The Pittsburgh Penguins welcome the New Jersey Devils on Monday to get an important part of the season underway. The Penguins, currently a fringe team, are currently in possession of the final wildcard in the Eastern Conference. They have a 4-point cushion on the Sabres for the final seed. I find it hard to believe that the Penguins won’t be playing hockey in the spring, but even if they do reach it as a bottom seed, they’d have a battle on their hands in the first-round.
With that said, the Lightning or any other top seeds do not want to play a veteran team like the Penguins in the first-round. A date with Pittsburgh in the first-round is not exactly a nice reward for playing well during the regular season.
The Devils are tied for dead last in the league with the Senators. They enter with a record of 18-23-7 and 43 points. Porous goaltending from Keith Kinkaid and Cory Schneider has doomed the Devils this season. Mackenzie Blackwood provided a spark from the AHL, but he’s beginning to slow down as well.
It’s tough to expect Blackwood to carry the load as a 22-year-old rookie netminder. He’s allowed an average of 3.6 goals per game in his last three starts. With that in mind, he has still been the best option for the Devils with a 2.42 GAA and 0.924 save percentage in 2018-19.
While he has been in a bit of a mini funk, Blackwood has also produced three shutouts. He’s provided a lift in what has been a disaster, especially for Schneider in net this season. Kinkaid is expected to get the starting duties against the Penguins on Monday evening in Pittsburgh. Matt Murray is expected to counter for the Pens. Get our free Devils vs. Penguins pick below.
N.J. Devils vs. Pittsburgh Penguins Pick
The Penguins were struggling mightily to start the season. It took a couple of months to shake the rust off and find a groove. Much of the blame falls on Murray, who was playing poorly between the pipes. Not much changes for the Pens following the break. There is little secret that their success is going to come down to Murray.
I don’t know which guy we’re going to see over the next couple of months, but it’s going to determine the fate of the Pens. After overcoming his slump, he got hot but has mellowed out recently with 10 goals allowed in his last three outings. With the Pens’ offence, they aren’t going to need Murray to save the world, but he can’t revert to how he was playing in October and November. The goal scorers won’t be able to make up for his sloppy play.
Pittsburgh head into Monday in 5th with an average of 3.5 goals scored per game. That number has steadily gone up this season. In their previous ten games, the Pens have notched an average of 3.9 goals per game, though have allowed 3.3 per game.
They’ve lost three of their last four games, and in those three games, they allowed 17 goals to the Kings, Sharks, and Knights. Most recently, the Pens took a 7-3 loss to Vegas. They have allowed at least 4 goals in five of their previous seven outings.
Pittsburgh shouldn’t have issues exploiting the Devils’ defence and Kinkaid, though. Note that the Devils have allowed 3.8 goals per game on the road this season. It follows that Kinkaid has recorded a shoddy 3.54 GAA and 0.89 save percentage on the road in 2018-19. There have been at least 6 goals scored in seven of their last nine meetings, the Devils winners in the last two. There should be at least 7 or 8 goals on the docket Monday night in Pittsburgh.