Today’s NHL Predictions features a massive Metro Division showdown between the New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals. The Devils (19-14-2) play their first game of 2024 and are most recently coming off a 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins. After a 2023 that saw them win their first playoff series in over a decade and finish with a franchise record in points, the Devils will look to start 2024 off right against a stingy Capitals team.
This will be the third meeting of the season between these two squads. The Capitals took advantage of terrible goaltending and sloppy play the last two times. Their 6-4 and 4-2 wins at the Prudential Center have the Capitals sitting just above the Devils in the standings. The Devils will hope their solid away form can earn them their first victory of the season against a team that’s had their number for years.
NHL Predictions: New Jersey vs. Washington
Three Keys to Victory for New Jersey
The Daws of Life
Just about every Devils game preview features something about the goaltending. Usually, it’s all bad. However, this time there’s a glimmer of light. Last week the team called up 23-year-old goalie Nico Daws and proceeded to start him in their game against the Ottawa Senators. The results were a breath of fresh air. Daws stopped 25 of 27 with him not being at fault for either goal. He made a handful of point-blank and breakaway saves, coming up big when the Devils needed him to. A far cry from most of the performances they’ve gotten in net this season. It may be only one game, but seeing a positive GSAx is a sight for sore eyes. Daws’s good play, combined with Vitek Vanecek’s poor performance against Boston, should have the young goalie in line for another start.
After going on one of the worst two-week spans since his rookie year, Jack Hughes looks as though he’s returned. He’s currently riding a four-game point streak which includes a three-point night against Ottawa. For those two weeks, Hughe’s lack of production wasn’t as much of a worry as his overall play. He was sloppy with the puck, was creating next to nothing on offence, and looked frustrated. However, something in that Detroit game clicked, and he looks much closer to the Jack Hughes we saw earlier this season. It hasn’t been perfect, but it’s better.
A Tale of Two Power Plays
Where the Devils season would be if it weren’t for their power play is an unpleasant thought. On the flip side, where would the Capitals be in the standings if theirs wasn’t so bad? For the Devils, after a lull in production, their PP has begun to produce again. They’ve scored three PP goals in the past two games and sit second in the league at 30.3%. As for the Capitals, they currently boast the 30th-ranked PP at just 11.5%. In addition, they’ve only managed an NHL-low eight power play goals all season. Something unfathomable a few years ago with players like Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and John Carlson. In the previous two meetings, there have been a combined 12 penalties, with only one goal between the two. If the trend continues, there will be plenty of opportunity for the Devils to increase that PP%, and hopefully bury the Capitals even further down the rankings.
The Devils need this win badly, especially as they chase the Capitals in the standings. The past two meetings produced some of their sloppiest play all season and resulted in ugly losses. Luckily for the Devils, this game is on the road, which somehow brings the best out of this team. The Capitals are coming off of a back-to-back, making a fast start that much more important. The Devils should be well-rested and ready to make up more ground in the playoff race.
Prediction: Devils Win 4-2
Main Photo Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports
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