The New Jersey Devils return home from California for a Friday night matchup versus the Vegas Golden Knights. If you would have told me a few years ago that Las Vegas would have a professional, NHL team, I would have said you were crazy. If you would have told me they would make the Stanley Cup final in their first season of existence, I would have told you to keep dreaming.
When it came to Las Vegas hockey, I was wrong, wrong about EVERYTHING. Then again, I wasn’t the only one, as the consensus across the board was that they would be a bottom-feeding team playing in an arena with only slightly more seats filled than the Arizona Coyotes. People in Vegas didn’t care about hockey, right? They care more about Cirque Du Soleil and blackjack, RIGHT?!?!
Wrong. Like a magic trick done by Siegfried and Roy with their white tigers, the Golden Knights were blessed with crowds of fans and early success. They surprised the entire Western Conference all season into the playoffs, while the Devils were making smaller advancements in their own conference by making the playoffs themselves. Now for the first time since March 2018, two of the biggest surprises from last season face off once again.
Players to Watch
Kyle Palmieri: The Devils have been stuck with an offensive weapon in Palmieri that goes through highs and lows and hot and cold. He either scores multiple goals in a night or can’t seem to find the scoresheet. After two separate two-goal games on the California road trip, minus a goalless performance in San Jose, has Palmieri found his scoring touch to stay? Or will he fall victim to his own inconsistency once again.
William Karlsson: What a difference a year makes. In just one season, the Karlsson not named Erik went from being a six career goal scorer to a 40-plus goal scorer with a move to the NHL’s newest franchise. This season he shared the Vegas lead in points but is one goal behind Jonathan Marchessault for the team lead.
Marc-Andre Fleury: Okay, stop me if you’ve heard this one. A legendary goalie and previous three-time Stanley Cup champion begins to show his age. People start to cry that he’s on his way out until he puts together a stellar senior season that leads his team all the way through the playoffs up to the Stanley Cup final. All of a sudden the people who were ready to make his bed in the retirement home are saying “hey maybe the old guy’s got some good hockey left in him”.
That’s the exact scenario that played out for both Marty Brodeur in 2012 and Fleury in 2018. Fleury has been able to stay true to form, with not stellar but still pretty good goaltending. Considering fellow Knights goaltender Malcolm Subban hasn’t seen a win yet this season, it’s safe to assume Fleury will be in net tonight.
Keys to Success
Minimize Mistakes: The Golden Knights barely walked away with a win in their last game, which was a 3-2 victory over the Islanders. The game-winning goal came off a sadly misplayed puck in front of the Islanders net that the Golden Knights found a way to capitalize on. The Devils have been making a lot of mistakes, and there should be no excuse for any of them. If the Devils hit the ice with minimal effort and concentration, the Golden Knights will be able to dance all around them.
Limit Shots: Vegas ranks third in the NHL in shots for this season. The Devils rank 10th in shots against, one of the bright spots on a team with defensive struggles. Vegas does not need a lot of shots, they just need the right ones to find the back of the net. Their last win only saw the Islanders goalie face 17 shots.
Rest and Energy: The Devils haven’t played since Monday when they closed out the California road trip with a 5-2 loss to the Sharks. They’ve had plenty of time since then to rest on the East coast, as opposed to the Golden Knights who are on their own opposite time zone swing.
New Jersey Devils
Vegas Golden Knights
Where To Watch:
Statement Games Statement Picks
We’re playing tonight’s game on www.statementgames.com, the newest form of fantasy sports, and we think you should give it a try! Here’s a couple of lock statements to get you started…
Tonight’s Goals Under 6.5
VGK Will NOT Win By Over 1.5 Goals
William Karlsson-Reilly Smith-Johnathan Marchessault Over 0.5 Goals
Trying to be positive here, and with the Knights on an East Code road trip a 4-2 Devils win might be possible and optimistic.