25-24: Well, we learned that the Sabres are absolutely for real and Dwayne Roloson cannot get the Islanders their first win. Last night also uncovered a resurgent Boston team, more Philly failure, and Luongo getting chased out of the net… again! Lots of games tonight so on to the picks!
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Atlanta Thrashers +145 at Buffalo Sabres -165
It looks like even though Vanek is out indefinitely, the Sabres can still score, getting 6 goals in two games straight. The Thrashers on the other hand have quietly gotten themselves to 3-1 and rolls into Buffalo to make 4 straight on the road. Atlanta has averaged a league-best 4.00 goals per game, which should match up nicely next to Buffalo’s latest offensive resurgence. The best part about this matchup is that both teams are going with their backup goalies tonight – Hedberg for the Thrashers and Lalime for the Sabres. Both goalies had a GAA above 3.00 and a SV% at-or-below .900 last season, boding well for both teams to score plenty of goals. The clear shot advantage here is with Buffalo (37 to 24 per game) but Atlanta makes excellent use of their powerplay, which stands up second-best in the league at 36%. Atlanta has gone over (or matched) the game total in every game this season and Buffalo has reached the game total themselves in their last two.
Pick: Over 6.0 goals -110
Nashville Predators +210 at Washington Capitals -250
If there’s ever a team the Preds wish they couldn’t face right now it would be the Caps. If there’s ever a team the Caps wish they could face, it would be the Preds. Poor Nashville is down 4 straight, outscored 16-2 over that stretch – 3 of those games were at home. The Caps, however, just turned around a 4 game losing streak of their own after a 4-1 victory at home to the Sharks. Looks Boudreau has this team back on track, whereas Barry Trotz’s Preds are struggling mightily. At the beginning of the season, their goalies were their highlight but now, with 3.33 goals against per game, goaltending is their crux. The Preds also need to figure out how to score, averaging a measly 1.33 goals per game and a league-worst 5% on the powerplay. Look for Ovechkin and the Capitals, 3.71 goals for on 31 shots against per game and 3.14 goals against, to pick apart the visiting Preds. Washington was 2-0 in their two meetings last season.
Pick: Caps -1.5 +125
Colorado Avalanche +165 at Detroit Red Wings -185
Detroit is banged up, no question about it, with Franzen out until February and Datsyuk set to sit out another game with his upper-body injury. The Avs on the other hand are missing D-men Liles, Preissing and Salei but have still won just fine on the road, winning their last 3 of 5 straight on the road this season. Detroit, the hosts, are currently undefeated, and playing their best hockey, at the Joe. The lines are just way too far in Detroit’s favour against a 5-1-1 Avs team lead by Craig Anderson. It appears as if Detroit’s defense can disappear at any time but the Avs maintain a steady 2.14 goals against. Both teams can score, even with 2 of Detroit’s top 3 scorers on the shelf, but Detroit promises to work Anderson much more, averaging 31 shots per game to Colorado’s low 23. A main factor here for Detroit, will be their ability to match their lousy 73% penalty kill up against the Avs’ 33% powerplay – they give up far too many critical powerplay goals. This game is far closer than the lines indicate and it wouldn’t surprise me if it took overtime to decide this one.
Pick: Avs +1.5 -180
New York Rangers -145 at Toronto Maple Leafs +125
It’s absolutely mind-boggling why New York isn’t a larger favourite in this one. The Rangers have shown sheer dominance this season under Torts en route to a 6-1 start. The Leafs on the other hand look as if they won’t win a game all year. The last time these two met, the Rangers decimated Toskala 7-2. AHL call-up Joey MacDonald gets the nod tonight but how can anybody expect his fate to be better after losing 4-1 to the Avs? The Rangers, meanwhile, handily beat a streaking Kings team on the last game of their 3 game homestand and roll into Toronto on Hockey Night. It would be silly putting any money on the Leafs tonight against a Rangers team that averages 4 goals per game and 2 goals allowed as well as shimmering numbers in nearly every other valuable stat category. The Leafs, on the other hand, allow a league-worst (by nearly a full goal) 4.67 goals per game and can’t gather any offense behind a 2.17 average goals per game. The lines are good so go with the money line here (just in case) but if Lundqvist starts, all signs point to a safe puck line bet as well.
Pick: Rangers -145 (get gutsy and take the Rangers -1.5 +195 on the puck line)
Boston Bruins -110 at Phoenix Coyotes -110
It’s gotten to the point where the 2008-09 top of the East and the bottom of the West become an even matchup, what is going on!? Phoenix has essentially shut down opponents with their D this year, boasting a league-best 1.50 goals allowed per game. Unfortunately their offense sputters at a lousy 2.33 goals per game; however, they still find ways to win. The Bruins on the other hand, look like they have their defense back in order as well, shutting out the high-scoring Stars. The Bruins are up against the toughest goalie they’ve faced all year, as Bryzgalov enters this game with a 1.17 GAA and .952 SV%. Thomas rebounded nicely after a 6-goal appearance against Anaheim, getting the donut last night. I see this game grinding out and being more of a goalie showcase, leaning me towards the under. Phoenix has scored only 3 goals at home so far this year, and allowed 4 in two games played while shutting down opposing offenses to the tune of 21.5 shots per game (at home). Don’t forget the Yotes have shut out high-power offenses like the Sharks and Pens (in THEIR buildings). If Thomas or Bryz don’t get the start, this pick might change.
Pick: Under 5.5 goals -130