Sixteen days remain in the NHL regular season, but still several good playoff races to watch (Colorado-Arizona-Minnesota for the final wild-card spot in the West, Columbus-Montreal for the same spot in the East).
There is an unusually light schedule on Friday, with only two games. A very big slate is set for Saturday, though, so that’s the majority from where our five top plays for NHL betting fans will come from.
It’s been kind of a crazy season for the Colorado Avalanche (full disclosure: I’ve covered the team for a long time now). Every time you think they are on their way to bigger things, they fall flat. Every time you stick a fork in them when it comes to their playoff hopes, they rise back up.
Colorado enters this Saturday matinee with Chicago with renewed hope for the final wild-card spot in the West. The Avs enter with the NHL’s hottest goalie of late, Philipp Grubauer, who was awful for most of December and January.
If this game is to truly stay in keeping with the Avs’ season, however, the Blackhawks will win. All year long, the Avs have lost home games they should have won, on paper anyway.
They often have trouble at home with Chicago. The thousands (truly) of red Blackhawks sweaters on the backs of Windy City transplants probably don’t help. Take Chicago at +110 on the moneyline with Karamba.
Whenever his teams are in trouble, Bruce Boudreau packs it in defensively and tries to win 2-1-style games, especially on the road. Very often, he’s been successful at it.
That’s exactly the kind of game I think will happen Saturday in Washington, where the Minnesota Wild will try to get back into the second wild-card in the West with a win against the Caps. The over-under on this one is -122 under six goals with 888Sport. I say go with the percentages on this one and take that.
Boudreau always seems to find a way to win these types of games, especially with the Wild.
Minnesota has hit the over only 43.9 percent of the time this season. Even though the Caps are hitting the over 54.3 percent of the time, I think Devan Dubnyk comes up with a big game and holds Washington to a small number of goals.
What a disappointing season for the New Jersey Devils. They start the season 3-0, have two stud forwards in Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier and a supporting cast seemingly full of young, well-developing players.
They limp into these final two weeks well down in the bottom of the standings, losers of three straight and 2-7-1 in the previous 10.
A team with nothing to play for, just playing out the string now, will play a Coyotes team that will be very desperate to win and reclaim the first wild-card spot they held for a few precious days.
I think the Coyotes will get this win. New Jersey just looks like a team that has quit, looking at the numbers from some recent games. They’ve been outscored 12-2 in their last three games, and lost a 9-4 decision in Calgary a couple weeks ago.
If they are trying to tank for the better lottery pick, they’re too far ahead of teams like Ottawa and the Kings to fall below them. Take the Coyotes at -148 on the moneyline with Betfair.
Wow, are the Vegas Golden Knights playing good hockey right now. Thursday night at T-Mobile Arena, they made the Winnipeg Jets look foolish, in a 5-0 game. Vegas has won four in a row and are 9-1-0 in the last 10.
The acquisition of power forward Mark Stone has really made the Golden Knights tougher around the net, and on the power play. Maybe the most impressive thing with Vegas of late: they are winning without top goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who has been out of late with a lower-body injury.
The Detroit Red Wings? They’re just counting the minutes until tee time this spring. The Wings at least give you an honest effort, despite having no hope for the playoffs. But they have no chance in this one, against probably the West’s hottest team for a while now. Take the Golden Knights at -345 at Karamba.
Lots of Penguins fans panicked when Evgeni Malkin was knocked out of the lineup on a “week-to-week” basis because of an upper-body injury. Well, Sidney Crosby is still around and he’s pretty good.
Sid has had another tremendous season, with 33 goals and 93 points, and I think he has a big game in Dallas. Crosby hasn’t scored in five straight games, and he gets pretty antsy when he goes that long without scoring. He knows he has to score more when Malkin is out, so, again, I expect Sid to have a good one in Big D.
The Stars are still probably going to make the playoffs, but they are coming off a disappointing 3-1 home loss to Colorado, and they lost a game at home before that to Vegas. I think the Stars will play well and score some goals in this one.
I just think the Penguins will find a way to score one more. Take Pittsburgh at -106 with Betfair, and I second that notion.
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