NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Rangers vs Devils (Saturday, November 18)
Pictured: Igor Shesterkin. (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)
Rangers vs. Devils Odds
The Rangers and Devils will meet for the first time this season on Saturday at the Prudential Center. New Jersey ended New York's playoff run last spring and entered this season as the favorite to win the Metropolitan division.
However, the Rangers have thrived under new coach Peter Laviolette and sit atop the Metropolitan division at 11-2-1. That being said, let's make a prediction for Rangers vs. Devils.
Laviolette has always found a way to get excellent results in his first season with a new team. Those who put stock into that trend early this season have been rewarded as the Rangers' excellent form has been one of the more noteworthy stories in the NHL season.
The Rangers have certainly bought in to what Laviolette is preaching. Their well-rounded team play has led to a number of highly convincing wins, particularly on a number of nights when star goaltender Igor Shesterkin has been on the sidelines.
The Rangers own a 52.33 xGF%, and a sixth-best xGA/60 of 2.95. If anything, I might argue the Rangers' defensive play has actually been better than sixth best.
The Rangers have covered the loss of their best skater — Adam Fox — better than I ever would have expected. Tremendous performances from K'Andre Miller and Erik Gustafsson deserve credit and it'll be interesting to see if they can hold this level over a larger sample.
Shesterkin is considered day-to-day with a lower body issue that has held him out of the lineup since November 2. Shesterkin was a full participant at practice Friday, but given the Rangers dominant record, they'll likely wait until he's 100% healthy.
The Devils have been in the midst of a nightmare injury situation themselves, as Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier have both been out of the lineup for several weeks. Losing two incredible players is always bad, but the situation always is more significant when they play the same position. That is the case with Hughes and Hischier, who normally compile one of the league's best one-two punches at center ice.
Timo Meier missed both Thursday's contest in Pittsburgh and Friday's practice. He should remain out for this matchup.
Hughes practiced Friday and is a considered game-time decision for Saturday's matchup. He had put up 20 points in 10 games, which had helped carry the Devils to a solid record, despite other concerns in the early going.
At times, the Devils' dominant possession game has shined through and it is not surprising to see that they own a solid 51.36% expected goals rate. However, they have been prone to some cheap lapses in defensive coverage and haven't often been entirely in sync in front of their goal.
Their modest defensive form likely wouldn't be drawing as much attention if either Vitek Vanecek or Akira Schmid had offered better form in goal. Vanecek owns a -2.8 GSAx and an .889 save % in 11 appearances this season, while Schmid has a -2.4 GSAx and an .885 save % in six games.
We will likely see Vanecek given the chance to follow up his solid performance Thursday against Pittsburgh, but the final decision doesn't hold significant value from a handicapping perspective.
Rangers vs. Devils
Betting Pick & Prediction
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These teams have displayed notably different form thus far. The Rangers are playing a more complete brand of team hockey and are worthy of being slight favorites since they'll have a goaltending edge.
A significant part of the Devils' middling start has been the absences to Hughes and Hischier. They are likely to get Hughes back, but their team play has often been disjointed and his return doesn't mean all of the breakdowns will be solved.
The Rangers have been one of the best defensive sides in the league this season. Their attention to detail has been quite impressive and has helped limit the opposition to chances their goaltenders are supposed to save.
Neither of Vanecek nor Schmid has been convincing in goal for New Jersey, while Shesterkin has been true to form for New York.
It's scary fading the Devils in a pick-em at home when I viewed them as a powerhouse coming into the year. They should still get there, but for the time being, I'm happy to get the Rangers at anything better than -115, assuming Shesterkin ends up making his return.
Pick: New York Rangers -110 (Play to -115)