NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Devils vs. Islanders (October 20)

NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Devils vs. Islanders (October 20) article feature image

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images. Pictured: New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes

  • The Devils head to New York for a Thursday-night clash with the Islanders.
  • Both teams have shown flaws early in the season, which has led Nick Martin to a player prop rather than betting a side.
  • Below, he explains why expects a big night from Jack Hughes and how bettors can play it.

Devils vs. Islanders Odds

Devils Odds+130
Islanders Odds-150
Over/Under6 (-120 / +100)
Time7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

New Jersey will head to UBS Arena for an important date with the Islanders as realistically both of these sides making the playoffs out of the crowded Eastern Conference could be, well, unrealistic.

New York has played some strong hockey to start the campaign and enters this contest at 2-1-0. The team will finish up its four-game homestand tonight.

The Devils have had a much shakier start, playing to a 1-2-0 record through a soft slate of games and offering up many of the same flaws as previous seasons.

What can we expect from this Metropolitan division showdown?

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Goaltending Still a Concern for New Jersey Devils

The Devils have always been analytical darlings over the last several years, which has continued to have NHL modelers considerably higher on the Devils than the actual results suggest.

Obviously, poor goaltending has been a massive part of the underachievement, and we have seen that narrative play out again this season, though we are just three games in.

New Jersey's 59.38 xGF% is fifth best in the league and a mark that suggests better results are coming in the near future.

While I am not entirely sold that New Jersey's defensive play has been as sharp as its solid 2.64 xGF suggests, I believe offensively the Devils have looked dangerous.

New Jersey has played to the eighth-highest xGF in the league at 3.85, and that has looked right in line with what I have seen from Devils contests.

If 2019 first-overall pick Jack Hughes can stay healthy this season, I believe a full-fledged breakout is on the horizon, particularly with the Devils now skating a significantly deeper crop of wingers.

Hughes had a very strong game last time out versus Anaheim, generating two assists from a wealth of strong passes, and managing five shot attempts for a total of 0.54 expected goals.

Hughes' skillset dictates that should be the standard for almost every game of the year, and as he has often talked of, finding a personal consistency to an elite level of play is going to be important this season.

By Devils' goaltending standards, Mackenzie Blackwood had a solid night against Anaheim, and I would count on New Jersey going back to Blackwood in this spot.

Through two games this season, Blackwood has played to -2.0 goals saved above expected rating with an .864 save %.

Blackwood is still an interesting player to watch this season. Early in his career, he was touted as the next great Canadian netminder, but he simply has not gotten there yet.

Last year Blackwood fought through a number of ailments and other concerns, and with how hard goaltending is to project, it's certainly in the realm of possibility he finds better form moving forward.

New York Islanders Employ Crowd-pleasing Tempo

Slotted one spot ahead of the Devils in the league's xGF/60 rankings sit the New York Islanders, who are playing a more up-tempo style of hockey under new head coach Lane Lambert.

While the Islanders did find a ton of success under Barry Trotz, it's still a breath of fresh air for outside observers, who can now expect more action from games at UBS Arena.

The Islanders have also played to a higher xGA/60 of 3.73, which is another clear indication that the style has changed, even if it has been just a three-game sample and one came against the extremely up-tempo Florida Panthers.

Stylistically it is clear that the Islanders are really looking to transition from defense to offense at a quicker rate, and that New York's talented defense core is being encouraged to get aggressive on the attack.

The Islanders have certainly earned their strong 2-1-0 start, and I am very intrigued to see how this matchup goes versus the Devils as an important measuring stick for each, with both sides likely holding somewhat similar ceilings this year, being the final 2-3 playoff spots in the East.

New York is realistically more likely to attain that goal, in large due to the fact that Ilya Sorokin is simply worlds beyond either of the Devils' goaltending options, and should start tonight.

Sorokin has played to a +2.3 goals saved above expected rating with a .941 save % in his first two starts this season, which is right in line with the kind of dominance we saw a year ago.

Devils vs. Islanders Pick

New Jersey's overall play has been better than its 1-2-0 record states, yet it is scary to get involved in this team in this spot considering the large goaltending disparity between these two sides.

It would not surprise me to see New Jersey carry some momentum over from its excellent finish to the Ducks game, but it also would not be entirely surprising to see the Devils fall again tonight and we are back talking about Lindy Ruff being fired in the near future.

At +125 I would play New Jersey before I would still play the Islanders in this spot, but I am going to pass on playing a side personally.

An angle that I do feel confident about is backing Jack Hughes to manage some offense in this spot. Both of these teams have played high-event hockey (more than we are used to Islanders-wise), and I think this game should be high-scoring enough (in fact I even liked the opening Over price at 6) that targeting player props is not foolish.

Hughes was brilliant against the Ducks, and I believe that two points throughout the season's first three games is not a mark indicative of his dangerous play so far.

Even at a juiced price of -148, I believe we have value to make a play on Hughes to record a point, and I also like backing Hughes to record his first goal of the season at +220.

Pick: Jack Hughes Point to -148 (Play to -155), Jack Hughes Anytime Goal to +220 (Play to +200)

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