After starting the season 21-4-1, it looked like the New Jersey Devils were going to run away with the Metropolitan Division as one of the best teams in the NHL.
Not only were the Devils navigating, but their underlying metrics were elite. New Jersey was the best team at 5-5 in the first quarter of the season.
Three weeks and a six-game losing streak later, the Devils have fallen back to earth and are now two points behind the Carolina Hurricanes in the Metropolitan Division.
The Devils managed to get out of the schneid with a win over Florida on Wednesday, but the task doesn’t get any easier with the league-leading Boston Bruins in town.
New Jersey is a slight +102 home underdog against Boston as of 7 p.m. ET on ESPN+ and the NHL Network.
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Prediction Bruins vs. Devils
Even though the Devils have struggled to get results in their last 10 games, their underlying numbers don’t suggest there’s all that wrong with the way they play. New Jersey isn’t posting the numbers it set until Thanksgiving, but it’s still skating to the league’s fifth-best expected goal rate and high-risk scoring chance rate in its last 10 games. .
These numbers should help alleviate any sense of panic that New Jersey may continue to fall back into the pack as we head into the new year.
So if New Jersey is always tipping the ice in the right direction, what’s the problem for the Devils?
For one, the Devs struggle to find the back of the net like they did when rolling. New Jersey has scored just nine goals in its last five games, and four of those goals came in a 4-2 win over Florida on Wednesday. Over their last 10 games, the Devils rank 25th in the NHL with a 6.56% shooting percentage.
Also, the Devils aren’t getting the goalie they need to stabilize them. New Jersey goaltenders have always been seen as the team’s biggest weakness, and that’s started to show recently as the Devils rank 23rd in the NHL with a 5-on-5 save percentage in over the last 10 games.
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The Bruins, meanwhile, keep rolling. Boston is 7-1-2 in its last 10 games and ranks third in the league in that span in expected goal rate and fourth in high danger chance percentage. The Bruins lead the NHL with a +54 goal differential, 25 goals better than the second-place team (Toronto).
But as impressive as Boston has been in its first 31 games of the season, the Bruins are playing back-to-back Friday, while the Devils were out Thursday night.
The Bruins are the best team in a vacuum, but it’s a good spot for the Devils, who still play solid hockey but just don’t get the results.
Devils pick vs. Bruins
New Jersey Devils +102 (FanDuel)