On Thursday, the New Jersey Devils and the Pittsburgh Penguins are set to face off in a pivotal Metropolitan Division clash, at the PPG Paints Arena. This will be a compelling contest where the Devils, positioned 4th in the Metropolitan with a 7-5-1 record, take on the 6th place Penguins, holding an 8-6 record. With both teams looking to climb the division ladder, this game promises intense hockey action.
Striving for Metropolitan Dominance
The New Jersey Devils, holding a respectable 7-5-1 record and standing 4th in the Metropolitan, enter this game with a mix of promising talent and areas for improvement. A significant challenge is the injuries to key players like Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier, impacting the team's mid ice strength. The Devils rank 11th in goals for, with 48 this season. Tyler Toffoli leads the team with 8 goals, with 47 shots on goal. However, the team's overall shooting percentage is 9th at .113, indicating room for improvement. Defensively, the team has room for improvement, ranking 20th in goals against, having conceded 48. Their penalty kill percentage stands at 17th with 78.7%, which is decent but not outstanding.
An area of significant strength for the Devils is their power play, ranking 1st in the league with an impressive 38.5%. This could be a critical factor in the upcoming game against Pittsburgh. Vitek Vanecek, the leading goaltender, has a save percentage of .887 and a goals against average (GAA) of 3.45. While these stats are not top-tier, Vanecek has been a reliable presence in the net. Their recent form is a mixed bag, with losses against teams like Washington and Colorado but victories over Chicago and Minnesota, showing their ability to bounce back. The Devils' success in this game will largely hinge on their ability to exploit their power play opportunities and improve their defensive game, especially against a team like Pittsburgh, known for its offensive capabilities.
Aiming for Metropolitan Ascendancy
The Pittsburgh Penguins, with an 8-6 record, are not far behind the Devils, sitting 6th in the Metropolitan. They come into this matchup with a need for consistency in their play. Ranking 16th in goals for, with 46, the Penguins' offensive output has been solid but not spectacular. Evgeni Malkin, a key player, leads with 8 goals, 8 assists, and a stable 0 in plus/minus. The team's shooting percentage stands at 17th with .101, indicating a need for more offensive efficiency. Impressively, Pittsburgh ranks 5th in goals against, only allowing 34 this season. Their penalty kill percentage is also strong, ranking 11th at 83.3%, showcasing a robust defensive unit.
A notable weakness for the Penguins is their power play, ranking 19th with an 18.4% effectiveness rate. This could be a crucial factor in a game where special teams might make the difference. Tristan Jarry has been a standout, with a .920 save percentage and a 2.23 GAA, including 3 shutouts. His performance could be a deciding factor against the Devils. The Penguins are coming off a string of victories, including impressive wins against Buffalo and a dominant 10-2 victory against San Jose, showing they can be a formidable force. For the Penguins, the key to victory in this matchup lies in maintaining their defensive strength and finding more efficiency in their power play, exploiting any weakness in the Devils' defensive game.
David's Pick: Pittsburgh Penguins -122
In this high-stakes Metropolitan matchup, I’m leaning towards the Pittsburgh Penguins to secure the win. Despite the Devils' impressive power play, the Penguins' overall defensive prowess, led by the exceptional goaltending of Tristan Jarry, gives them the edge. Pittsburgh’s recent form, including a string of victories, shows a team gaining momentum at the right time. The Devils, while formidable, might struggle with their defensive consistency, especially against a team like Pittsburgh, which has shown it can exploit such weaknesses. Expect the Penguins to leverage their defensive strength and experience to outplay the Devils in this crucial divisional contest.
Pittsburgh's defense, particularly their penalty kill efficiency, coupled with Jarry's goaltending, should give them an upper hand in this contest. The Devils' top-ranked power play will be tested against the Penguins' strong penalty kill unit. Offensively, Pittsburgh needs to exploit New Jersey's 20th-ranked defense, while the Devils will rely on their power play to breach Pittsburgh's defenses. This game is likely to be a close contest, but Pittsburgh's defensive edge and recent form tilt the balance in their favor.