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Preview: New Jersey Devils vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

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New Jersey Devils v Montreal Canadiens
Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

The Devils ride a wave of brimstone into town.

New Jersey Devils @ Toronto Maple Leafs
07:00 PM at Scotiabank Arena
Watch on: SNO, MSG, MSGSN2

Opponent’s Site: All About The Jersey

The Leafs last game was an away game on November 15 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, which Toronto won by a score of 5-2. The Leafs have a record of 9-5-3 so far.

The New Jersey Devils last played an away game on November 15 against the Montréal Canadiens. The Devils won by a score of 5-1, and their current league record is 13-3-0.

Them

New Jersey is scorching hot right now. The Devils started the year with two losses, balanced themselves off at 3-3 and then have ripped off ten wins in a row. What else is there to know? During this win streak they are scoring and allowing averages of 4.3 and 1.9 goals respectively. That’s a healthy delta. It seems after 30 years the Devils have decided to try adding offense to the defensive model which had previously reigned (though I will admit they had two Cups in there, they may have also been solely responsible for propagating the dead puck era. Looking at you Lou).

Who is pulling the cart on this current Devilish team you may be wondering?

Well, Jack Hughes has entered his fourth season with the team after being drafted first overall in 2019. After finishing last year with 56 points in 49 games, Hughes has seven goals and 11 assists in 16 games to start this season. Nico Hischier, first overall pick in 2017, is just behind him with 17 points in 15 games, but it is Jesper Bratt with 15 helpers and 21 points who leads the team.

Andreas Johnsson? He has two goals and nine points in six games. With the Utica Comets.

On the back-end, big boy Dougie Hamilton is close to a point per game, with 14 in 16. He is now in his second season as a Devil.

Most importantly, goaltending hasn’t been a major concern despite current injuries to Mackenzie Blackwood as well as former Leaf Jonathan Bernier (for about a year now). Vitek Vanecek, who was acquired from the Capitals in a trade this summer, has performed well and is currently 7-1-0, 2.17 GAA, .915 SV%, 1 SO.

Or at least there weren’t major concerns until last week.

Scary stuff. Vanecek eventually left the game and Akira Schmid came in to secure the victory. The next night, goaltender Nico Daws was called up and Vanecek was given the night off. This however seems to have all been precautionary, as Vanecek returned to action against Montréal on Tuesday night and stopped 25 of 26 as the Devils pummeled their opponent in the aforementioned 5-1 victory. Nice?

The team that has allowed the fourth fewest goals this year and is first in shots-against should be a good test for the boys in blue and white as the Leafs look to stoke their own flames and push their offense back toward juggernaut territory.

Lines

Source: Last Game (11/15) via Daily Faceoff

Tomas Tatar - Nico Hischier - Fabian Zetterlund
Erik Haula - Jack Hughes - Dawson Mercer
Yegor Sharangovich - Jesper Boqvist - Jesper Bratt
Miles Wood - Michael McLeod - Nathan Bastian

Jonas Siegenthaler - Dougie Hamilton
Ryan Graves - John Marino
Brendan Smith - Damon Severson

Vitek Vanecek*
Akira Schmid

* - suspected starter

Us

The Leafs have seemingly played their way out of their annoyingly hellish start and are working their way back up the hill to the top. It might take a while given the gap their lackluster start as created, but since their 10th game ended their California trip with a tremendous thud the Leafs are 5-1-1. That actually sounds pretty good doesn’t it?

Toronto still doesn’t look like it is playing at full strength, but every two or three games it seems like this team is taking another step forward. The team has looked a bit sharper and Matt Murray will start again tonight looking pick up some confidence with his teammates.

Lines

Michael Bunting - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
Alex Kerfoot - John Tavares - Mitch Marner
Pierre Engvall - Pontus Holmberg - Calle Järnkrok
Zach Aston-Reese - David Kämpf - Denis Malgin

Morgan Rielly - Jordie Benn
Mark Giordano - Justin Holl
Rasmus Sandin - Timothy Liljegren

Matt Murray*
Erik Källgren

The Game

The point percentage gap is notable, except I wouldn’t consider it much more than the material of the canvas. The ten game win streak helps us understand the type of paint chosen for tonight's game. I’ll say a few things about the streak.

Red Wings, Avalanche, Blue Jackets, Canucks, Oilers, Flames, Flames, Senators, Coyotes, Canadiens.

The Devils played one game with their 4th & 5th (assuming injured Jonny Burns will comfortably sit in the three spot) goalie. Despite this game being against the Coyotes, the Devils still get the nod for claiming victory.

I don’t think you win ten in this league without some luck and lots of consistency. I haven’t watched a second of Devil’s hockey that I’m actively aware of this year, but I’m guessing effort isn’t an issue with this team.

Maybe they’ve had more of the luck than the consistency? New Jersey’s PDO is 1.004 per NaturalStatTrick. They are who we thought they were....

The Leafs will win this one if they can start playing mistake free hockey. Or less mistake hockey... less than five giveaways in the first period would be a good start. It would be nice to see the Leafs start with a heavy right hook and maintain that pace throughout any attempts at a response. Is it too early to ask Santa for these types of things?

It hasn’t been bad of late and I don’t expect the Leafs to need the help of a man in a bright red suit, but when doing battle against Devils I suppose it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.

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