The New Jersey Devils return home from their first road trip of the season. I wish I could say the road trip was forgettable, rather it was embarrassing, unproductive and simply unbearable to watch at times.
The only game worth watching was their 5-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. While the Devils learned a lesson in futility during the other six games away from Newark, they spent one night dominating the Eastern Conference powerhouse. Now that same team is facing the Devils again, but this time on different ice.
Players to watch
Evgeni Malkin…Hearing that Evgeni Malkin is a scoring threat to watch is nothing we’re not used to hearing. Now it’s 2018, and nothing has changed. He’s the Penguin’s scoring leader with 20 points in 15 games. The NHL season may be less than a quarter over but if he holds up, he’ll be knocking on the door of 110 points at this pace.
Penguins starter…When the Pens won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017, Matt Murray looked like the Pittsburgh goaltender of the future. Now, he’s in a bit of a slump, which we saw in full effect when he was chased out of the net during the Devils win last week. Backup Casey DeSmith has gotten the last two starts. Is another goaltending controversy brewing in Steel City?
Jesper Bratt…The jaw healed enough for him to earn his spot back in the lineup over the last few games of the road trip. He picked up his first point of the season—an assist on Seney’s first NHL goal in Winnipeg. Bratt might not be Taylor Hall, but we’ve been waiting several weeks for this youngster to return and play that sorely missed 200-foot game.
Keys To Victory
Home Ice…The Devils have been beyond awful on the road, with all but one win coming at the Prudential Center. The visiting Penguins historically have a hard time at the Rock, with a lifetime record at Prudential Center of 11-15-3. Not a sure win, but a minor tip in the Devils favor.
Face-offs…When it comes to special teams, the Devils and Penguins are eerily similar, hovering in or just under the NHL’s top-10. Face-offs are an entirely different story. In face-off win percentage, Pittsburg is seventh. The Devils are 28th.
Special event night…Tuesday night is a special event at the Rock honoring Martin Brodeur’s election to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Over the past few seasons, the Devils traditionally play well on special event nights, like jersey retirements. Does it sound weird? The arena is a full house, the fans morale is high and it resonates with the players.
New Jersey Devils
Where to watch
7:00 on MSG and ATT Sports Network Pittsburgh.
Devils-Penguins games are rarely low-scoring affairs, nor should we expect a blowout like last week in Pittsburgh. Following the general trend of Devils home games against the Penguins, a Devils win of 5-3 seems appropriate.
Statement Games Picks
Total Goals Over 6.5
Phil Kessel+Sidney Crosby+Evgeni Malkin Over 0.5 Goals
Penguins Will NOT WIN By Over 1.5 Goals