With two points in the bag after an overtime date with Anaheim, Nashville embarks tonight on a three-game road trip that could help define the rest of their season: New Jersey, Long Island, and Tampa.
The Devils are one of - if not THE - best teams in the entire NHL. They’ve been unstoppable all season, losing just four games and topping the standings in nearly every metric. Tonight will be an important measuring stick for a Nashville team that’s still just treading water.
On Tuesday, the Nashville Predators dispatched the basement-dwelling Anaheim Ducks in a 2-1 overtime victory at Bridgestone Arena. Tonight, they’ve hit the road to visit the red-hot New Jersey Devils, who are 9-1-0 in their last ten games.
Nashville turned in another solid performance last time out, controlling play against Anaheim from start to finish. The Predators won the Corsi battle 54.24% to 45.76% at five-on-five play on Tuesday and peppered the ducks with 3.13 expected goals and 16 high-danger shot attempts. Goalie John Gibson was excellent, turning aside 39 shots and dragging Anaheim to a consolation point.
Nashville will need to maintain the urgency they displayed on Tuesday to slow down one of the league’s best in the Devils. They’ll also need to buck a trend that has plagued them all season: failing to convert on their scoring chances. The Predators have recorded just 44.54 expected goals at five-on-five this season (compared to 59.84 from New Jersey) and scored an even-worse 35 full-strength goals.
I would expect the same forward group as Tuesday to go tonight, meaning Yakov Trenin will stay in for Michael McCarron, and Eeli Tolvanen will be scratched for his fourth-straight game.
Tonight’s game could turn into an offensive shootout, and I don’t have faith in Nashville’s forwards to outduel the Devils. Nashville’s blue line has been pretty successful at limiting high-danger shot attempts—ranking eighth in the NHL (189), but they’ll face a tall task against a New Jersey offense that has smothered opponents with a league-leading 269 high-danger scoring chances.
Between the pipes, Juuse Saros was phenomenal against Anaheim, stopping 34 of 35 saves for a 0.971 save percentage. I expect he’ll start again tonight in Newark.
Player to Watch: Ryan Johansen
Playing with Nino Niederreiter and Cole Smith, Ryan Johansen’s line earned the second least amount of five-on-five ice time on Tuesday but was quite successful in their ten minutes on the ice. They recorded a 66.67% Corsi rating and a 52.30% expected goals rate, but Johansen has just one assist in his last five games.
Coming off a career-best year (in Nashville) last season, Johansen is on pace for another 20 goals. Can he get going again tonight?
As mentioned above, the Devils have brutalized opponents this season, earning a 57.37% possession rate at five-on-five play—second only to Carolina. They’re coming off a 5-3 win over the rival Rangers on Monday night, rebounding from a 2-0 deficit. New Jersey’s 3.78 goals per game rank them as the fourth most lethal offense in the NHL right now.
That offense is led by Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt, who have each notched 26 points in 23 games this year. High-end secondary scoring allows this Devils team to press in waves and has resulted in ten and eight goals from Nico Hischier and Yegor Sharangovich, respectively. Rookie Fabian Zetterlund and second-year man Dawson Mercer have also been impressive this season, combining for 26 points so far.
Veteran Ondrej Palat remains out for several weeks with a groin injury.
Despite their five-on-five scoring rates, New Jersey’s power play ranks just 24th in the NHL. Their top unit consists of Mercer, Hischier, Bratt, Hughes, and Dougie Hamilton, and the second unit has been centered by former Predator Erik Haula.
On the flip side of the puck, their penalty kill ranks ninth in the league, and their 159 high-danger shot attempts allowed are second-best in the NHL. The Devils’ blue line is highlighted by Jonas Siegenthaler and Dougie Hamilton; despite not being a household name, Siegenthaler has been excellent this year, earning a 64.02% expected goals rate (at five-on-five) and surrendering just 56 high-danger shot attempts.
In goal, Vitek Vanecek has taken over the starting job this season, going 11-2-0 with a 0.923 save percentage. But he’s appeared in the Devils’ last ten games, so it’s possible that Lindy Ruff turns to Mackenzie Blackwood tonight. He’s posted a 4-2-0 record but allowed 2.40 goals above average.
Player to Watch: Dougie Hamilton
With 16 points this season, Hamilton is tied for 14th among defenders in scoring this season. But more importantly, he and Jonas Siegenthaler are one of the league’s best pairs on the blue line in 2022. If the Devils shut down Nashville’s uninspiring offense tonight, this pair will be a big reason why.
The Devils have 4 of the top 7 players in terms of xG impact.— CJ Turtoro (@CJTDevil) November 24, 2022
Jonas Siegenthaler and Dougie Hamilton are the best defensive pairing in the NHL. pic.twitter.com/iRVCR53uWp
How to Watch
Puck drop is at 6:00 pm CST tonight, and you can watch on Bally Sports South or on ESPN+ and Hulu for anyone outside of the local market. As usual, the Nashville radio call will be on 102.5 The Game.