Eighty-one games are in the books, and the New Jersey Devils are still hunting to win the Metropolitan Division banner. One point separates New Jersey from the Carolina Hurricanes in the standings, and it all comes down to just one game for the chance to call themselves 2022-2023 Metropolitan Division Champions.
Of course, it’s all moot if the Carolina Hurricanes are victorious against the Florida Panthers. The Panthers have the home ice and are favored to win against the struggling Hurricanes.
We’ll keep an eye on that contest down in Sunrise, Florida, as a Hurricanes loss and Devils victory gives us a HUGE +350 New Jersey Devils to win Metropolitan Conference Futures wager we recommended near the trade deadline.
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The Devils are heavily favored when they meet the Capitals Thursday for a chance to win the Metropolitan Division banner.
New Jersey will have one eye on the scoreboard as the Hurricanes play simultaneously against the Panthers. The Devils heavily favored to defeat the Capitals, and they had better bear down–Washington has been eliminated from the playoffs, but they are a veteran team. They would like nothing more than to spoil a possible Devils division title.
Vitek Vanecek should make the start between the pipes for the Devils–Vanecek is 33-11-4 as the starting netminder and No. 24 in goals saved above expected. Vanecek is 1-0 with a 1.50 GAA against the Capitals, has won four of his past five starts, and is 17-4-2 over his 23 away starts.
Darcy Kuemper is scheduled to man the blue circle, and he’s dropped three of his previous four starts for a team whose injury list is longer than its roster. Kuemper went 11-10-4 over his 25 starts this season and ranked 24th in goals saved above expected.
Phil’s Best Bet: New Jersey Devils -154 Caesars
I like the Devils to win this game and our NHL futures bet. The Devils are 27-9-4 away from New Jersey, and they will take it to the injury-riddled and highly disappointed Washington Capitals club. The Devils are 6-4 over their last 10, facing a Capitals team losing eight of its previous 10. Look for New Jersey to light the lamp early, win their final regular season game, and gain momentum heading into the playoffs.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. New York Rangers 7:00 pm
The Rangers opened as mid-range favorites with a 6.5 goal total when the two Eastern Conference rivals square off at Madison Square Garden.
This game is meaningless for both sides–Toronto drew the Tampa Bay Lightning as their first-round Stanley Cup Playoff opponent, and the Rangers have a best-of-seven series with the Devils to look forward to.
Joseph Woll is expected to patrol the crease in the regular season finale, and the young man has been sharp. Woll is 5-1-0 over his six emergency starts this season and stopped 46 of 49 Tampa Bay Lightning heaters en route to his fifth consecutive victory.
Jaroslav Halak should guard the cage Thursday, and the veteran goalkeeper has been solid yet unspectacular this season as the Rangers’ No. 2 netminder. Halak has suffered a pair of consecutive overtime defeats but shut out the Nashville Predators in his last start at MSG.
Phil’s Best Bet: Maple Leafs Under 6.5 goals -110 DraftKings
Meaningless games are a hard bet, but this one should be a decent game between two teams hoping to make deep Stanley Cup Playoff runs. That means several high-impact players could see less playing time or be unavailable for this contest.
Neither team has anything to gain except their season series is up for grabs, and we should expect to see any number of young players looking to show their stuff, hoping for a chance for additional ice time during the playoffs. We have two goaltenders who are better than average, and it isn’t unreasonable to expect both to play better than their respective offenses.