1-3: Flyers handled the Canes like they should and show that they, and Ray Emery, are going to be a hockey superpower this season! Today is Super Saturday in the NHL with 15 games lined up. You can actually watch hockey from 12:00-noon EST all the way until the 10:30 EST games finish up. I can’t remember a time that’s actually happened. The NHL has a pick-15 contest running today and I encourage you to join. While it’s near impossible to predict every game, it’s fun, and if you put a little cash down on your 15 selections, you could win HUGE. For example, putting $1 down my 15 picks would net me a cool $4,554. I’m going to pick six games today so let’s get to it!
Looking for a great sportsbook site to place your bets? I use and trust bet365 to place my hockey bets but if you are looking for a site where you can bet for free, try CentSports. They give you 10 cents to start off and let you bet on the NHL and other sports. When you increase your balance, you can cash out! Remember that I post these picks for fun and I encourage you to do the same (i.e. don’t bet what you can’t afford to lose). All lines are provided by bet365 and are current at the time of posting. Picks after the jump!
Chicago Blackhawks -165 at Florida Panthers +145 in Helsinki, Finland
The Blackhawks manhandled the Panthers yesterday, showering Tomas Vokoun with 55 shots (to Florida’s 24), only to lose 4-3 in a shootout loss. The Hawks are too good and have far too much scoring up front to lose back-to-back at home against a sub-par team so look for them to get revenge on Panthers and split this series in Finland. Huet needs to play better and come up big when the Hawks have a lead (you too, Chris Osgood) as Huet let in the game-tying goal with less than 2:30 left to play in regulation.
Pick: Blackhawks -165
Philadelphia Flyers +105 at New Jersey Devils -125
New Jersey will be a real tough test for the Flyers, led by veteran goalie Marty Brodeur and new/old defensive-minded coach Jacques Lemaire. New Jersey had a solid preseason going 4-0-1 over 5 games (3-0 at home) and only allowing 8 goals over that stretch. Philly struggled on the road in the preseason but showed they can win big on the road last night as Ray Emery stood on his head in a gritty 2-0 victory over Carolina. The Flyers have a tough defensive core and are a legitimate scoring threat. Patrick Elias is out indefinitely with a groin injury, and the Devils lost some key talent (Gionta, Madden, Rupp) in the offseason, hurting the Devils secondary scoring threat. Meanwhile, the Devils have owned the Flyers at home going 14-1 in their last 15 games played in New Jersey but the game total has gone under in 4 of their last 5 meetings. Mix a pot with Martin Brodeur, Jacques Lemaire’s defense-first coaching scheme, Ray Emery’s play recently, and a very physical game and you’re left with a solid under bet on the game total (5.5).
Pick: UNDER 5.5 goals -125
Pittsburgh Penguins -165 at New York Islanders +145
When the Oddsmakers hand you a solid bet on a silver platter, you take it. This is one of those bets. The defending Stanley Cup champs, coming off a 3-2 win at home to the Rangers, dominated the Isles last season, winning 5 of 6 meetings and outscoring them 27 – 12. However, interestingly enough, only half of those games were won by a margin of 2-or more goals. The Islanders are a better team from last season but are still far too far behind the Penguins, led by Crosby, Malkin and Fleury. The Islanders haven’t released who is starting in goal, yet. Update: Roloson will be starting for the Isles.
Pick: Pens -165
Tampa Bay Lightning -105 at Atlanta Thrashers -115
Both teams were cellar dwellers in the Southeast division last season and are looking for solid rebound years for their teams. The Lightning are led by prolific scorers Lecavalier, St. Louis, Stamkos, and the newly signed Alex Tanguay. The Thrashers are led by sniper Ilya Kovalchuk, Slava Kozlov, Bryan Little and newly added Nik Antropov up front. The Thrashers mean business this year and think they have enough talent to reach the playoffs this year. A major hurdle, however, is the health of goalie Kari Lehtonen. Lehtonen is on the IR with a sore back, leaving the prospect Ondrej Pavelec the start. Last season, Pavelec went 3-7 with a 3.60 GAA and .880 SV% – not exactly great numbers. Atlanta and Tampa Bay met last Sunday to the tune of a 5 – 1 preseason win for the Lightning in a game feature tonight’s starters, Ondrej Pavelec and Mike Smith. I expect the Thrashers to put up a bit more of a fight but I also expect the red lamp to be lit almost all game with all the scorers on the ice against (for the most part) still unproven goalies.
Pick: OVER 6 goals -120
Toronto Maple Leafs +175 at Washington Capitals -210
Alexander Ovechkin is a phenom, no doubt about it. The Ovechkin-led Caps rolled over the Eastern Conference’s best record holder last season in a 4-1 rout at home. The Caps came to play and are ready to show they are serious contenders in the East. Semyon Varlamov gets the nod today and should shine like he did after leading the Caps to the second round 7-game series (defeat) against the Cup-winning Pens. The Toskala-led Leafs, on the other hand, couldn’t stay out of the penalty box, surrendering 2 goals on 4 Montreal powerplay opportunities. Washington will expose the weaker Toronto penalty kill as they did against Boston, scoring on 2 of 4 chances. The Caps, on the other hand, went a perfect 5 for 5 on the penalty kill. The Leafs showed a considerable amount of jump in their opening game against the Habs but the Caps are still a far better team and their snipers will pick apart Vesa Toskala who is bringing an .852 SV% and a horrible preseason into Washington.
Pick: Caps -1.5 at +140
Phoenix Coyotes +125 at Los Angeles Kings -145
Phoenix was loaded with terrible distractions in the offseason and it’s hard to believe they don’t trickle down into the locker room. They have a winning coach in Dave Tippett but the coach-less training camp will take its toll on the Coyotes as they open the season against a bolstered Kings lineup at home, where LA has been very good (4-0-1 preseason). The Kings bring grit with newly acquired Ryan Smyth and Rob Scuderi added with scoring threats Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams all in front of Jonathan Quick who proved he can handle a starter’s workload last season as the Kings’ top netminder. I believe that the Coyotes players are motivated to show doubters they can play but that will have to wait until their home opener in a week. The Kings are playoff contenders and show it tonight.
Pick: Kings -145
Best of luck!