Welcome back to another edition of NHL Predictions. Tonight’s matchup features the New Jersey Devils and Carolina Hurricanes in their second meeting of the season. The last matchup saw the Hurricanes win comfortably, despite a 3-2 scoreline.
The Devils (25-21-3) enter tonight coming off of a backbreaking 5-3 home defeat to the Calgary Flames. Meanwhile, the Hurricanes (29-16-5) are wrapping up a five-game home stand and just beat the Colorado Avalanche, 5-2. It’s desperation time for the Devils, as they sit seven points out of a Metro Division playoff spot and five out of a Wild Card spot. Every point and every game is critical, especially against a division rival.
NHL Predictions: New Jersey vs. Carolina
Three Keys to Victory for New Jersey
Wake Up Power Play
The Devils power play stinks. No way around it, they flat-out stink. After starting the year scoring at a historic clip, it has fallen off a cliff. After the first few weeks of the season, the Devils ranked first in the NHL on the power play, with an over 40% success rate. Now, they’ve plummeted to eighth in the league at 24.8%. For a brief period, injuries could be used as a valid excuse, but time has run out on that. Since January 3, the Devils have gone just 2/34 on the man advantage, with both goals coming on a double minor in a game against the Montreal Canadiens… back on January 17. It’s been almost a calendar month since the Devils have scored a power play goal, something a team with this much offensive talent should be ashamed of. If there’s any hope of a turnaround this season, a power play goal would be a nice start.
Much of the 2023-24 season needs to be thrown in a vault and never thought of again for most of the team. Maybe no more than for Timo Meier. Since signing his big-ticket contract extension, Meier has been a non-factor most nights. Injuries certainly have played a part, but even before the injuries, he wasn’t bringing the same juice. As of late, Meier has been as cold as they come. He hasn’t scored a goal since December 27, marking a 10-game goalless streak. In that time, he’s only added four assists and has been a -11. The Devils brought Meier, and subsequently extended him, to be a core player for this team and to provide a goal-scoring and power-forward element they were missing. Fifty-seven games into his Devils career and they’re still missing it. Maybe it’s Lindy Ruff’s system, or maybe it’s the injuries, but either way, the Devils need Meier to step up big and it starts tonight against the Hurricanes.
Red Hot Necas
Every time the Devils play the Hurricanes they have their hands full. Rod Brind’Amour’s system is smothering and gives the Devils fits. Add in individual players going on hot streaks and good luck. The most recent red-hot Hurricane is Martin Necas. Necas is coming off of a first-period hat trick against the Avalanche. Add in a recent three-game goal streak, as well as an assist, and Necas has put up seven goals and an assist over the last seven games. The one shining light is that the Devils managed to keep him off of the scoresheet in their last meeting. However, in 11 career games against the Devils, Necas has put up three goals and five assists. As if their style of play wasn’t tough enough, the Devils will need to pay special attention to Necas tonight or risk being burned.
The Devils have oddly shown the ability to beat some of the top teams in the league. However, the Carolina Hurricanes have proved to be a particularly tough task for them in recent years. Most of it comes down to the Hurricanes coaching and style of play being far superior to whatever Lindy Ruff tries to cook up on a night-to-night basis, but regardless they’ve had the Devils number. Despite not being perfect, the Hurricanes have found ways to win games, something the Devils haven’t. There’s nothing to suggest the Devils should win other than the fact that sometimes hockey makes no sense.
Prediction: Hurricanes Win 4-2
Main Photo Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports