been a poor road team. Something will have to give when these two teams face off tonight.
Fourth Line Vibes
Oddly enough the Devil’s fourth line has been their best over the past few games. And against the Flyers the trio of Michael McLeod, Nate Bastian, and Curtis Lazar played their tails off. They scored the opening goal of the game, and were all in the 93 percentile or higher in Expected Goals %. They are the only line right now that is playing a simple and physical game. The rest of the team should take a long look at the fourth line and try and play as hard as them, then maybe they’ll start stringing together more wins. The catalyst for this line has been McLeod. He’s on pace for career highs in all scoring categories and also leads the league in face-off win percentage at 65.8%. The Devil’s fourth line has become their identity line, and Lindy Ruff will likely deploy this line against McDavid or Leon Draisaitl for their defensive capabilities.
It’s starting to feel like dire times for the Devils. Their home record is poor and they can’t seem to make up ground on their division rivals. The Oiler’s situation isn’t much better, but since their coaching change, they’ve improved. The Devils need to get a hold of this season before it starts to slip away, and that begins by finishing this homestand with a few wins. However, it’s hard to know or trust which Devils team will show up each night, making it difficult to predict an outcome. That being said, desperation should start to trickle into their game, but it remains to be seen if that’s good or bad.
Prediction: Devils Win 3-2
Main Photo: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports