The Washington Capitals historically OWN my New Jersey Devils. They’re 10-0-1 in the last 11 head-to-head matchups. You wouldn’t know it, though, when looking at moneyline prices. The Devils opened around -125, but the price is tugging towards -140 at most books.
Here’s why I think the market leans New Jersey:
First is personnel related: the Capitals have elected to rest starting goalie Darcy Kuemper tonight in favor of backup Charlie Lindgren. He’s not bad, but he’s no Kuemper.
Second relates to advanced metrics: It’s early, so take this with a grain of salt, but New Jersey is dominating nearly every advanced stats category league-wide so far. They’ve yet to be truly tested, but early results are promising.
For example, they rank #2 in Shot Attempts For and Against per 60 minutes:
Shot Attempts are important, but they’re only really predictive if they’re high-quality attempts. And in the case of New Jersey, their Shot Attempts are translating to a league-leading 17.0 High-Danger Scoring Chances (HDCF) per 60 minutes:
The chart above also reveals they’re allowing the fewest High-Danger Chances per 60 minutes.
These two concepts (Shot Attempts and High-Danger Chances) combine to help explain why the Devils rank #1 in Expected Goals For and Against per 60 minutes. To reiterate, this is based on a small sample size, but to lead in both categories is somewhat rare and very impressive:
Call me a biased Devils fan, but the stats speak for themselves. This team is playing with speed, dominating puck possession and suffocating opponents defensively.
What’s fascinating about these trends, though, is how the results aren’t pulling through (yet) in the goal scoring category. The Devils may lead the league in expected goals, but they rank #25 in actual goals scored. Comparing the two stats reveals they’re the only team in NHL that’s scoring less than 1 full goal vs. expected per 60 minutes this season. They’re truly on an island of their own in this stat:
Meanwhile, Washington ranks middle-of-the-pack in nearly every metric discussed here. They’re also scoring more goals (3.2) than expected (2.9), which can be a sign that negative scoring regression is imminent. Effectively the opposite of the Devils.