The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (28-12-3) at the San Jose Sharks (13-23-8). SBN Blog: Fear the Fin.
The Time: 4:00 PM ET
The Broadcast: TV - MSG+/MSGSN
Almost Done With the Road Trip
To close out their road trip, the Devils are taking on a team that has won only three games out of 13 played in the past month, as the Sharks have gone 3-7-3 in that time. In this span, San Jose has a -18 goal differential, giving up 56 goals - nearly four goals against per game. The San Jose Sharks are a capable enough offensive team, but they are by far the worst in the league at limiting damage on defense. They are at around league average in xG rates, both offensive and defensive, which indicates they are suffering untimely breakdowns and horrific goaltending. With the way the New Jersey Devils play, this should be the best kind of game for them. A look at the Sharks’ goaltending situation shows they have a team save percentage of .885, with -25.9 goals saved above average.
The Devils are currently 17-2-1 on the road this season. They should have no difficulties tonight as long as they attack San Jose as aggressively as they did Anaheim - or if they’re as efficient as they were against Los Angeles. Being 6-1-1 in their last eight games played, the Devils have been incredibly consistent offensively of late. In those eight games, they have scored three one time, four goals on three nights, five goals on three nights, and the six goal performance against Anaheim. Needless to say, the goals have been coming in a torrent after several one-goal performances during the losing stretch.
The San Jose Sharks are in need of a long rebuild. For what few difference makers the Sharks have, they are all in or passing through the prime years of their careers. The youngest fixture in the lineup is defenseman Mario Ferraro, who is 24 years old. Considering he is really not that good a player - whose offensive inefficiency far outweighs his average defensive impact - the Sharks seem to have an anemic talent pipeline. It seems all but certain, though, that they will never compete again with Erik Karlsson or Logan Couture on the roster. They are too old, and at this point might not even be in the league by the time San Jose has executed a rebuild. To trade Karlsson, who is on pace for over a hundred points as a defenseman - or to trade Timo Meier, who is an electric offensive player - seems like a necessity for a team that just does not have the depth or goaltending talent to be a competitive team. They could get a huge return on a few of their top players if they choose to sell at the trade deadline.
Tonight, I expect to see Nolan Foote again - but I really do wish Fabian Zetterlund was getting more time right now. I do get it, though. Playing Foote against a bottom-feeder like Anaheim felt like they were trying to show him of as a potential trade piece. Roster-wise, there really is not a place for Foote as soon as Bastian or Marino get activated. I assume it won’t be long until that happens, but I think Foote will be again tonight as he displays his ability for both the Devils’ coaches and opposing scouts, whose teams might be able to get him more playing time in the NHL.
I would like to see a lot of Dawson Mercer again tonight. He has a four-game point streak, with six points in those games. If there’s ever a game to let Jack Hughes and Dawson Mercer run wild on a line together, it’s against the worst goaltending team in the league. With the lineup getting closer to full-strength, I would like to see Ruff work on finalizing the best version of this roster. That means getting Erik Haula into the third-line center role, and figuring out who among Boqvist, McLeod, and Wood deserve to stay in when Bastian and Zetterlund are pushing for lineup spots.
What do you think of today’s game? Will you be watching? How do you like the 4PM start? Do you think they’ll make it five wins in a row? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.