14-17: I think it’s safe to say that to score goals in the NHL, you need to shoot the puck. A dismal 18 shots by the Ducks (1 in the first) is not enough to build off of a huge win in Philly and beat the Rangers. It’s a busy Thanksgiving Monday (Canada), let’s get picking!
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Colorado Avalanche +170 at Boston Bruins -200
Boston had a bit of a hiccup on Saturday, nearly losing to the Islanders until a third period offensive surge which lead to a shootout victory. Don’t let that fool you though – this is still a solid team. Tuukka Rask was making his first start of the season and had a poor second period. Colorado also appears to be a bit of a mirage, beating good teams when their goalies were having off nights: Nabokov faltered in the home opener and Luongo was up to his old October tricks. The Avs lost to a hot Dan Ellis but relatively inept Nashville team and Chicago (including Huet) also hasn’t been playing to their potential. The Avs haven’t mustered more than 27 shots in a game yet this season, averaging 22.5 per game. They also allow an average of 32 shots per game, far too many for Boston snipers to take advantage of. The only issue with Boston here is their poor powerplay (17%) against the Avs’ penalty kill (88%). Take the money when you get it.
Pick: Bruins -200
Los Angeles Kings -115 at New York Islanders -105
Every game the Islanders have played (lost) so far has been a 1 goal differential which is a fantastic sign. They are close to winning and they’ve been challenging some solid teams: Pittsburgh, Ottawa, and Boston. LA on the other hand lost their opener to the Coyotes 6-3 and have since dominated backups Thomas Greiss and Josh Harding. Their only proving win came in a grinding 2-1 win vs. the Blues on Saturday. They did an excellent job holding down the Blues who had returned from two convincing victories against Detroit in Stockholm but I’m just not convinced the Kings really have something here. I’ve picked the Islanders to upset Ottawa and I fully believe this is their next-best opportunity to get their much-needed first win of the season. LA is abysmal on their penalty kill, only killing off 56% while the Isles have a respectable 24% powerplay.
Pick: Islanders -105
Toronto Maple Leafs +155 at New York Rangers -175
Brian Burke’s philosophy is to build a team from the back out – obviously starting with a goalie. Vesa Toskala has failed him here with his sparkling 4.97 GAA. Next is defense, with offseason acquisitions Komisarek, Beauchemin and Exelby bundled with Schenn and Kaberle, you’d expect a solid defensive core. Unfortunately, not the case. Francois Beauchemin leads all D-men in ice-time and has a -5 rating putting him near the lowest in the league (-7). Komisarek has the second most shifts per game for the Leafs and has already racked up 17 PIMs in 4 games – great for fantasy but useless in helping your team win. No Toronto D-man has scored a goal yet this season and only Luke Schenn (0) and Ian White (+4) don’t have a negative rating (Rosehill was on forward for his goal so I’m not counting him). The Leafs’ best line is Hagman-Grabovski-Stempniak (all +3, 3 points each) which is hardly a legitimate scoring threat. In fact, only 6 players have scored a goal for the Leafs which is astounding given their average of 31 shots per game. It honestly wouldn’t surprise me if the Leafs finish among the worst of the worst teams (again), falling far short of Burke’s playoff aspirations. New York is a perfect 2-0 team at home and Tortorella has this team believing they are good enough to win big games. Hardly a big game here as Lundqvist is expected to start for the Rangers after Valiquette got the win on Sunday. Look for the Rangers to take this one at MSG in prime fashion.
Pick: Rangers -1.5 +170
Calgary Flames +140 at Chicago Blackhawks -160
Last season, Chicago destroyed the Flames to the tune of: 5-2, 5-2, 3-2, and 6-1. Fortunately for the Hawks, Miikka Kiprusoff started each of those four games. Unfortunately for the Hawks, Cristobal Huet only started one of them (the 6-1 victory). The Hawks have only beat the puck line once this season (Niemi start) while Calgary is coming off of a 5-2 loss to the Stars in which they provided absolutely no goal support for backup Curtis McElhinney. The Flames have capitalized on powerplay chances, converting 47% of the time but the Hawks are among the least penalized teams in the league with 9.2 PIMs per game. The Hawks appear to have Kipper’s number and I love their chances to unleash their offensive potential on him. Both teams average more than 3 goals per game and Calgary allows nearly a full goal more per game (3.4) than Chicago (2.5). Huet has allowed 3 goals in each of his starts this season.
Pick: Over 5.5 goals -135 and Chicago -1.5 +180