Devils’ Game Predictions: Sabres, Penguins, Rangers

The clock is ticking and the New Jersey Devils are just nine games away from deciding their fate in the tumultuous 2023-24 season. After going through high initial expectations, enduring the devastating injuries to Dougie Hamilton and Jack Hughes, various defensive issues, coaching changes, trades, and a very intriguing narrative for the sport but not so much for the fans, the Newark-based team enters the final stretch of the race towards the playoffs. Split into three parts, check out the predictions and analyses of how each of these matchups will unfold. Here, we begin with the Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins, and New York Rangers.

Buffalo Sabres on March 29

The Buffalo Sabres will host New Jersey at home on March 29 with the difficult task of still clinging to a playoff spot. The team faces a much more complicated outlook compared to the Devils, as they haven’t made the postseason since 2010-11 and have suffered recurring failures in the seasons that followed.

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The Sabres seem to be in a perpetual rebuilding phase and struggle to assemble a genuinely competitive team. Currently, they sit sixth in the Atlantic Division with 73 points, playing well below their main competitors. Just to give an idea, the Toronto Maple Leafs, who sit third and hold the last playoff spot, have 91 points, while the first-place Boston Bruins and the second-place Florida Panthers are already mathematically confirmed for the playoffs. In the Wild Card race, Buffalo holds the only remote hope of advancing and trails the Detroit Red Wings by eight points. Additionally, the Devils are in fifth place, three points ahead of the Sabres.

Timo Meier New Jersey Devils
Timo Meier is on fire recently. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

That said, it will be a highly competitive game, and Buffalo is not giving up. Playing at home, they have a balanced record (17-18-1), with five wins and five losses in their last 10 games. Furthermore, the team is at full strength with no major injury concerns; Jack Quinn is back. On the other hand, the Devils have improved in recent matches, especially with Timo Meier soaring in scoring, rediscovering his top form (nine points in the last five games).

Pittsburgh Penguins on April 2

Another tightly contested battle for a Wild Card spot, the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils clash to try to climb the ranks and advance to the postseason. In their recent games, Pittsburgh defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets (3-2) at home, had a significant victory against the strong Carolina Hurricanes (4-1) at home, but lost to the Cup contender Colorado Avalanche (5-4 OT).

However, in their last 15 games, all played in March, the team has won only five of them. Another statistic that doesn’t favor the visiting team is their away record of 12-17-6, including a loss to the Devils (5-2) at the Prudential Center on March 19. The difference between the two teams is only two points, and a win for the Penguins would boost their spirits. Nonetheless, New Jersey will emerge victorious once again.

  • Prediction: Devils win, but Penguins score first.

New York Rangers on April 3

The day after facing the Penguins, the Devils visit the strong New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Here, no one can deny two things: the first is that the Rangers have had a sensational campaign throughout this season, leading the competitive Metropolitan Division (102 points) and already securing a playoff spot.

The second is that a rivalry game is always heated and can have a winner on either side, regardless of each team’s situation. However, it’s very challenging to stop Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, Adam Fox, and so on. Additionally, the Rangers have a home record of 26-9-0, while New Jersey still has the defensive issues that have been discussed throughout the season.

Related: Devils’ Defense Has Been a Horror Story This Season

Another detail is that back-to-back games are always more tiring, and the team will likely be slightly below expectations. Therefore, unless the rivalry takes precedence, it will be a comfortable game for New York.

  • Prediction: Rangers win and will simply manage the lead in the third period.

The next three games will be even more decisive than the previous ones, as they are direct opponents in the battle for a playoff spot and a major rival that is already qualified. The prediction here is for four points out of six, which theoretically would keep the Newark-based team hopeful for the postseason.

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