We’re kicking off a new weekly feature on DailyFaceoff.com designed to give you varying perspectives on some of the matchups that will take place this Saturday. Our panel will each pick one game as their favourite play of the night and each play will then be rated by two members of the panel (in a “Faceoff”) – shedding more light on the quality of the pick. Given the preparation behind the article, some of the lines we are working off of may not be fully accurate up to gametime, as well as the goaltenders we reference, so please keep that in mind!
Facing off this week will be:
– The Face of DailyFaceoff.com: Matt Bennett
– Red Light Specials Kingpin: Adam Burke
– Internet Super-Ninja: Ricky Daniels
– International Radio Personality: Alexander Monaghan
– Frustrated Computer User: Jeff Tay
Let’s drop the picks!
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Carolina has played some pretty loose defensive squads of late, scoring four goals a game four times over their last five, but that should change with the stingy Phoenix Coyotes coming to town. With Phoenix playing their first road game in a month, I would expect them to play a textbook road game of clogging the neutral zone and taking some whistles to interrupt the flow. Despite the bad numbers from Bryzgalov against the ‘Canes and the fact that Justin Peters will probably start, the under has good value in what should be a tight-checking game.
Response #1 – Ricky: The Canes and Coyotes are certainly two teams that have demonstrated the ability to shut down opposing offenses and they both feature true defensive defensemen. However, my lean is to be wary of the under in this game due to the fact that the Canes are at home and their offense has been overwhelming as of late. The Coyotes are not as efficient at defense away from home (Bryzgalov included) and you’re likely to see Manny Legace at the other end. Legace has been fantastic post-break, but he’s still not a trustworthy starter in terms of allowing 2 or fewer goals on a regular basis.
Response #2 – Alexander: The Coyotes let in the 7th fewest goals in the league which would seem to make the under a safe bet. However, looking closer, the Hurricanes faced similarly stingy teams in the Devils and Sabres, beating both teams 5-2 and 4-3 respectively. Although both of these games came before the Olympic break, they make for excellent comps. Despite turning over a number of players, the Canes experienced no drop in play with a 3-0-1 record in the four games after the March 3rd deadline. In addition, Phoenix has scored 13 goals over their last 4 games, giving them a 3.25 cushion on average. With both teams scoring goals at a higher clip since the break I would be inclined to pass on the under.
The oddsmakers had no idea where to set this line, as the Flyers opened as a -145 favourite, and have now settled in as the slight home dog. At first glance, this may actually appear to be a classic bounce-back spot for Philadelphia, after they took a 5-1 beating at home from the Bruins, but the Flyers have not been that type of team this season. On the contrary, Philadelphia has only managed to prevent a 2-game losing streak from happening once this season in 12 tries, which means that they have had 11 losing streaks this season of at least 2 games, while only bouncing back immediately from a single loss just once. At the other end of the rink will be a Blackhawks team that received a very alarming wake-up call in their 5-4 comeback loss to the Red Wings last Sunday, and Antti Niemi certainly responded afterwards with a 28 save performance and a win against the Kings on Wednesday. Chicago has actually outshot each of their last 8 opponents, while Philadelphia has been outshot by 8 of their last 9 opponents, and so the pressure will more likely be on Michael Leighton anyway, and given that the majority of his work lately has come against mediocre offensive opposition, this could also be a significant step up in level of difficulty for him. I look for Chicago to continue building on their winning ways here, and for Philadelphia to once again delay their bounce-back until at least their next game after this.
Response #1 – Matt: While I don’t discount Chicago’s ability to take this game, the pure fact that they were manhandled by the Islanders on their last road trip and the inconsistency of their goaltending leaves them at a big question mark. You have to think that if Chicago wins, the total will go over as well – giving possibly good value here. It’s risky but if the 3rd best team in the league is an underdog or pick ’em, you’ve got to go for it.
Response #2 – Adam: This play depends on the starting goaltender for the Blackhawks. Philadelphia has been very good of late at home and have given up more than two goals in regulation in just three games over their last 18. If Huet goes, I like the Flyers. If Niemi gets the nod, I like the Blackhawks. Very good value to the over if Huet plays as well.
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Provided this game total is 6 or less, it should be just about the best bet you can make Saturday. This is the 1pm ET game so you can make your money early and cut and run or spend it wisely on the later games. The Blackhawks offense isn’t something that slows down much on the road and we know the Flyers can host some high-scoring games in their own building. Two offensive teams backed by mediocre-to-poor defenses should easily generate goals. Additionally, towards the end of the season in the playoff push goaltenders have been struggling a lot more and offenses have been capitalizing. There’s no reason to think these two teams won’t end up 3-3 at some point in the game so even with a 6 goal total you should get the over. My expected starters: Niemi vs. Leighton (if anyone else goes, it’s even more of a plus).
Response #1 – Jeff: I’ve actually been quite impressed by the way that Philadelphia has been playing defense since late-January, but at the same time, they haven’t actually played too many teams that have had a great deal of firepower. Chicago, meanwhile has been playing at an Over pace ever since mid-February, and had it not been for good goaltending in their last game against LA, the Over 5.5 would have cashed in all 8 of their previous games. Over 5.5 appears to be the right play here.
Response #2 – Matt: When it comes to these two teams, it’s not so much their defensive abilities that stand out, it’s their high-powered offensive potential. Niemi and the Hawks were lit up by the Islanders on their last East Coast trip and the Flyers were lit up by the hapless Bruins – boding well for both teams going into the match.
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The Vancouver Canucks return home tonight for the first time since January 27th. Although they lost their last game with Andrew Raycroft in net, the team managed 26 goals over their last six games, giving them a 4.33 goals for average since the Olympic break. Ryan Kesler rides an impressive eleven game scoring streak into GM Palace while Mikael Samuelsson sports a five game point streak of his own. Those totals combined with an eight game streak from Daniel Sedin and a three game streak from Henrik Sedin makes the Canucks offense the most consistent offense in the league. Luongo simply needs to let in three goals or less, which should be easy coming against a cooling down Senators team. The Sens have won only one game since the Olympic break while averaging 1.4 goals for per game (7 goals/5 games). Newcomer Matt Cullen has only scored two goals in his seven games as a Senator which proves inadequate considering he pushed a productive player like Ryan Shannon to an ineffective role on the fourth line.
Response #1 – Adam: The Canucks return home to a very appreciative crowd that has yet to give Roberto Luongo an ovation like the other Olympians have seen and it should be a boost to the team tonight. I would certainly consider taking VAN at -1.5 as well. Sometimes you have to be wary of a team returning home after a long roadie and being flat, but the Canucks are scoring plenty of goals and the Senators are not. The Sens have just 14 road wins on the season and their only win since the break has been the lowly Edmonton Oilers. Hammer the Canucks ML and the puck line if you’re really feeling it.
Response #2 – Jeff: Although Vancouver is, by a wide margin, the better team at the moment, there is some reason for concern in that the Canucks have spent as much time as possible over the last two days with their families and away from hockey. Focus might be a bit of an issue here for Vancouver, especially given how successful their marathon road trip went. At the end of the day though, the Canucks have been a nearly impossible team to put away lately, and Ottawa could be facing an overwhelming task if they hope to win. It’s Vancouver or nothing for me here.
Both the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins are playing tonight’s matchup without their top offensive threats but only the Montreal Canadiens have seemed capable to cope. The Bruins are still reeling from the loss of Marc Savard and if you remember correctly when they lost Savard around mid-season, they were unable to generate any kind of attack whatsoever. A questionable Zdeno Chara really hurts the B’s in their own zone as well as on the powerplay, which has been relatively ineffective on the road this season. The Habs should benefit from their recent ability to put up offensive numbers both at home and on the road as their lines have started to gel in Mike Cammalleri’s absence and look to build on their brutal 2-6 home record against divisional opponents.
Response #1 – Ricky: I completely agree with this pick. The Canadiens actually have one of the best powerplays in the league and if Chara is out, it only gets better. The Bruins have only managed one win since the Olympic break and they just don’t look like an efficient team.
Response #2 – Alexander: To be fair, the Bruins actually sport a better record over their last ten than the Canadiens. The HUGE difference however is Michael Cammalleri and Marc-Andre Bergeron on the mend to an up-and-coming threat as opposed to a mediocre team losing their two best players. One thing to notice is this Bruins team legitimately resembles last year’s powerhouse as they let in the 5th least goals allowed to date. The main difference is sitting dead last in the goals for department while the Canadiens sit right in the middle. If the Bruins win it will be with help from one of their talented netminders, but with Montreal averaging 4.5 goals a game the Canadiens seem like the safe pick.
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