A rather slow night tonight in the National Hockey League, but in appreciation for the positive feedback on my previous columns, I’ll honor your requests and put together a RLS for tonight’s light schedule.
Another mediocre night last night as the Tampa Bay Lightning put a competent goaltender in Mike Smith’s jersey and he played well. That was the game I was really banking on, but alas, the RLS must go on and onward it shall go. The Rangers took down Carolina, but a third period explosion by the Wild prevented a Meat Loaf acceptable night.
Tonight, three games, six Western Conference teams, and the calm before the pre-Christmas storm of a 12-game schedule tomorrow night. To the picks we go!
CHI -1.5 (+200) v. SJ
Remember, the importance of this column is value. While it is very hard to predict that Chicago will win by two or more, I think this play has a better shot than SJ on the moneyline. The Sharks are coming off a game last night where Evgeni Nabokov was very busy stopping 36 of 38 shots.
The Hawks are playing in the front end of a back-to-back, but there’s no way that they will overlook San Jose. Why? Because Joel Quenneville is using Cristobal Huet with the intent to use Antti Niemi on the road tomorrow in Detroit. That proves to me the importance Quenneville is putting on this matchup.
The Hawks have been dominant, posting blanks in three of their last four (the only one of course being the Bruins game where I advised CHI -1.5, they won 5-4 in a SO). This is a statement game for them on home ice, where they are a ridiculous 16-3-1. With San Jose a little tired, and the Blackhawks fired up to prove a point, the odds look good that CHI continues their home dominance.
Cristobal Huet is 10-2 ATS at home and the Blackhawks are outscoring opponents 3.2 to 1.2 over their last five games. If Chicago can withstand San Jose’s initial push, the deeper the game goes, the more the Hawks have an advantage.
Seriously jump on this game if Thomas Greiss gets the nod.
COL -115 v. ANA
The Ducks are a bad road team and Colorado’s an above average home team. Simple as that tonight as the Avs host the Quacks. Discipline will be the name of the game tonight for Colorado, their penalty kill is at a putrid 74.2% at home, while the Ducks powerplay has been clicking of late at nearly 24%.
The wild card in this game is who is in net for the Ducks. As of now, nobody is confirmed. Colorado is a much better play if Giguere goes, but I have to think Hiller gets the start.
The Avs definitely have to be feeling pretty good about themselves having finally beaten the Wild last night in Minnesota. I know I used the travel as an excuse in my analysis of the above game, but Chicago’s up-tempo style makes the difference there.
This game, along with the Nashville-Vancouver game is a bit of a toss-up. If Giguere gets the nod, look to jump on the o5.5 at even money.
No real feelings on the NSH/VAN game tonight. At first, I penciled in VAN -1.5, then I retracted that and went NSH +135 on the moneyline. Honestly, I can’t get a feel either way. Edler’s a game-time decision. Ellis is 0-4, 4.24 in his last four starts against Vancouver, but he’s playing extremely well lately, as are the Preds looking for a point in their seventh consecutive road game. If you desperately want to bet it, I’d look VAN moneyline with an OT/SO win.
Good luck tonight players. Apologies to those who would like this column posted earlier. I will do my best to start getting it out before 3 or 4 EST. Thanks again for the positive feedback, though. I’m really glad that you guys enjoy the piece and that Matt and Ryan continue to let me put it up here for you.