NHL Odds, Preview, Pick: Devils vs. Penguins (December 30)
Photo by Rich Graessle/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Jack Hughes.
Devils vs. Penguins Odds
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
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The scuffling New Jersey Devils will head in to Pittsburgh for a date with the Penguins Friday night. Despite ranking seventh and 11th in the overall standings, both of these sides are right on the fringe of the playoff picture playing out of an incredibly competitive Metropolitan division.
That makes this a very crucial showdown with regards to playoff positioning, despite the fact that it comes just before New Year’s.
A month ago, New Jersey would have seemed a complete steal priced as +110 underdogs in this matchup. Is there still value with the Devils despite it’s dreadful recent results?
Nowhere to Go But Up in New Jersey
The Devils have fallen off a cliff with regards to their results, as they have lost eight of the last nine contests after an 18-1-1 tear in the 20 games previous to that.
The fact that to so many NHL viewers and analysts the Devils’ early run of success was so entirely shocking seems to be leading naysayers to write this team off more than it deserves for this small down turn.
Over this nine game downswing, the Devils have played an incredibly tough slate of teams, as their nine opponents in this 1-7-1 lull currently average 11.5 in the NHL’s overall standings.
The Devils have still controlled play to a 50.42% expected goals share during that span at even strength, which is still a very positive comment considering the opponents faced.
New Jersey has fallen into a rut with regards to its ability to finish off high-danger chances, which is hiding the fact that it is still playing a very strong game at five-on-five.
New Jersey has also spent less time on the power play throughout that run than its opponents, which is somewhat mysterious considering it is controlling play at a reasonable rate, and not something likely to continue moving forward.
Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes, and Jesper Bratt all continue to play at a ridiculously high level and are quietly well-insulated by a strong supporting cast up front.
The losses of John Marino and Ryan Graves certainly hurt on the blue-line, but all indications are that the Devils will trend up considerably as they head into a softer January schedule.
Vitek Vanecek will likely start in goal Friday. Vanecek has played to a -1.3 goals saved above expected rating and .910 save% throughout 23 games played.
Penguins’ Defense is For the Birds
The Penguins have come out of the holiday break displaying some horrific defensive play and have allowed 10 goals against in their two losses to the Islanders and Red Wings.
We know the Penguins are far better than those two outings suggest, but the Penguins have actually only controlled play to a 47.7 xGF% at even strength over their last ten matchups.
During that span, the Penguins have allowed an eighth worst 3.02 xGA/60 rating, and it does appear that some regression with regards to their goals allowed totals was due prior to this weeks dreadful outings.
Kris Letang is listed as day-to-day, and would join Jeff Petry as meaningful absences from the Penguins back end if he is unable to take the ice for this contest.
The losses of Petry and Letang compound when taken in unison, as it leaves the Penguins short both of their top options to quarterback the No. 1 power play unit.
Tristan Jarry has been confirmed as the Penguins starting goaltender for this matchup. Jarry has played to a +1.1 GSAx rating and .918 save % throughout 23 games played.
Devils vs. Penguins Pick
It seems that given the fact that New Jersey has been a perennial cellar dweller in recent NHL seasons, it is being written off entirely based upon what is a relatively small sample of losing results.
Especially when you look at the Devils underlying process and how the games have actually been played, there was no better example of that than it’s tough-luck loss to the NHL best Bruins Wednesday night.
At +110, we are getting a good price to back a Devils team which will likely make this game very close, or if anything, carry slightly more of the overall run of play.
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