The New Jersey Devils keep finding ways to win, and they have tied their record for the longest win streak in team history with 13 straight victories. In order to break the record set in 2000-01, they will have to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs at Prudential Center at 7:00 EST. New Jersey defeated the Maple Leafs during their historic winning streak, coming out on top 3-2 on Nov. 17, thanks to a Yegor Sharangovich overtime-winner.
The Edmonton Oilers were one of the Devils’ toughest tests during their streak, and the team was in for another challenge with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl coming to town. However, New Jersey played one of their most complete games of the season, winning 5-2 on Nov. 21. Captain Nico Hischier had three assists, while five different Devils found the back of the net. “That’s why we’re winning,” Hischier explained. “We’re always doing it as a team, as a group. Every line is going.”
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Tomas Tatar scored a beautiful goal when he swatted the puck out of the air and rifled it past Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner. Vitek Vanecek was once again fantastic, improving to 9-1-0 with a 2.15 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage in his Devils tenure. On Nov. 20, the team made some roster moves, sending forward Alexander Holtz and defenseman Kevin Bahl to Utica while calling up defenseman Tyler Wotherspoon.
Even though the Devils have exceeded expectations early in the season, the Maple Leafs are still one of the strongest teams in the Eastern Conference. They have a 10-5-5 record for 25 points and are second in the Atlantic Division. They are coming off a 3-2 in overtime to the New York Islanders on Nov. 21, the same score in which they lost to the Devils.
The Devils Projected Lines:
Tomas Tatar – Nico Hischier – Dawson Mercer
Erik Haula – Jack Hughes – Jesper Bratt
Yegor Sharangovich – Jesper Boqvist – Fabian Zetterlund
Miles Wood – Michael McLeod – Nathan Bastian
Jonas Siegenthaler – Dougie Hamilton
Ryan Graves – John Marino
Brendan Smith – Damon Severson
The Maple Leafs Projected Lines:
Michael Bunting – Auston Matthews – William Nylander
Nicholas Robertson – John Tavares – Mitch Marner
Alexander Kerfoot – Pontus Holmberg – Calle Järnkrok
Zach Aston-Reese – David Kämpf – Pierre Engvall
Mark Giordano – Justin Holl
Rasmus Sandin – Timothy Liljegren
Jordie Benn – Mac Hollowell
What’s Happening in Toronto
The Maple Leafs are coming off a strong performance against the Islanders, but they came up short in the overtime defeat. However, both Auston Matthews and John Tavares found the back of the net, adding to their strong seasons. “Not the result we wanted, but I thought there were a lot of good things we could build off tonight,” Matthews said after the game.
Toronto also lost star defenseman Morgan Rielly to a knee injury in the third period. He was later placed on long-term injured reserve, and he will be out for at least their next ten games. The team’s three highest-paid defensemen: Rielly, Jake Muzzin, and TJ Brodie, are all on injured reserve. In response, the team called up both Victor Mete and Mac Hollowell from the Toronto Marlies. Rielly has 16 points, all assists, this season.
Meanwhile, Matt Murray is expected to get the start tonight. In his first game against the Devils this season, he made 30 saves on 33 shots. Tonight’s game is the first of four straight away from Scotiabank Arena before the team returns home on Nov. 30 to play the San Jose Sharks.
Keep an Eye On:
New Jersey Devils: Dawson Mercer
So far, there’s been no sophomore slump for Dawson Mercer. After a 42-point rookie campaign that saw him play in all 82 games, the 2020 first-round pick has 10 points in 19 games, including a two-point effort against the Oilers. He batted in a Hischier shot to give the Devils a 2-1 lead in the second period. Mercer was in a scoring drought before that goal; he last scored on Nov. 1 against the Vancouver Canucks.
Interestingly, Mercer played alongside Hischier and Tatar on his goal, not his traditional linemates of Sharangovich and Boqvist. He is projected to play on the top line again tonight, which is not a surprise given their success against Edmonton. Mercer has a shot percentage of 13.5, up from 11 during his rookie season. Even more impressive, he is doing this while averaging less time on the ice than he did last season. Mercer is just 21 years old, and his game continues to grow with a combination of different linemates.
Toronto Maple Leafs: John Tavares
The Maple Leafs have a core four of Marner, Tavares, Matthews, and Nylander, who are all having stellar seasons, with 20 points each. The Devils saw plenty of Tavares during his time with the Islanders, and he leads the Maple with 11 goals this season. The Toronto captain also has eleven assists, thirteen power-play points, and a shot percentage of 16.9, by far the highest on the team and second highest of his career.
On Nov. 17, the Devils were fortunate enough to keep Tavares off the scoresheet. Since then, he put up three points against the Sabres on Nov. 19 and scored a goal against his former team on Nov. 21. He is riding a hot streak, and this time around, he might be more fortunate facing a team against which he has seen a lot of success.
Where to Watch:
The Devils and Maple Leafs’ game will be carried on both MSG and MSGSN as New Jersey looks to break a franchise record for consecutive wins. Bill Spaulding and Ken Daneyko will call the action. Daneyko was on the 2000-01 team, so it would be fitting for him to be the one to call the Devils breaking the record. The Devils Hockey Network will carry the game as well, with Matt Loughlin and Chico Resch providing commentary.
Erik Johnsen is one of the NJ Devils writer for The Hockey Writers. He is also a writer for Triple Play Newsletter. Erik is a 2022 Rider University graduate, and co-hosts a podcast called Too Many Men.