NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Bruins vs. Devils (December 28)
Photo by Rich Graessle/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Linus Ullmark (Bruins)
- The Bruins have yet to lose two straight games this season, and now will have to face the Devils on the second night of a back-to-back.
- Boston has a significant edge in goal against New Jersey and enter the matchup as the road favorite.
- Will that guide it to a win? Nick Martin dives in below.
Bruins vs. Devils Odds
|Time||7:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.|
After a rare loss Tuesday night, the NHL-leading Boston Bruins will look to bounce back in a tough matchup at the Prudential Center vs. the Devils.
We’re 34 games into the season, and Boston has yet to suffer back-to-back losses. As a result, the Bruins own a dominant 27-4-3 record.
New Jersey, meanwhile, has fallen into a 1-6-1 funk, and after it’s surprisingly elite start to the campaign, has started to trend downwards recently — results wise, at least.
Will Boston suffer back-to-back losses for the first time this season on Wednesday?
Are Bruins the Best Team in Hockey?
Boston started backup netminder Jeremy Swayman Tuesday in Ottawa, opting for the strategy of saving its starter for what appeared to be the tougher of the two contests.
Therefore, Linus Ullmark should draw the start in this matchup, and as we saw last week, the disparity in goal between the Devils and Bruins could be the single greatest difference between these two sides.
In 23 appearances, Ullmark has played to a +17.3 goals saved above expected rating with a .936 save %, and is becoming a shoe-in to garner at least a nomination for the Vezina Trophy this season.
While Ullmark has clearly been absolutely brilliant, any goaltender is always more likely to shine behind a team featuring sharper defensive play.
Boston has clearly offered some of the league’s very best defensive play this season, which has helped each of its netminding options thrive. The Bruins’ 2.64 xGA/60 this season is the second-best mark in the league next to Carolina.
Over the last month, that mark has remained intact despite a fairly tough schedule, as the Bruins have played to a 2.67 xGA/60 and 56.14% expected goals rating.
Considering how Boston thrived in the early going without some elite skaters — such as Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy — it makes a lot of sense to see it still playing at an elite level with those two back in the mix.
The Bruins’ +55 goal differential in a fierce Eastern Conference is the ultimate argument to prove they’re the best team in hockey, and it will be very interesting to see if Boston can grind out another game here.
Injuries Impacting Devils’ Play
The Devils were right there with the Bruins at suppressing the opposition’s high-danger chances to start the campaign. They were also able to insulate a very average netminding tandem — enough to find win after win for almost two months.
Throughout December, New Jersey has still been effective defensively, but it’s 12th-best xGA/60 of 3.03 is still a huge step back from where it was early on in the campaign.
Defender John Marino had quietly been playing at an unbelievably high level this season — particularly early on — but is now sidelined with an upper-body injury.
The same can be said for Ryan Graves, who is an elite defender and was injured on December 21 vs. the Panthers.
Those two losses are very meaningful on the Devils’ back end. The second defensive pairing now becomes Kevin Bahl and Damon Severson, which should mean worse overall control of play for the foreseeable future.
Vitek Vanecek will likely start in goal for the Devils on Wednesday. Vanecek has played to a -2.6 GSAx and .909 save % throughout 22 appearances this season.
Bruins vs. Devils Pick
Two of the greatest reasons for New Jersey’s early success are now on the sidelines, which should continue to make suppressing opposition chances difficult.
Vanecek has begun to offer consistently shakier play after an unreal start to the campaign, and Ullmark will provide a massive edge for the Bruins in goal.
Boston has remained in truly elite form of late and should prove a tough challenge on night two of this back-to-back — particularly with a massive edge in goal.
The Bruins skating in leg two of a back-to-back is not ideal, but it’s also a valid argument to say that New Jersey playing in it’s first game back since the holiday break could be a concern, as well.
Despite all of their early dominance, the Bruins remain just seven points ahead of the Leafs for first in the Atlantic. There remains a ton of incentive to push hard to win that race, as the winner avoids a nightmare matchup in round one, which is always worthy of a potential letdown spot.
While I still believe the Devils are a legitimate playoff team this season, winning in this spot against the league’s best team should prove quite difficult. I see some value with the Bruins down to -125.
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