Homework on a Friday Night: A Quick Study of this Saturday’s NHL Matchups

Updated: December 20, 2009 at 11:19 am by Jeff Tay

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Saturday nights often provide a two-fold problem for us NHL bettors. First of all, the sheer number of games on tap can easily become overwhelming; causing us to either make too many loose bets, or to overlook and miss out on too many profitable opportunities. Second of all, between going out on Friday nights and sleeping in on Saturday mornings/afternoons, we often don’t find the necessary amount of time to properly break down and analyze 12 or 13 games.

In order to address this predicament, I have decided to start my homework early this week (1AM Friday morning), in the hopes that by the time this Saturday rolls around, I’ll be completely informed and ready to make some units. Although, I won’t be finished writing this article until late Friday night, I hope that this segment will still, in some way, save you time, and make your Saturday betting experience go smoother.

Here are my notes and breakdowns for this Saturday’s NHL matchups:

NYR at PHI:

Both the Rangers and the Flyers showed that they weren’t completely dead yet, after solid efforts on Thursday night; the Rangers with a 5-2 revenge win over the Islanders, and the Flyers, a hard-fought 3-2 shootout loss to the Penguins. Although their recent records would imply that these are two teams headed in a similar direction, their reasons for struggling as of late may be completely different. The Rangers are simply struggling to find the back of the net, and facing recent opponents such as Pittsburgh (twice), Buffalo (twice), Detroit, and Chicago, certainly didn’t help them in that department, or do much for their confidence. Meanwhile, the Flyers are a team embroiled in off-ice issues, and goaltender Brain Boucher hasn’t been of much help either, playing wildly inconsistently (good, bad, good, bad, good…) in relief of the injured Ray Emery.

The Rangers have won the last 3 meetings head-to-head, and their stability makes them the better play here. Personally, I wouldn’t bet too much on it though.

DET at DAL:

The Red Wings appear to have gotten their groove back, after winning 5 of their last 6 games. However, their injury-riddled roster just got even more ridiculous, now losing Henrik Zetterberg until early January. How they will respond to this situation is a key question that is difficult to answer. Meanwhile, the Stars have spent an exorbitant amount of time both travelling and playing on the ice over the last 10 days, playing 5 road games in that stretch and seeing 4 of those games go to OT or SO. The Stars appeared to be a road-weary team after allowing 5 goals to Carolina and then 6 goals to Atlanta in consecutive nights. They could be gassed for this one as well.

Their two previous meetings this season have both gone Under 5.5. I would lean towards the Under 5.5 here as well. Detroit +0.5 in regulation is also worth a look, given how often Dallas goes to OT.

NSH at CGY:

The Predators have been on an offensive tear, scoring less than 3 goals only once in their last 9 games. However, that one game before this hot streak was a 5-0 loss to the Flames. The Flames appear to own this head-to-head series, having won 5 straight meetings with the Predators. Coincidentally, the Flames have been playing a polar opposite brand of hockey to the Predators, holding opponents to 2 or less goals in 7 of their last 9 games, but not scoring very much in the process. Something’s gotta give here, and although the Flames will have home ice advantage, the Predators will also have revenge on their minds.

I see more value in taking the underdog here in the +140 range, but I wouldn’t put too much into it. This appears to be roughly a 60-40 matchup in favor of Calgary, so the line is about right where it’s supposed to be.

PHX at ANA:

The Coyotes and Ducks generally play a lot of very closely-contested divisional battles, and 4 out of the last 6 meetings have even gone to OT or SO. There is no question though, that right now, the Coyotes are playing better hockey than the Ducks, as they’ve won 8 out of their last 10, and the Ducks have gone 3-3-4 in that same stretch. The Ducks will also be returning home off a week-long road trip here.

Phoenix as an underdog: sign me up. I will also be betting a little on a regulation TIE in this one. Phoenix has won both a shootout and an overtime period against Anaheim this season.

NJD at ATL:

For the Devils right now, it is business as usual; play outstanding defense and win lots of games. The Devils’ only 2 losses in their last 10 games have come as results of giving up 4 goals to Florida, and 5 goals to Vancouver. The Thrashers, however, can score goals, and should put up more of a fight than some of New Jersey’s recent opponents (Ottawa, Montreal, Philadelphia, and Carolina). On the other hand though, despite winning 3 out of their last 4 games overall, Atlanta has actually not won in regulation since the 30th of November. The Thrashers are a good team, but they are not playing all that convincingly at the moment. New Jersey is a great team, but they haven’t been playing very many quality opponents lately.

Tough call here. If I had to choose, I would pick New Jersey, but fortunately for me, I don’t have to choose. The Under 6.0 is definitely worth a look here though, but even that has pushed in the last 2 head-to-head meetings.

FLA at CAR:

The Panthers are actually on a very surprising upswing right now, going 4-0-1 in their last 5 games, following 9 losses in their previous 10 games before that. The Panthers have been very competitive though, despite their record in the past month, as 5 of their 10 losses in the last 30 days have come in OT or SO. Meanwhile, the Hurricanes have also shown signs of improvement as of late, posting wins over Vancouver, Pittsburgh, and Dallas, as well as an overtime loss to Washington. These Hurricanes are no longer the team that lost 14 straight in October and November, as they have played with considerably more passion and desire to win. This passion and desire might spark them to avenge their 6-3 Friday night loss at the hands of these same Panthers. The one problem the Hurricanes still have though is the inability to keep the puck out of their own net.

There will definitely be a few defensive adjustments in this one, following Friday night’s barn-burner, so play the Over 5.5 with a bit of caution. I still expect an up-tempo game though, with Carolina being far more competitive in this second half of the back-to-back miniseries. Play the sides with caution as well.

MTL at NYI:

The Canadiens are for the most part a very streaky team. Over this season, they’ve already gone through a 5-game losing streak, a 4-game winning streak, a 4-game losing streak, a 3-game winning streak, and now another 5-game losing streak. Perhaps, the Islanders are the perfect remedy for this losing streak though, as they too have been struggling to put the puck in the net, and their PK has been operating at an abysmal 66.7% in their last 5 games. This game sets up very nicely for both goaltender Carey Price, and also the Montreal powerplay unit.

Montreal will be opening in the +120 range, and I believe that now is definitely the time to buy. I’ll take Montreal to continue their recent string of dominance over the New York Islanders.

BOS at TOR:

The Bruins have been the Leafs’ worst nightmare over the past two seasons, as they have won 7 straight and 9 of the last 10 meetings head-to-head. Most recently, the Leafs have had all the momentums from 2-game win streaks abruptly halted by blowout losses at the hands of the Bruins (scores of 2-5 and 2-7). The Leafs have had a few magical Saturday night games this season, defeating the Capitals on two separate occasions, and the Red Wings once in a rout, but Boston might just have their number. The recent stats almost mean nothing, when Boston routinely shells Toronto for 5 or more goals, but on top of all this, Toronto is also struggling defensively, conceding 6 goals to Phoenix and 5 goals to Buffalo this week. The situation sets up very nicely for Boston.

I’m gonna put Toronto’s Saturday night magic and uber-revenge factor to the test here, and take the Bruins to continue their sheer dominance in this divisional rivalry.

PIT at BUF:

Here is a clash of two teams that are rolling right now, and two teams that have really been winning quite consistently all season. The Sabres are at a slight disadvantage here though, playing the second leg of a back-to-back, and if Patrick Lalime gets the start, then it’s the Penguins’ game to lose. Otherwise, these two teams share very similar numbers in recent games, versus opponents of similar quality, and the last 3 head-to-head meetings have all produced 4-3 finals. This game could go either way if Ryan Miller has his usual night at the office.

I don’t see much value taking either team here at minus money. The Pens might be due for a let down after sweeping Philly in a two-game set, and whether or not Buffalo can beat Pittsburgh in this situation is something that I’d rather wait and find out, without losing any money on.

CBJ at COL:

The Blue Jackets have been in absolute freefall since the 21st of November, as they’ve only won a woeful total of 2 games in their last 15 outings. They’ve also lost by both, scoring a lot of goals and failing to defend, as well as defending very well and failing to score. This could very likely be the worst team in the NHL to bet on at this point in time. Meanwhile, the Avalanche have been getting tormented lately by some of the hot teams in the NHL, losing 3 recent games to Minnesota, a game in Pittsburgh, and most recently, a rout to Washington. These losses aside though, they have also posted wins recently over Calgary, Tampa Bay, St Louis, and (drum roll) the Columbus Blue Jackets. Unfortunately, both Milan Hejduk and Marek Svatos are questionable for Saturday night, which makes this game a very difficult game to handicap.

I have absolutely no interest in betting on Columbus, and I’m also not willing to lay the juice with Colorado (-155). Both teams have played to more Unders than Overs lately though, so the Under 5.5 might be the way to look, if you absolutely must bet this game.

WSH at EDM:

The Oilers recently won 5 straight road games, but that momentum has not carried over onto home ice. Over the course of this season, the Oilers have played way too loose at home, often getting into run-and-gun showdowns with opponents. The Washington Capitals might just be the worst team in the league for them to do this with. After being held to just 2 goals and 27 shots on goal in their Friday night tilt with the Canucks, look for the Capitals to come out firing on Saturday. Oilers’ goaltender, Jeff Deslauriers, hasn’t been very good at home in his last few outings, and it probably won’t get any easier with the Capitals in town.

It may not be the best scheduling spot for the Caps, but I like my money with the better team looking to rebound off a poor performance. Alex Ovechkin had a very quiet night in Vancouver, and he will probably be fired up for Saturday.

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