Happy Monday, players. I hope your “case of the Mondays” is a nice case of Labatt Blue while watching tonight’s action-packed schedule. Twenty-two teams grace us with their on-ice abilities as we struggle with those last-minute shopping mobs and having to deal with Scotch tape and wrapping paper.
A small note of sadness to start off the column tonight. The beautiful, sexy, gorgeous, angelic, amazingly talented Carrie Underwood is now engaged to Mike Fisher. I have to admit, I cried a little inside knowing that she’s that much farther out of my reach. I still love you Carrie, and if you have to damage Mike Fisher’s suped-up four wheel drive, I’m here to be your rebound.
Anyway, after a night off from the RLS with Sunday’s small two-gamer out of the way, we’re back at it tonight as visions of empty netters and the annoying three-point games dance in our heads.
A very rough 0-3 night on Saturday with the chorus of backup goaltenders and the maddening inconsistencies of the teams playing in front of them. Time to get back in the win column.
NYI -1.5 (+220) v. TB
Last week, I piled on Mike Smith for being awful on the road when the Bolts traveled to Nashville to take on the Preds. As it turned out, while I was putting together the RLS column for that night, it was confirmed that Antero Niitymaki would be in net.
Tonight, Mike Smith is confirmed. And that means, the Men of Long Island are a great pick tonight. Mike Smith is a putrid 1-8 ATS on the road, and as I said last week, that’s considering that TB is usually a road dog. Dwayne Roloson gets the nod for the Isles, and while he is just 11-10 ATS (6-4 at home), it’s far better than Martin Biron’s pathetic 2-13 ATS.
The Islanders powerplay is suffering, but Tampa Bay is the right elixir for that. The Bolts have allowed 22 PPG in 20 road games this year.
The Lightning have lost their last three games in Nassau Coliseum by a combined 11-2. Being that it’s the last game of a long and brutal road trip for the Lightning, they may just be looking to get home for the holidays. Lay the lumber with the Islanders tonight and watch Mike Smith’s implosion with glee.
NYR (Ev) @ CAR
Henrik Lundqvist v. Cam Ward. This game certainly has all the potential for a 2-1 goaltending clinic and if it comes down to that, advantage Lundqvist. Sweden’s starting goaltender has allowed just seven goals in his last four games, going just 2-2 in the process thanks to the Rangers oft-inept offense.
The Rangers haven’t allowed more than three goals in a game since November 30 against Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, they haven’t scored many either. Cam Ward, meanwhile, is looking to set the record for the worst home/away splits in history. Ward is 4-5 at home, and 0-10 on the road.
Look for Marian Gaborik to have a huge game tonight. The Canes are down to Aaron Ward and Joni Pitkanen on defense and a bunch of call-ups in between.
John Tortorella’s tactics have worked the last couple games and look for them to continue in Raleigh tonight.
COL @ MIN u5.5 (-135)
Color me shocked that this line is set at 5.5. In fact, I wish it was at 5 because it would probably be more like +105 for the under. In any event, this one seems a pretty sure bet to stay under the six-goal plateau. Nicklas Backstrom is a man on a mission after criticizing his own play in the Wild’s last game and his numbers lifetime against Colorado are outright ridiculous.
Backstrom is 14-2-2 with a 1.99 lifetime against the Avs. With some more time in between games and less scrambling to fix the equipment problem from the fire that claimed all of Backstrom’s goaltender belongings, the Wild will be re-focused and energized to play a better game.
The Avalanche, on the other hand, took advantage of three early Columbus miscues before crawling into a shell to protect their four-goal lead. Before Washington pasted Colorado 6-1 and the lowly Jackets came to town, the Avs had played six straight unders and failed to reach the total line in eight of ten.
Thirteen of the last 18 matchups between these teams have been under the total, and six of the last eight in Minnesota. Expect more of the same tonight.
Good luck tonight, players!