The New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers will face off for the last time this season. Well, this will be their last regular-season matchup. The Devils and Rangers are likely going to face off in the playoffs. Thursday’s matchup is incredibly important, with second place in the Metropolitan Division on the line. The Devils are two points ahead of the Rangers, but they are tied in regulation wins. The winner of Thursday’s matchup will officially take the lead over the rivals.
The Devils are 2-0-1 against the Rangers this season. They’ve never lost to them in regulation. However, this is a different set of teams. The two teams haven’t faced off since the Rangers got Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko, and the Devils got Timo Meier (and Curtis Lazar, but he’s injured right now).
So, which team has the advantage? Let’s break down the matchup position by position.
Top Forward Line
Timo Meier – Nico Hischier – Dawson Mercer
Artemi Panarin – Mika Zibanejad – Vladimir Tarasenko
The Devils and Rangers both have incredible top lines that don’t hurt the depth. They both have midseason superstar acquisitions on the wing. The centers are two-way dynamos. Dawson Mercer has been awesome, while Panarin is a former MVP candidate.
Timo Meier, Nico Hischier, and Dawson Mercer are a new line. They’ve only played 21 minutes together. Lindy Ruff has been scrambling the lines a ton. Meier hasn’t been able to stick to one line. However, these three are amazing on their own. Together, they should be sick. In those 21 minutes, the Devils have dominated. They control 61 percent of chances, had 80 percent of high-danger chances, and the xGF% is 80.72.
Meanwhile, the Rangers top line is much more established. Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, and Vladimir Tarasenko have played 115 minutes together. They are actually getting dominated in possession, but they are making the most of their opportunities. Despite giving up 60 percent of the chances while on the ice, they’ve scored 11 goals together while their opponents only scored six. Their on-ice shooting percentage is north of 21 percent. Will that last? It’s working for now, but they are playing a dangerous game.
For now, it’s pretty even. The Devils line is new, and Meier has great numbers with poor results. The Rangers line has been together much longer, but the analytics shows a drop off in the future. However, they are scoring, and that’s what matters. This feels like over a seven-game series, this will be a slight Devils win.
(All stats via Natural Stat Trick.)