The Matchup: New Jersey Devils (2-4-2) vs the Arizona Coyotes (5-3-1)
The Time: 7:00 PM EST
The Broadcast: TV - MSG+
Who To Watch: The Coyotes, fueled by league-best goaltending and an above-average offense, are a dangerous team. After just falling short last season, the Coyotes have come out hot, with Darcy Kuemper performing at a Vezina goalie level. In six games, Kuemper has a 4-3-0 record, a 1.68 GAA, and a .944 save percentage. Antti Raanta, the backup, has a .926 save percentage over 2 games, and is likely the goalie the Devils will face.
Offensively, former Blackhawk Nick Schmaltz has come out strong, with 3 goals and 6 assists in 8 games. Now entering his 3rd full season, Clayton Keller has emerged as a premier playmaker, with 7 assists through 8 games. Former Avalanche veteran Carl Soderberg provides solid second line play with 6 points, while Conor Garland and Christian Dvorak each have 4 goals. Noticeable quiet is former Penguin Phil Kessel, who only has two goals in his short Arizona stint. Meanwhile, formerly promising forward Christian Fischer has continued to see his ice time drop as his struggles on the season persist.
Defensively, Alex Goligoski has gotten off to a hot start partnering Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Meanwhile, Jacob Chychrun and Jason Demers, while they haven’t performed statistically, are a dangerous duo as well.
Devil’s Tough Task: For the Devils to win against this dynamic, young Coyotes team, they will need to respond quickly. While he has been often maligned, Jack Hughes will need to show up this game and perform well. Skill forwards Jesper Bratt and Nikita Gusev have not responded well defensively, but need to step up and take back some ice time from Wood-Hayden and Rooney. Lastly, a strong defense performance from Blackwood/Schneider would go a long way in helping steal a victory for this Devils team.
Projected Lines: Amanda Stein posted the practice lines yesterday, and there are some real points of debate here.
It is criminal for Jesper Bratt and Jesper Boqvist to be sitting in the box at this point in their careers. It’d be one story if John Hayden or Kevin Rooney were playing out of their mind to steal precious developments minutes, but they have struggled as well, with a 38.9% and 31.4% Corsi respectably.
While the cries for Hynes’ head have calmed with the Devils last two wins, I still find myself questioning whether he’s the right coach for this young Devils team. Arguments can be made that he has stalled Zacha’s career, and is at risk of severely damaging Boqvist’s and Bratt’s futures by not playing them. Furthermore, his continued usage of players such as Kurtis Gabriel from last year to increase “toughness” certainly hasn’t helped in ANY way, and I admittedly am one of those who question his coaching abilities overall.
Your Thoughts?: Who will win? Who will score? What are your thoughts on Hynes’ lines? Let me know in the comments below, and take care.