Today’s NHL Predictions features the New Jersey Devils hopping back over the Canadian border to take on the Calgary Flames. The Devils (13-10-1) enter tonight off the back of a 2-1 win against Seattle Kraken. Meanwhile the Flames (11-12-3), just finished beating fellow Metropolitan Division rival Carolina Hurricanes. This marks game three of a four-game road trip for the Devils, as they look to make it three wins out of three.
In the two meetings between New Jersey and Calgary last season, they didn’t disappoint. The Devils won 4-3 in overtime in Calgary, then followed it up three days later with a 3-2 win off of a late third-period goal from Nico Hischier. The Devils will look to continue the good vibes against the Flames for the second year in a row and go for their second three-game win streak in three weeks.
NHL Predictions: New Jersey vs. Calgary
Three Keys to Victory for New Jersey
Beat the Goalie Toffoli
This matchup marks the first time Devils forward Tyler Toffoli will face his former team. Since being traded by the Flames, Toffoli leads the Devils with 12 goals. However, he hasn’t managed to find the back of the next in the past three games. Why is that significant? Because the longest stretch of games Toffoli has gone without scoring is three. This is the fourth time this season he hasn’t scored three games in a row. His line with Jack Hughes and Erik Haula have also looked out of sync for the better part of the last two games. Other than the trend of going no more than three games without scoring, Toffoli also has the fact he’s 12th in the league in expected goals to hang his hat on. For the Devils sake, hopefully, a motivated Toffoli on his return to Calgary can find the back of the net.
Dominate Special Teams
Despite going 0-3 on the power play against Seattle, the Devils still sit at the top of the league at 35%. Their Calgary counterpart is sitting near the basement at a lowly 11.9%. What’s even more alarming regarding Calgary’s power play is that they only have a goal differential of four. This means they haven’t been much of a threat to score and if the Devils want to be aggressive can find themselves with shorthanded opportunities. Where Calgary does succeed on special teams is on the penalty kill. They’re ranked ninth at 84% and are fourth in the league in shorthanded goals with four. And if there’s one thing Devils fans know, it’s that Blake Coleman can be a pest on the penalty kill. That being said, the Devils power play doesn’t stay goalless for long and will be looking to bounce back after getting goose-egged against Seattle.
For the first time all season the Devils finally got a goalie win. They didn’t have to out chance, outshoot, or out skill the opposition. Instead, Akira Schmid took the reins of a game the Devils had no business winning. Against Seattle, Schmid saved 37 of 38 shots and posted a .974 SV%. Schmid has shown flashes of brilliance this year, including a 47 save win against Philadelphia, and a handful of solid relief appearances. His issue has been consistency. He has yet to post back-to-back SV% above .900 in games started. Head coach Lindy Ruff will likely choose to go back to Schmid, with a chance to take the driver’s seat as the starting goalie. Calgary’s offence ranks right in the middle in goals for, expected goals for, and goals for above expected, so they can score, but aren’t juggernauts. Much of the Devils season fortunes lie in the hands of the goalies, and Schmid has a massive opportunity to stake his claim.
The Devils have been playing much better and have had Calgary’s number as of late. However, they have yet to string together convincing performances in a row. Calgary has played much better over the past three weeks and has collected some wins. Kudos to them for not bottoming out this season like many had expected. They aren’t highfliers, but they’re a middle-of-the-pack team capable of winning games. Until the Devils show they can be consistent night after night, it’s tough to pick them to win with confidence.
Prediction: Flames win 3-2
Main Photo Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports