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Goals Could Be At A Premium As Blackhawks Visit Devils

Jonathan Toews & Blackhawks road underdogs as they visit the Devils.

Last season was one to forget for the New Jersey Devils, who suffered a team-wide COVID-19 outbreak and ultimately struggled for large stretches, ending with a 19-30-7 record and out of the playoffs. The Devils made some key offseason acquisitions, most notably on the back end, and have high expectations for this season, which starts at home against the 0-1 Chicago Blackhawks tonight.

Chicago Blackhawks vs New Jersey Devils
  • Date/Time: October 15, 7:07 p.m. ET
  • Arena: Prudential Center
  • TV Coverage: NHLN, MSG+, NBCSCH
  • Opening Odds: Devils -140 | O/U 6 (Line History)
  • Blackhawks vs Devils Matchup Report

Opening Odds Analysis

The Devils opened as strong -140 home favorites, but that line continues to be chopped down. You can currently find New Jersey somewhere closer to -120. The total opened at 6 and remains there. Both teams finished near the bottom of the league in goals allowed last year, but both tried to address that weakness by bringing in a new goalie.

Chicago News & Notes

Marc-Andre Fleury had a season to remember last year, going 26-10-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average and .928 save percentage to win the Vezina Trophy for the first time in his 17-year career. So when Fleury was traded to Chicago in the offseason for Mikael Hakkarainen, a former fifth-round pick, many were surprised the Hawks were able to land a No. 1 goalie for so little in return.

The other big offseason acquisition was the signing of defenseman Seth Jones to a monster eight-year contract worth $9.5 million per season. With big contracts come big expectations. In Chicago’s first game this year, Jones played over 28 minutes, but didn’t record a point and was a -2.

After missing all of the shortened season last year, Jonathan Toews was welcomed back to the lineup in the Blackhawks’ opener against the Avalanche. The three-time Stanley Cup champion played over 17 minutes centering Chicago’s second line.

The Blackhawks’ top line of Tyler Johnson, Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat was shut out against Colorado, with Kane and DeBrincat a combined -5 for the night.

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New Jersey News & Notes

Last year, the Devils were 25th in goals per game, averaging 2.6 goals per contest. New Jersey did very little in the offseason to upgrade, with the addition of Tomas Tatar being their most notable signing up front.

Instead, the Devils will look to improve from within, specifically with their two first overall picks, Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier. Hischier was drafted first overall in 2017 and in four seasons to date, the highest-drafted Swiss player of all time has fallen short of expectations. Last year, he recorded 11 points in 21 games.

Jack Hughes was selected first overall in the 2019 draft and although he is not yet an elite scorer, the 20-year-old playmaker recorded 31 points in 56 games last year, second-best among Devils to Pavel Zacha’s 35 points.

Where New Jersey did significantly upgrade over the summer was on the blue line. The arrival of Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Graves gives New Jersey a solid top pairing. Hamilton is a gifted power-play quarterback and Graves is a solid six-foot-five stay-at-home defenseman who can take care of his own end.

The Devils also brought in Jonathan Bernier to compete for ice time in the crease. Mackenzie Blackwood battled COVID-19 last year but returns as the projected starter. Bernier provides a solid second option to help motivate Blackwood and push him to find his form.

How Chicago Will Win

Against Colorado, the top line was held off the scoresheet and the Blackhawks struggled to contain Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and the high-powered Avalanche. Jack Hughes, Pavel Zacha and Nico Hischier are not the Avalanche. Kane, DeBrincat and Johnson should find themselves with more puck possession and more time to operate in the offensive end. If the ’Hawks can get their top line going, they have more offensive weapons than New Jersey and could pick up two important points on the road.

How New Jersey Will Win

New Jersey isn’t going to try to match offensive chances with Chicago, preferring to dictate a slower pace and limit the ‘Hawks opportunities to score. Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Graves are expected to play somewhere close to 50 minutes combined. If New Jersey’s top D pairing can shut down Chicago‘s top line, the Devils will be in a very good spot to earn a win on opening night in New Jersey.

Computer Pick: Blackhawks ML (+110)

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Shark Bites
  • The OVER is 7-2 in Chicago‘s last 9 games.
  • Chicago is 5-11 in its last 16 games at New Jersey.
  • New Jersey is 5-13 in its last 18 games.