The Matchup: New Jersey Devils (26-16-8) vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins (29-21-3 SBNation; Pensburgh)
The Time: 7:00 PM EST
The Broadcast: TV - MSG+2
Here We Go!: Here’s the first game of the season between the Devils and the Penguins. The Penguins are one point ahead of the Devils, but with 3 more games played. They are also a team significantly better at home (19-7-1) than away (10-14-2). That gives the Devils a slight advantage in this game. However, this Pittsburgh team is hot, winners of 4 in a row. It won’t be an easy game for the Devils to win (let’s hope I’m wrong though), but I do see it as winnable.
Looking at the Penguins Roster: Scouting the Penguins roster, it is VERY top heavy in terms of scoring. The difference between the 3rd and 4th highest scorers on the team is 27 points, which shows the Penguins have trouble scoring in terms of depth. They are the 9th best offensive team, and the best power-play team, so it’s about keeping the penalties down and the chances low.
Now, let’s look at this roster a bit closer.
Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin, and Sidney Crosby - I group these guys together because they are what everyone knows them as — offensive juggernauts. Kessel leads the team with 62 points, while Malkin and Crosby aren’t too far behind with 59 and 58 points respectably. Malkin leads with 28 goals, while Crosby leads in assists with 41. These men are what every team fears, and need to be watched closely.
Jake Guentzel, Connor Sheary, and Bryan Rust -These are the guys I like to classify as the Penguins young, underperforming depth forwards. Guentzel, while his overall stats look fine (15 goals, 12 assists), is a very streaky scorer on a Penguins team that needs consistency. Bryan Rust is nothing too special, but his numbers have been down a bit compared to last season. Connor Sheary, on the other hand, is struggling on the year. He won’t play Saturday due to an injury, but I’m throwing him in this preview anyway, as he’s part of why this team hasn’t performed up to it’s massive expectations.
Kris Letang - Otherwise known as, “The defenseman who can’t really defend this year.” He averages over 25 minutes of time on the ice. He has 30 points on the season. Yet, he also has a dreadful -14 +/-, and he has only 3 goals on the year. He has a three game point streak currently, but I thoroughly believe he is one of the most overrated defenseman in the league. His Corsi is good, to be fair, but his stats and overall play on the year haven’t been so great. Just my opinion, of course.
Olli Maata - Solid defenseman. Turning into his own. Underrated offensively.
Riley Sheahan - Another Pittsburgh attempt to find a 3rd-line center. The result has been 4 goals in 44 games.
Dominik Simon - The internal option which may be the 3rd-line center the Penguins wanted.
Ryan Reaves - I still can’t believe Ryan Reaves is what convinced the Penguins to move down to the 2nd round, whilst also giving up Oskar Sundqvist.
Devils Transactions: Steven Santini was sent down, Jimmy Hayes was send for conditioning, and John Quenneville was called up. Expect Quenneville to play. That’s all.
So...: What do you expect to happen in this game? Who will win? Let me know in the comments below, and take care.