Facing Off: The DF Panel’s Picks for Saturday, March 27, 2010

Updated: March 27, 2010 at 9:59 am by Facing Off

We’re continuing our new weekly feature on DailyFaceoff.com designed to give you varying perspectives on some of the matchups that will take place each 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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Adam’s Pick: New York Rangers -105 (moneyline) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

The New York Rangers are playing for more than pride. It makes them an attractive pick -105 on Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The two teams have not played since October, and both look different, but the Rags outscored the Leafs 11-3 in those two games. While Toronto has played very well, winning four of five, the special teams will make the difference in this one. Toronto has a terrible penalty kill at 73.4% and the Rangers have at least one PPG in three of their last five. NYR also has the 4th best road PK in the league. You could be skeptical, given that TOR has won five of their last six at home, but the Rangers have taken 75 shots over the last two games and have killed nine straight penalties. Special teams makes the difference and the Rangers get two important points on the road.

Response #1 – Ricky: Since it’s a coinflip type of price and the Rangers in general are the better team, I’d have to agree with the value of this pick.  Toronto isn’t a good enough team right now to keep a home win streak going, so this pick has value.

Response #2 – Matt: While I’m not against the bet – the Rangers have been stellar against the Leafs all year – I am just more wary of a strong goaltending performance.  It’s benefited the Leafs a lot during their recent wins (look for Gustavsson) and maybe something like the Under would be a better play if you are looking to bet this game.

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Jeff’s Pick: Colorado Avalanche vs. Phoenix Coyotes Over 5.0

There are a couple of issues with the total being set at 5.0 here. While Craig Anderson and Ilya Bryzgalov might still both be Vezina Trophy candidates, the Avalanche have hung their goalie out to dry lately, especially with their lackadaisical penalty kill. Meanwhile, neither team really appears to be getting enough credit here for their abilities to score. A lot seems to have changed ever since their March 4th meeting in Phoenix–the Avs have since gone over 5.5 in 7 of their 9 games, and the Coyotes have put up a “3” on their side of the scoreboard in 8 of 10. The half-goal here breaks the deal.

Response #1 – Ricky: With the under getting +115 I would much rather play the under for this game.  Throw recent form out the window because 8 out of the last 10 were not the Avs in Phoenix.  Bryzgalov is hot in jobing.com arena and the Avs won’t have an answer.  Phoenix might put up 3, but it will come with a 3-1 total.  If anything, this total will just earn you a push, so I don’t think it’s a valuable play.

Response #2 – Adam: Against my better judgment of taking the under in games with a total of 5, I like the under. The Yotes and the Avs are fighting and clawing for points and it should lead to a tight checking battle in the trenches. Ilya Bryzgalov is 7-2 with a 2.21 and two blanks in March. Craig Anderson has definitely struggled giving up 17 goals in his last five games, but that’s why I like Phoenix to win 3-1.

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Ricky’s Pick: Sharks/Canucks over 5.5 (-105)

This pick has value to me because it’s a little bit of reduced juice.  Granted, these teams feature decent defenses and normally pretty sharp goaltenders, but historically speaking the Sharks fall off the map at the end of the season and it likely has a lot to do with how little Greiss makes an appearance in net to give Nabokov rest.  Expect at least one of these two goaltenders  to be off his game.  Both offenses are good enough to push the game total over with reasonable confidence.

Response #1 – Jeff: Of the 13 games that the Canucks have played since the Olympic break, 12 of them have actually featured first periods with 2 or more total goals being scored (first period Over 1.5, anybody?). It has been typical of Vancouver to slow the games down after the opening frames, but with a team trend like that, you’ve gotta lean with the Over 5.5 in most cases, and ‘versus San Jose’ would certainly qualify as one of them.

Response #2 – Alexander: Roberto Luongo lost three of his last four games, averaging a solid three goals a game.  On the other end of the ice, Evgeni Nabokov won his last two averaging a half-a-goal per game.  Despite the latter’s recent hot streak I simply cannot buy him putting up similar numbers against a potent Vancouver offense.  Combine those stats with the Sharks scoring over three their last two games and the Canucks scoring at least three in three of their last four contests and the over looks like a very safe bet.

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Alexander’s Pick:  Calgary Flames +110 (moneyline) vs. Boston Bruins

Both teams really need this win to get into the playoffs making this contest a very interesting bet.  Boston holds the home ice advantage making them the favorite but rookie Tuukka Rask just allowed five goals at home to an inferior Tampa Bay Lightning team.   Andrew Ference seems like he will miss today’s game making a thin blue line even thinner.  Calgary is a better team and much healthier.  Despite their most recent loss, the Flames have shown the ability to put the puck in the net, a skill the Bruins deeply lack.

Response #1 – Matt: It’s a crazy coincidence that Calgary and Boston are playing a must-win game that has implications in different conferences.  Calgary has the better team and is looking to overcome that shocking loss to the Islanders.  Boston is tough to back when you see who is suiting up in their top-12.  Tough call – Calgary FTW or Boston’s goalies to steal the show.

Response #2 – Jeff: Between these two sides, I actually see Calgary as the more fragile team. With the Wings playing the way they are, any rational person (including those on the Flames) can deduce that Calgary’s playoff chances are slim, and thus, every mistake has become magnified. It seems to me that 23 SOG and a blown lead against the Islanders was a sign of nerves more than anything. Meanwhile, Boston put up 50 shots in their last game. This pick has me worried.

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Matt’s Pick:  Columbus Blues Jackets -145 (moneyline) over New York Islanders

Columbus is coming off of a huge home win over the Blackhawks and have won 4 of their last 5 home games and sport a 4-1-1 home record against Eastern Conference teams.  The Isles have lost 3 straight on the road and a 3-4-1 on the road in the West.  Neither team has anything to play for and the home team has taken 7 straight meetings since 2003.  To top it off, the Isles sport a 3.5 average goals against on the road this season.

Response #1 – Adam: Columbus might finally be playing with a bit of fervor after routing the Blackhawks 8-3 on Thursday night. With a back-to-back, Mathieu Garon will get the nod in the first game against NYI. At Nationwide Arena, Garon is 6-0-3 this year with a 1.90 and a .933. Claude Noel is allowing the kids to play through their mistakes and it’s worked well of late. That trend should continue. The Isles are also one of the league’s worst road teams. Take Matt’s pick to the bank.

Response #2 – Alexander: The Blue Jackets will start Mathieu Garon who may be a better netminder than our beloved Steve Mason.  In two career starts against the Islanders, the veteran boasts a .043 GAA and .986 SV% with one shutout.  Those stats combined with the HUGE Blackhawks win make the Blue Jackets a safe bet to be made.