Today’s NHL Predictions features the New Jersey Devils‘ first trip to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Seattle Kraken. The Devils (12-10-1) are coming off a thrilling 6-5 win against Vancouver in the “Hughesbowl”. Meanwhile, the struggling Kraken (8-12-6) are in the midst of a five-game losing streak and most recently fell 4-2 to Montreal.
In the first meeting between all three Hughes brothers, the Devils managed to edge out a win in the final moments of the game. After leading 5-2 after two, the Devils let in three consecutive goals. However, on the brink of a season-crushing collapse, Jesper Bratt scored with 32 seconds remaining. A win’s a win and the Devils will look to add more points as they enter game two of their four-game Western Canada/Seattle road trip.
NHL Predictions: New Jersey vs. Seattle
Three Keys to Victory
Stop the Devil Killer
There’s one man who puts fear in the eyes of the Devils and their fans, and his name is Oliver Bjorkstrand. For the entirety of the NHL, he’s nothing more than a solid top-six, 40+ point player. For the Devils, he is their nightmare. Throughout his time in Columbus, Bjorkstrand has lit the lamp a whopping 12 times against the Devils. He has been their boogeyman during his time with Columbus. However, one bright spot is in the two meetings against him last week with Seattle, they managed to keep him off the scoresheet entirely. This season Bjorkstrand leads all Kraken forwards with 20 points and is third in goals on the team with seven. Seattle sits middle of the pack in xGF and has talented goalscorers that the Devils will have to watch out for, but history has shown that Bjorkstrand is money against them and deserves extra attention.
Keep Rolling Rooks’
Luke Hughes has been everything and more that the Devils would’ve hoped for entering the year. What they didn’t account for was having fellow rookie defenceman Simon Nemec up in the NHL with him. With Dougie Hamilton out indefinitely, Nemec has been thrown right into the fire. In his first game, all he did was register two assists and lead all defenceman in ice time with 22:38. He followed that up in Vancouver with 21:45 in ice time and continued to look like the most poised player out there. Nemec is unapologetic in the way he plays. He’s confident in transition, always calling for the puck, and is never scared to shoot the puck. With Hamilton out, replacing him with another aggressive offensive defenceman looks like the correct move early on.
As for Hughes, his ascension to the Devil’s best defenceman has been fast. They’ll need him to continue his playmaking ability and dominance with the puck if they want to make it out of Seattle with two points. He has five points in his last five games, and without Hamilton, is the go-to source of offence from the blue line. Also, this will be Hughes’s first matchup against his Michigan teammate, Matty Beniers.
Hughes-Hischier Their Way to Victory
Since Nico Hischier’s return to the lineup the Devils are 4-1. During that span, he has two goals and four assists. As for Jack Hughes, he’s on a four-game goal streak, has 11 points, and was named the NHL Third Star of the Week. Safe to say when both are in the lineup good things happen. Seattle showed last year they can score goals and be great, but the Devils will have the two most talented players on the ice when they play. What makes the combo so great is their yin and yang styles of play. With Hischier on the ice, the Devils play a harder forechecking game, with the ability to shut down the opposing team’s top players and lines. With Hughes out there his speed pins teams back and are forced to chase him out on the ice. Seattle will have to use the last change to their advantage if they want to stop that duo.
On one hand, the Devils have been playing better and used this road trip last year to springboard their season. On the other hand, the home team has won each time these teams face off. The Devils are starting to find their footing, especially at 5v5, while Seattle has struggled to defend. However, Seattle still has most of the same talent from last year and should be better than their five-game losing streak suggests. It’s a game on paper the Devils should win, but much like the San Jose game, they can underestimate their opponents. Seattle should break the funk and scratch out a victory at home to keep the trend rolling.
Prediction: Seattle wins 4-3
Main Photo: © Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports