Well, we’re nearly out of October, and so far it’s been a bit of a weird season for several teams that either were expected to be good but haven’t been, and vice-versa.
The Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues - picked by many to make the Western Conference playoffs - are off to atrocious starts, with rumors that their respective coaches could be shown the door at any minute.
Those will be two desperate teams to look for this weekend, one of which I’ll be recommending one way or the other here in my five NHL best bets for the weekend:
The Avalanche will be highly motivated for this game. Why? Because Matt Duchene returns to the Pepsi Center for the first time since being traded last year, and there wasn’t a lot of love lost between him and the organization by the time of his blockbuster trade to the Senators.
The Avs became a much better team right after the trade, making the playoffs for the first time in four years, largely because the distraction that was the Duchene situation was alleviated.
The Avs are not going to want to see Duchene leave the building smiling after Friday’s game. Another motivating factor for Colorado: It owns Ottawa’s first-round pick in next year’s draft. The worse the Sens do, the higher the Avs will pick. Take Colorado at -127 at 888Sport.
Take the under with Tampa Bay-Vegas - Andrei Vasilevsky is 3-0-0 in his last four starts, including a shutout of speedy Colorado Thursday night. He allowed only three goals on 62 shots his other two wins, against Detroit and Columbus.
Look for him to stay red hot against a Vegas team that has been stingy of late defensively as well. Vegas has allowed just five real goals (six, if you count a shootout loss) in the last four games. Both teams have a lot of firepower offensively, but the goalies on both sides are just too hot right now.
The heat is really on Blues coach Mike Yeo right now. Blues management made a lot of high-profile moves over the summer, but enter this game in Chicago at 2-4-3. Blues players are saying all the right things about Yeo, but that’s that players have to say.
The fact is, the Blues look stale under Yeo, who came into this season on a short leash as is because of missing the playoffs last season. The Blues have looked terrible defensively, and that part of the game is supposed to be Yeo’s strength as a coach.
The Blackhawks come in with a +185 chance to win in regulation on 888Sport for this one, so this is a solid money play here.
Take Chicago to keep doing what it’s been doing of late, which is win. The Blackhawks enter the contest at a robust 6-2-2, they’re at home and the Blues are one team they really love to beat.
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are back to being their superstar selves, and I just don’t see saving Yeo’s job as much of a motivation factor for Blues players right now.
Speaking of coaches who may be in big trouble, Detroit’s Jeff Blashill probably is. The Red Wings are off to one of their worst starts in decades and things won’t get any easier with the Winnipeg Jets coming to town Friday.
Winnipeg will start the backup for this one - Laurent Brossoit - but he’s played like a No. 1 so far, with a 2-0-0 record and sizzling .955 saves percentage. Detroit will get veteran defenseman Mike Green back for this one, as he’s been out all year because of a virus. That should give them a bit of a boost, but the 1-6-2 Wings just don’t have the talent to match up with the Jets, who will come in mad after losing 4-2 to the Maple Leafs.
The visiting Jets are the favorite at -110 at 888Sport, and this is a safe bet. Take it.
This is my upset special of the weekend. The Oilers are finally starting to look like a real hockey team again, coming off a strong win at home over the defending Stanley Cup champion Capitals the other night.
They’ll be at Nashville Saturday, in an afternoon start, against a Predators team that played Thursday night in New Jersey. The Preds are due for a tough game. They’ve managed to keep winning of late, despite not looking too impressive at times.
Edmonton was shut out by Nashville last Saturday, so I’m looking for a good payback game here from Connor McDavid and Co. Nashville is -110 to win, but I’m calling the upset right here, right now.
Take the Oilers instead at +255 with 888Sport.
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