Now, don't go crazy on me here and pick New Jersey to win the Stanley Cup. We are a little early for those types of predictions, but we can look at some teams that have really shown some promise early in the season, and make a wager on something that isn't so crazy. New Jersey has been a team in rebuild mode for the previous 10 years almost since they lost to the LA Kings in the Stanley Cup Final in 2012, but they have restocked the cupboards, and now have some real talent to get behind. They still haven't found a good replacement for Martin Brodeur in net, but they are putting some faith in former Capitals goalie Vitek Vanecek, who signed a three-year deal with the team. He was awful in his first game for the Devils, allowing five goals, but that was just one game. He has plenty of time to bounce back.
One thing I have loved about the Devils to start the year is how thoroughly they are dominating their opponents in shots on goal per game. New Jersey is averaging 40 shots on net per game, which is crazy good, but probably won't stay that high over the course of the year. Still, I think they can be a very good offense, and they can control the time of possession every game to help out their goaltender. Defensively, they are allowing just 21 shots per game, one of the best marks in the entire NHL so far.
They are just .500 out of the gate, but what happens when those 40 shots per game start converting into actual goals? The Devils score three goals per game on 40 shots, but they could have far more. If they can get above-average net minding from whoever they put in there, and they continue to play offense as they have, the goals will come. The penalty kill has been excellent, killing off 92% of power plays so far, but the Devils once again are having hard luck scoring on the PP, only having 1 PP goal so far.
They've had some bad luck, but that fortune will change. I think they are good value here at +170 to just make the playoffs.