The Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils meet Thursday night for the third time this season and the first at TD Garden. The previous two meetings went “Under” the total for goals with 3-2 and 2-1 final scores.
Obviously, David Pastrnak wasn’t in the B’s lineup at the time, but the sluggish pace of play and lack of scoring chances that we witnessed back in mid-January can’t be ignored.
I’ve always believed that the first two periods of a hockey game tell 80 percent of the story. The B’s and Devils combined for one goal after 40 minutes on Jan. 14 and two goals after 40 on Jan. 16.
New Jersey is a defensive team at heart and it has really struggled to put the biscuit in the basket. The Devils are a bottom-third team in goals and shooting percentage, and their power play has been absolutely dreadful with only four goals in 28 tries.
The Devils uncharacteristically potted five goals on Tuesday night against the New York Rangers but that feels like an aberration. That actually helps Thursday’s total in a roundabout way. Most bettors remember what they’ve seen last and New Jersey playing in a 5-2 hockey game likely makes the general public squeamish about taking an “Under” here.
Boston head Bruce Cassidy switched up his lines and has Jake DeBrusk on the top line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. Pastrnak will be skating on the second line with Nick Ritchie and David Krejci.
Some people believe this will spark the B’s offense and lead to a handful of goals right away. I’m much more pessimistic about line changes and think that all good things take time. Oftentimes, new linemates overpass and try too hard to get everybody involved.
Don’t get me wrong: I would love to see DeBrusk and Krejci light the lamp in a 6-2 Bruins’ winner. The math just disagrees with all that.
Movement in the betting market tells a story too. Oddsmakers opened this total at 5.5 o-115 Wednesday afternoon and while most of us were sleeping, the market shifted to 5.5 u-115 at most shops. That’s not exactly a drastic shift, but I promise you that the general public is not firing bets at 3 a.m. That’s respected money.
Jaro Halak (4-0-1, 1.38 GAA) gets the call in net, and he’s been very, very good in five starts on the campaign. Halak has allowed more than two goals only once and that was against the Washington Capitals. That was a 5-3 track meet because the Caps don’t play any defense.
I don’t expect offensive fireworks in back-to-back Devils games. This could very well turn into a good ol’ fashioned goalie show on Causeway Street between Halak and Mackenzie Blackwood.
NJ-BOS Under 5.5 goals (-115)
RECORD: (20-10-1, +8.8)
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