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Game Preview #51: New Jersey Devils vs. Seattle Kraken

The Devils played pretty well against the Hurricanes. Unfortunately, they still lost and have squandered their games in hand on the Metropolitan’s leaders, who are now out of range if all stays the same. Pretty much every game from here is a ‘must win.’

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Matchup: New Jersey Devils vs. Seattle Kraken

The Time: 7:00 PM EST

The Broadcast: ROOT-NW, MSGSN

Key Takeaways

  • The Devils put together a very solid outing against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, but unfortunately they dropped a heartbreaking 1-0 loss in overtime. Jackson had the recap.
  • They enter Monday with the Seattle Kraken on the horizon, an up-and-down Western Conference team that has struggled mightily this month and last, putting together a 3-6-1 record in their last 10 games that is identical to the Devils’.
  • The Kraken have one of the best goaltenders and goaltending stories of the year as Joey Daccord has come seemingly out of nowhere to dominate in goals saved above expected and more traditional stat-lines such as GAA and SV%.

The last time the Devils played the Kraken . . .

. . . was December 7, 2023, just a couple months ago. It was a closely fought game, but ultimately the Devils edged out the Kraken 2-1 in a late-night hand-wringer. Notably, Akira Schmid made 37 saves in that victory, and Simon Nemec scored his first career NHL goal. Of course we know what’s happened since: Schmid has been exiled to the AHL after continuing to struggle down the stretch, and Simon Nemec has continued to play very well, mostly, aside from some isolated incidents. Vitek Vanecek—with the help of a much-improved defensive effort—put together a solid performance against Carolina. Without morning practice on Sunday February 11, we won’t know just yet whether or not Ruff will give him another shot or try to rest him. However, Vanecek has started the last four games; Daws has not played since January 25. Check back in for lineup updates as they’re announced by the Devils staff.

The Seattle Kraken are . . .

. . . 21-20-10 this season with 52 points, sitting in sixth place in the Pacific Division, nine points out of a divisional playoff spot, and seven points outside of the last wild card position in the west without a games in hand advantage. They’re desperate, like the Devils. Unlike the Devils, they’re currently lead by one of the best goalies in the league this season. In 35 games, Joey Daccord is 15-10-9 with a 2.34 GAA and a .921 SV%. Per MoneyPuck, he’s 16th among goalies in goals saved above expected with seven.

It’s a testament to how much Seattle has struggled to score that, despite a year in which Daccord should see at least mild consideration for the Vezina, they’re still firmly outside of the playoffs. The Kraken have the fifth-least goals scored in the league at 142 (averaging 2.7 per game), sitting among the league’s absolute worst performers like the Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks. Again, it’s a miracle that their differential is only -8 and that’s largely due to Daccord, as netminding partner Phillip Grubauer has been awful with Devils-like stats (3.25 GAA / .884 SV%). The Kraken have only played once since January 30, but they’re entering a back-to-back with the Devils and the Islanders coming up on their schedule tomorrow. I expect Daccord will face the more-offensively talented Devils, but I will update you as soon as lineup information becomes clear.

The Kraken have only one 20-goal scorer, Jared McCann, and three others who have goals in the low double digits. One of the biggest issues with their forward corps has been the colossal regression of Matty Beniers, who scored at a fair pace last season (24 goals, 57 points) for a rookie two-way forward. He has 19 points in 46 games this year and no other young player—aside from a he’s playing fine Eeli Tolvanan—is there to pick up the slack. This is an aging team (they’re sixth in the league among average age at 28.9) without the star power to truly compete in a league driven by the Connor McDavids and Jack Hugheses. Which is to say, if the Devils can play the stingy defense they played against the Hurricanes, they should be able to keep themselves in the game as long as it takes.

Your Thoughts

Can the Devils keep their good habits from Saturday in play against one of the league’s worst offensive teams, and if so, can they beat Joey Daccord? Let us know in the comments below, and thanks for reading. Onward.