Offensive Edge Make Islanders Our Free NHL Pick vs. Devils

Doug Upstone

Friday, February 19, 2016 2:17 PM GMT

If either of these division combatants hit a hot streak, they could vault up the standings and secure their playoff position. However, the NHL odds and season records suggest otherwise presently.

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NHL Pick: Islanders -108
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

 

The fact is with the New York Islanders at 67 points and New Jersey at 65, these teams could do one of three things, improve as noted, miss the Stanley Cup playoffs altogether or stay right where they are.

Each club has elements they perform really well and flaws which hold them back. Who has the upper hand for NHL picks tonight?

 

Islanders Have to Focus on Defense
The New York Islanders (30-26 SU) seldom having an issue when it comes to scoring the past several seasons, currently ranked seventh in the league at 2.84 goals a game. They have outstanding scorers and playmakers like John Tavares (22 goals), Brock Nelson (21) and Kyle Okposo (15), who are all 27 years old or younger.

New York has been at or near this level of scoring for a couple years, but to make the leap into a true contender, they have to want to play defense with the same level of effort they give in the other end of the rink. This means doing more forechecking to slow opposing offenses when they cross the blue line. Do a better job in neutral zone and win those battles to ensure longer puck possession, which could create more scoring chances and fewer opportunities for opponents like New Jersey this evening.

The Islanders blue-liners outside of Johnny Boychuk are nothing special, but effort and commitment can go a long way when trying to win. New York is 23-6 when they give up two or fewer goals this season.

 

Devils Have to Generate More Offense, Period
Here is the run down on New Jersey (29-29 SU). The Devils allow the fewest goals per game in the NHL at 2.24, thanks to their top goaltender Corey Schneider. New Jersey is quite good when it comes to special teams, with the sixth-best power play percentage (21.2%) and ranking eighth in the league in penalty killing at 82.2 percent. So why are the Devils a .500 club barely hanging to playoff berth?

When New Jersey is playing 5-on-5, nobody is hockey is more pathetic than the Devils, ranked dead last at 84 goals. Consider the mean average in the league is 108, which on average would give them an average of 0.4 more goals a game. Given their defense, that would equate to three more victories by merely being ordinary. Another way to look at their plight, Philadelphia is 29th at even strength at 97 goals, which is an enormous 13.5 percent difference between last and next to last.

For a team missing now second-leading scorer Michael Cammalleri for 16 of last 22 games with hand injury, it matters, but so would being less deliberate in taking shots on goal, ranked 30th at only 24.3 per contest.

 

What to Watch For and Winner
The opening NHL odds for this division confrontation has New York at -115 with a total 5, with the Islanders off a tough 3-2 OT loss to Washington last night. You have to wonder about the Islanders state of mind, scoring late to tie the game only to falter with less than a minute before a shootout.

New York is 5-3 this season when playing without rest and definitely has offensive edge and given New Jersey's offensive woes, they should be able to stay close with them. It would do the Devils wonders to break out on top in the first period to take control with their recent 3-9 record versus the Isles. Yet coming off 6-3 loss to Philadelphia Wednesday in which they allowed four goals in the last period, New Jersey is 4-15 at home after conceding two or more goals in the third period of last game the last two seasons.