NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Devils vs. Ducks
Rich Graessle/NHLI via Getty Images. PicturedL Jack Hughes of the New Jersey Devils.
- The New Jersey Devils travel across the country to take on the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night.
- The Ducks could be historically bad offensively this season, but after refusing to add via the waiver wire, they might be OK with that.
- Nick Martin breaks down this Friday night NHL matchup below and shares his top betting pick.
Devils vs. Ducks Odds
|Time||10 p.m. ET|
|Odds via BetRivers. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.|
After a scorching hot start to the season, New Jersey fell into a rut out of the blue in December, which had many naysayers saying that a perennially bad team simply got lucky early and would tail off.
That does not seem to be the case, as the Devils have stabilized with a 4-1-1 tear that features wins over quality Metropolitan Division sides such as the Hurricanes, Penguins and Rangers.
That brings the Devils to a soft spot in the schedule, as they will now take on what has become a soft California swing starting with the lowly Anaheim Ducks, who own a record of just 12-26-4.
New Jersey Devils
Analytically. the Devils’ play has not dropped off too drastically from where it sat during an incredibly dominant start to the season. Part of their struggles in December clearly came with some tough luck in front of goal.
Playing a significantly tougher schedule was the other part of the problem, but the Devils may be turning the corner at just the right time and could be poised for a dominant trip in California.
It still may seem surprising to many to see the Devils at seventh in the league with a 26-12-3 and +32 goal differential considering how firmly regimented this team had been as a perennial letdown.
The Devils’ roster is littered with high draft picks, however. A number of key skaters who are having spectacular seasons are not too surprising. Seeing Jesper Bratt blossom into a full-blown star is surprising, but Jack Hughes and captain Nico Hischier were drafted as top picks with lofty expectations.
Both are playing at an extremely high level this season and combine to make up an elite 1-2 punch at center, which is one of the main factors every truly dominant NHL side seems to have in common.
Behind those headliners up front, the Devils are skating a number of strong forwards, as effective role players such as Miles Wood make life tough on the opposition.
Defensively, the Devils have taken a slight step backward with John Marino out of the lineup. But the talent on hand is still really strong and has allowed New Jersey to transition as effectively as any team in the league.
It’s possible New Jersey will view this as the matchup to play backup netminder Mackenzie Blackwood, as tomorrow’s contest in Los Angeles will be the significantly tougher outing.
Blackwood has bounced back with liveable numbers this season and owns a -0.6 GSAx rating and .888 save percentage in 11 games played
Anaheim has lost 25 times by two goals or more this season, which is 59.5% of all games played thus far.
Over the last 10 games, Anaheim has played to an xGF% of just 34.44. Anything below 40% is absolutely shocking, and the Ducks have a realistic chance to finish with the worst rating since expected goals ratings came into existence.
The loss of defender Jamie Drysdale has been gigantic, as all of Anaheim’s regular minute-munchers on the blue line have been getting caved in badly. No pairing that has played over 75 minutes together this season owns an xG rating over 44.3%.
The fact that Anaheim is skating just three forwards capable of driving offensive play at a high rate surely is also part of the problem. It’s a problem that’s exposing a woeful blue line.
Nothing going on with this roster suggests any kind of upswing moving forward, yet management still chose to pass on a number of recent waiver wire additions who would’ve clearly upgrade the roster for the time being.
Whether you want to declare that as tanking is not my call, but the Ducks could be historically bad and seem OK with that.
John Gibson is Anaheim’s projected starter in this matchup. Gibson owns a -11.3 GSAx rating and .896 save percentage through 28 games played.
Devils vs. Ducks Pick
From a personal standpoint, this final analysis is a bit dull because of who the Ducks are. Nothing from my take regarding Anaheim’s game against Edmonton has changed at all, and the pick is going to remain the same.
Anaheim’s defensive corps remains in horrific form, and the space offered playing against the Ducks is night and day from most NHL sides.
None of the veteran talents playing big roles on the blue line seem likely to find better form moving forward, and the Devils’ elite transition game should cause problems tonight.
This is a massive game for the Devils, and I believe they could turn this into a laugher, just as Edmonton did Tuesday.
A price of -130 is a very reasonable number to back the Devils to cover -1.5 on the puck line.
When considering how often Anaheim has lost by two or more — plus the fact that it has not been unlucky to do so — and that New Jersey is still a significantly above-average NHL side, this is my top play for the game.