Hockey will be delivered in a constant stream this Saturday, starting at 1PM ET and going all the way past midnight (when the 10PM game will end), and there most likely won’t be a single minute in between where an NHL game won’t be taking place. One issue that may arise due to this kind of scheduling though will be the matter of unusual start times for certain teams. Saturday will feature both a selection of irregularly early games as well as a number of uncommonly late games which will start well past 7PM local time, and many of these start times could have an effect on the teams involved. As for how specifically each team will be impacted, I cannot say with any real certainty, but from a general observation standpoint, the early starts in the NHL have had a tendency to be lower scoring than expected, whereas the later starts have had a tendency to favour the teams that are located in the later time zones. These are just things to keep in mind when breaking down such a busy NHL board.
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On an unfortunate side note, there are still 5 games which I have still not seen any lines for yet, and so this edition may feel a little bit incomplete. I believe that these lines will come out sometime around 9AM ET, at which time I will be fast asleep.
Also, I would like to make a personal prediction for this Sunday since I won’t be writing a column for that day: Washington Capitals to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins… and also New Orleans Saints +6.0! (if you can still find that line). I hope everyone has a great (and profitable) Superbowl Weekend.
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Top Over/Under Play: Philadelphia Flyers vs. Minnesota Wild Over 5.5
The Pros: Minnesota’s 3.37 goals per game at home ranks right near the top of the league, and their 2.81 home GAA ranks shockingly close to the bottom. The Wild are a different team at home simply due to the fact that they can actually score goals in their own building, because quite frankly, their defense has been hit-and-miss all season, regardless of where they’ve been playing. Minnesota will also be starting rookie goaltender Anton Khudobin in this game, who has played a total of just 9 minutes and 33 seconds in the NHL. The situation sets up nicely for Philadelphia to bounce back from getting shut out in Edmonton.
The Cons: Philadelphia has been shut out 3 times on the road this season, and bizarrely enough, all 3 shut outs have come against bottom-tier home defenses (Atlanta – 3.12 home GAA, Toronto – 3.00 home GAA, and Edmonton – 3.39 home GAA). Minnesota is also another home defense that ranks among the bottom-third of the league, and the Wild have also held their last 3 home opponents to just 2 goals each. Meanwhile, the Flyers have been stingy with the return of Ray Emery from injury, and their GAA in their last 7 games overall has been an incredible 1.43. During this stretch, the Flyers have also geared down on offense, scoring just 2.14 goals per game, so an Over 5.5 would definitely be a Minnesota pace and not a Philadelphia pace.
The Verdict: Those Philadelphia numbers are tragic, and certainly put a play on the Over here in question. However, Philadelphia has alternated between good and bad offensive outputs over their last 8 games, in which they have scored totals of 5-2-4-1-3-2-3-0. If this pattern continues, then they should score at least 3 here, and Minnesota, who have averaged 4.38 goals per game in their last 8 at home should be able to do the rest.
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Top Moneyline Play: San Jose Sharks -125
The Pros: The Sharks have very quietly become the best road team in the league, sporting an 18-6-2 record away from home, and both a top-tier road offense and top-tier road defense. Nashville, conversely, has not been able to put together very many complete games at home this season, and have often found themselves in games where they have either struggled to score or have struggled to defend, as demonstrated by their season-long home plus-minus of exactly even (2.57 goals for avg. and 2.57 goals against avg.). At such a short price, the lean should be towards the team that offers the far more consistent and far more successful track record.
The Cons: Injuries may play a key role in this game, as San Jose’s top two defensemen, Dan Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, may be questionable for this Saturday. Meanwhile, Nashville may have recovered their scoring touch, after scoring 5 goals on Craig Anderson in their Thursday night tilt with Colorado. The home team has also won the last 4 games in this series, dating back to last season, and Nashville was able to defeat the Sharks 4-3 in their previous meeting on November 11th.
The Verdict: San Jose is a better road team than Nashville is a home team, and this appears to be the right price to take them at. San Jose is also playing well at the moment, winning their last 7 on the road and 18 of their last 23 overall, while Nashville has been hit-and-miss lately, and has not won consecutive home games since December 10th (a span of 12 home games). Injuries are a slight concern though.
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Other Games: With a lot of the betting lines closed at the moment, it’s very difficult for me to come up with an Editor’s Choice. So, I’ll just speculate on the other games, rapid-fire style.
By now, Vancouver as a road favourite should be very well-known as an unfavourable proposition. The Canucks are already a below .500 road team to begin with, and now, all 3 of their wins as road favourites this season have involved them coming back from at least 2-0 deficits. I don’t want any part of Boston either though, so no action for me on this game.
This could very well turn into a good goaltending duel or simply just another Jaroslav Halak spectacular. The last 2 head-to-head meetings have both gone under the total, and Pittsburgh has averaged just 2.00 goals per game in long rest situations on the road. The Pens may also be a little distracted by the fact that they will be seeing Alex Ovechkin and the Caps tomorrow morning.
The last 2 head-to-head meetings have gone under the number, and Detroit hasn’t often scored more than 2 goals on the road lately (only in occasional outbursts). I have a slight lean towards the Under, but am not too crazy about either side. The Red Wings have actually won 6 out of the last 7 meetings in this series.
I’ve gotta like the way that Phoenix has been playing, and also like the fact that they have beaten the Stars in 6 straight meetings. The Coyotes are also 3-1-1 in back-to-backs on the road this season, including a 4-2 victory over the Stars last Sunday.
They may both be low-scoring teams, but their last 2 meetings have finished 9-6 and 8-6 with the road team winning both of them. Not sure if either team really has any memory of the ’04 cup final still lingering though, considering the kind of season that they’ve both had. Tough game to call. Calgary has momentum, but very few teams manage to sweep the Florida double.
By now, it has become abundantly clear that Florida cannot put the puck in the net. The Cats have scored a total of just 10 goals in their last 9 games, and Atlanta is just one decent goaltending performance away from winning this one handily. The Under here would also be good if Vokoun gets the start.
I was actually quite impressed with the way that the Rangers were able to hang with Washington on Thursday, especially considering the fact that they were coming off a west coast road trip. New Jersey, on the other hand, has not been that impressive, and scoring on teams that aren’t the Leafs or the Islanders has been an issue. This one could really go either way.
Buffalo has played a total of 11 one-goal games in their last 15, and their record in those games has been 4-7. Columbus, meanwhile, has been alternating wins and losses for the last 2 weeks, so the pattern would suggest another loss here. Neither team really warrants a confident bet.
Carolina has actually been the better of these two teams lately, but they are 0-6 this season in back-to-backs on the road. The Islanders have also not had a chance to play on home ice in over a week, and they’ve been much better at home this season than on the road. Can’t really say that I feel too strongly about anything in this game though.
All 3 meetings between these two teams have actually gone under the total this season, so I am staying away from the Over 5.5 here. I actually wouldn’t even be shocked if Toronto won this game, simply due to the fact that they always seem to play well at home on Saturdays, but as far as betting goes, I’ve gotta put a little bit on Ottawa given how good they’ve been.
Somehow, St Louis have managed to shut down some of the best home offenses on the road this season, but have managed a miserable home GAA of 3.03. The Blackhawks will also have the recent memory of their 3-2 home loss to the Blues fresh in the back of their minds, as they seek revenge in this one. The Blackhawks GAA also took a hit on their recent road trip, in which they gave up 27 goals in 8 games. The Over might also worth a look.
Edmonton has actually had some pretty decent games against Colorado this season, but they also lost 6-0 to the Avs in their most recent one. The Oilers actually haven’t won a road game ever since they won 5 in a row on the road (remember that?), and in the 8 road games since then, they’ve only managed to keep one of them within a 1-goal margin. Colorado has also feasted on the weaker road teams lately, beating Columbus 5-1 and Dallas 4-0. I’m thinking Colorado -1.5 on the puckline.