A regional battle between the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils will take place at Madison Square Garden in NYC. The Devils battled hard against the New York Islanders on Tuesday night, though only had a point to show for it. That’s okay for the Devils, though, as they’ve been showing some fight recently.
It took a while, but the Devils are beginning to show signs of shaking off a slow start. The St. Louis Blues did the same a season ago around this time. They went from last to first, and the Devils could do something similar just a year later. Don’t hold your breath Devils’ fans, though. It’s incredibly unlikely that the Devils reach the playoffs, let alone pull off what the Blues did.
The Devils are last in the Metropolitan Division with a record of 15-20-7 and 37 points. That’s well below expectations, and they’ve already traded a pivotal piece who was expected to be a major contributor in 2019-20. The former Hart Trophy winner, Taylor Hall, was dealt to the Arizona Coyotes in an attempt for the Devils to shed salary and salvage something in return.
Hall appeared to be checked out in Newark and the front office granted his wishes for a trade. P.K. Subban may be the next Devil sent out of town. He’s been a major disappointment for the Devils, and his presence on the blue line is expensive. As another team, I wouldn’t want to take on his contract, but there would likely be somebody willing to roll the dice on Subban returning to form.
Wayne Simmonds may also be up for grabs before the trade deadline. Simmonds has claimed he wants to stay in New Jersey, but the Devils would have to re-sign him in the offseason. He only signed a one-year deal, so the Devils are being forced to make decisions way earlier than they expected to. Like I said, the Devils have been playing better of late. They’ve won three of their last five games, and have recorded at least a point in four of five outings.
The Devils are the only team in the Metropolitan behind the Rangers. It’s been a struggle for both teams, though the Rangers are confident that they’ll be contenders within the next few years. They head into Thursday night with a mark of 20-18-4 and 44 points. The Rangers signed a guy to build around, Artemi Panarin, in the offseason. Now it’s about seeing progress from Kaapo Kakko and the youngsters in the next few years. The rest is up to the front office making the appropriate moves. Head below for our free Devils vs. Rangers pick.
New Jersey Devils vs. N.Y. Rangers Betting Odds:
Devils vs. Rangers Prediction:
The Rangers are coming off a nice 5-3 win against a good Avalanche team to snap a three-game losing streak. Five different Rangers were able to find the back of the net, including Artemi Panarin who also had 2 assists for a 3-point night. Panarin leads the Rangers with 58 points, and it’s not even remotely close. The next closest Ranger is Ryan Strome with 39 points on the season. There are some good players on this team, but some of them need some more time to develop, and the Rangers will have to acquire talent. Their defence can be tough to look at sometimes, while the goaltending has been iffy between Henrik Lundqvist and Alexander Georgiev.
With Igor Shesterkin waiting in the wings to be the next starting goaltender for the Rangers, they won’t have to make a goaltending acquisition. Georgiev appears to be on the trade block because of Shesterkin’s presence. Shesterkin was outstanding in Hartford, as he posted a 1.93 GAA and 0.932 save percentage in the AHL. That was enough for him to get the call up and make his debut against the Avalanche on Tuesday.
He was okay with 3 goals against on 32 shots for a 3.03 GAA and 0.906 save percentage. Lundqvist is currently listed as probable to start on Thursday against the Devils. He also gave up 3 goals in his NHL debut years back in 2005, so one start is not a quality indicator of success in the future. Also note that Shesterkin is not dealing with a quality defence at the moment in New York. The iffy goaltending for the Rangers is not solely on the goaltenders. The Rangers are hoping that the defence will be taken care of by the time Shesterkin is ready to be the full-time starter.
Lundqvist owns a 3.10 GAA and 0.91 save percentage following a shoddy 4 goal effort against the Flames in Calgary. In the Rangers’ previous ten outings, they’ve yielded 4 goals per game, though have scored 3.5 goals a game to keep them hanging around in contests. Before the Rangers improve in this regard on the blue line and on the back check, they will continue to be on a path to nowhere. It may not matter against a team like the Devils this evening, though.
The Devils have been one of the worst teams in the league defensively. In fact, the Red Wings are the only team that have surrendered more goals this season. The Devils have yielded 3.43 goals per game for 30th in the NHL. Blackwood has settled in as the starting netminder for the Devils after bouncing between options. He holds a 2.86 GAA and 0.907 save percentage, which look more like backup numbers than a full-time option in the crease.
Blackwood is coming off a couple of really poor performances, as he allowed 4 goals against the Avalanche and Islanders. His last outing against the Rangers wasn’t ideal, as he allowed 3 goals on 22 shots for a 0.864 save percentage. These are two teams at the bottom of a competitive Metropolitan Division, but this should provide an entertaining matchup. There should be enough goals on the board to push the final tally OVER the total at MSG.