The Matchup: New Jersey Devils (18-21-7) at the New York Islanders (26-15-4)
The Time: 7:00 PM
The Broadcast: MSG+2
Somehow: The New York Islanders have better goaltending than the New Jersey Devils - significantly so. Robin Lehner is leading the team with a .928 save percentage and a 2.16 goals against average. Thomas Greiss also has a .918 save percentage and a 2.62 goals against average. So apparently, the Devils won’t be given an easier time by a team playing a bad goaltender.
I expect the New Jersey Devils to start MacKenzie Blackwood tonight. With the next game on Saturday and the one after that on Monday, John Hynes can give Blackwood the majority of the upcoming games or even all of them without completely running Blackwood into the ground. This would also give the team a chance to win.
Depth: Valtteri Filppula did not look like a good signing for a team like the New York Islanders during the offseason - a team that was supposed to be rebuilding. But Filppula has decided to shoot at a career high pace of a 25.6% shot percentage. Therefore, despite having a mere 39 shots in 43 games, Filppula has 10 goals, putting him on track for his highest number of goals since the 2013-14 season. This is, of course, all while getting bottom six minutes.
However, certain Islanders are not performing up to expectations. Jordan Eberle only has one more point than Valtteri Filppula (21 to 20) in 41 games. Given his recent ice time, he seems to have been demoted to the third line. That could present a challenge for the Devils’ middle six, as Travis Zajac’s line will probably be busy attempting to shut down the Mathew Barzal line.
And some players, like Brock Nelson, are thriving in the Lou Islanders era. Nelson has 30 points in 45 games. This puts him on track to beat his career high of 46 with around 55 points.
The Devils need to be Better: If John Hynes plans on trying to show his team can make a comeback in the standings, he’s going to need to get the Devils to win divisional games. These teams are roughly equal in offense this season, but the difference is in keeping the puck out of the net. In just one more game played, the Devils have allowed 39 more goals than the New York Islanders have this season. Even with players like Blake Coleman playing extremely well, and the return of Jesper Bratt, the team has been unable to make a substantial dent in the standings. They are 13 points behind the Islanders, the third place divisional team. It would be immensely helpful for the team to win tonight, if only in spirit.
Your Take: What do you think about the game tonight? Can we win? Is Nico Hischier going to be a better player than Mat Barzal? Are we going to obsess over selecting Pavel Zacha tonight? Where is Keith Kinkaid going to be at the end of the year? If you could make one move with this team, what would it be? Should the Devils bring up a prospect like Michael McLeod or Marian Studenic? Can anything help? Should Blake Pietila be an NHL player? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.