A big win for the New Jersey Devils last night in Newark, as they dispatched the visiting St. Louis Blues, 4-2. The Blues got within a goal in the third period to make it a 3-2 contest, but the Devils tacked on an empty netter to put the game out of reach. That’s a good victory for the Devils despite the fact it’s meaningless when it comes to the playoffs. However, playing well down the stretch could bode good for them going into the 2020-21 season.
There have been instances of teams peaking a year or two later than they were expected to, so don’t sleep on the Devils going into next season. There certainly won’t be as much pressure on them as there was this year. The development of Jack Hughes in the offseason is likely going to be the difference between a good or bad season. If Hughes improves, like he should, the Devils are going to be dangerous.
The same goes for Mackenzie Blackwood between the pipes. Cory Schneider turned in a good performance last night, as he stopped 31 of 33 shots for a 0.939 save percentage. With the win, the Devils are a win away from getting to .500 on the year. They own a record of 27-28-12 going into Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
The win over the Blues is the second high profile win in the last two weeks. They also defeated the Washington Capitals, 3-2, on February 27. That’s the good part for the Devils. There is also some bad in there, as they lost against the Kings, Golden Knights, and Sharks recently, too. Finding some consistency down the stretch will be their most important goal.
If they can generate some consistency then the Devils have something they can build on in the offseason. There was none of that for them early in the season. Better defence and goaltending has certainly helped recently. Blackwood has been solid and Schneider has been a pleasant surprise after returning from the AHL.
They take on a Rangers team who are on the brink of going to the playoffs. This looked like a team that was dead in the water in the early stages of the regular season. I expected them to be a serious contender next season, and possibly compete for a playoff spot in 2019-20, so I’d say they are on track. If the Rangers don’t get into the playoffs, the skies still look bright blue for them in the next few years. We’ll see if they can sneak in and expedite the process this season, though. Head below for our free Devils vs. Rangers pick.
N.J. Devils vs. N.Y. Rangers Betting Odds:
Devils vs. Rangers Prediction:
The Rangers needed that win over the Capitals badly. They were in danger of going on a four-game losing streak, which would just about wipe out a five-game winning streak they used to get into playoff contention. The bleeding was able to stop, and it came against an opponent that might provide them with some momentum. Igor Shesterkin is slated to start for the Rangers in this one.
That’s big news for the Rangers. Shesterkin came to the Rangers in January after lighting the AHL on fire. He won’t be going back down to the minors anytime soon. As a member of the Hartford Wolf Pack, Shesterkin was unstoppable, as he posted a 1.90 GAA and 0.934 save percentage in 25 games.
It’s a small sample size for Shesterkin, but his production from the AHL has carried over to the NHL. He possesses a 2.23 GAA and 0.94 save percentage in 10 games. Before getting a car accident, which fractured a rib, Shesterkin 2 or fewer goals in four out of his previous five outings. In six out of his last eight outings, he’s done the same between the pipes.
Shesterkin returning to the crease isn’t what the Devils wanted to hear going into Saturday. If he can return and pick up from where he left off, then the Rangers are going to be in a good position to beat the Devils here. Note that the Devils have scored just 2.32 goals per game on the road this season. Overall on the year they’ve netted 2.62 goals a game for 25th in the league. In their previous ten outings, they’ve scored just 2 goals per game.
The Rangers have been scoring, but too many goals have been going in without Shesterkin in net. They’ve allowed 3.3 goals per game in their last ten outings, though have potted 3.6 goals per game on the other end. Expect the defensive numbers to look better with Shesterkin back in the saddle for the Rangers. This looks like the perfect letdown spot for the Devils at MSG. They’re on a four-game losing streak against the Rangers in NYC, and that trend should continue with a fifth loss on Saturday.