Two teams desperately trying to dig their way out of the NHL East basement go at it on Wednesday in Newark as the New Jersey Devils host the Ottawa Senators. Ottawa is tied with the Detroit Red Wings for the worst record in the Eastern Conference (13 points) and in a three way tie with the Minnesota Wild for the second worst record in the NHL (Los Angeles is dead last with 11 points). New Jersey has the second worst record in the Eastern Conference (14 points) and the third worst in the NHL. Both teams have 5 wins and 5 losses in their last 10 games–New Jersey at least picked up a couple of points going 5-3-2 while Ottawa did it the ‘old fashioned way’ going 5-5-0.
The first thing you notice when handicapping this game is the price. What has New Jersey done to be a -170 home favorite over anyone? Not much, really. They’ve won the last 3 games played on home ice and two of three games played last year. They’ve won 4 of the last 6 head to head though this is the first meeting between the teams this season. What about the statistical comparison? Ottawa scores more goals per game than New Jersey–the Senators rank #21 with 2.76 goals per game while the Devils are #27 with 2.56 goals per game. It’s a similar story with team defense. The Devils have the #29 team defense in the NHL allowing 3.63 goals per game. The Senators are tied with Columbus for the #24 team defense in the NHL giving up 3.41 goals per game. This gives New Jersey a per game differential of -1.06 goals tied with C-Bus for the third worst in the NHL. Ottawa is -0.65 which is the 7th worst in the NHL.
The Devils have an edge on the power play at least. New Jersey has the #26 ranked power play in the NHL clicking on 13.6% of their man advantage opportunities. Ottawa has the worst power play in hockey scoring on a pitiful 6.6% of opportunities. The Senators have the better (relatively speaking) penalty kill ranked #20 in the NHL at 79.4%. New Jersey is #27 at 73.7%. Both the Devils and Senators have won 3 of their last 5 games though the Senators are coming off a lopsided 8-2 loss at Carolina while the Devils are coming in off a win at Vancouver on Sunday. Ottawa has done better against other teams with sub .500 records. They’re 4-2 +2.8 units against losing teams while the Devils are 0-3 -3.2 units in that situation. The Senators haven’t done much on the road at 1-6-1 but the Devils are just 2-2-4 at home.
You can do this all day but the point is that there’s not a good justification for having New Jersey priced as a -170 favorite in this game or any other. Corey Schneider is projected to start here and he’s been awful this season going 0-4-1 with a 4.59 goals against average and a 0.852 save percentage. Senators expected to go with Craig Anderson who is putting up marginally better numbers this season. We’ll take the price with the visiting Senators and play the game ‘Over’ the total. 5 of the last 6 head to head including 2 of 3 in New Jersey and 2 of 3 last season have gone ‘Over’. Senators ‘Over’ in six of their last nine games, Devils ‘Over’ in 5 of their last 8.