Friday Night Hockey – Complete Breakdown of All Games

By in Sports & Betting on
20 Minute Read

After a jam-packed ten game slate on Thursday the hockey gods reward us with even more games on Friday night. In the last evening before the holidays hit and we all stuff ourselves full of good food and world junior hockey, we get twelve games. There are some huge matchups to get into so without further delay, let’s break down the last night of games before Christmas!

Minnesota Wild at New York Rangers

Moneyline

  • Minnesota (+138) at NY (-152)

Spread

  • Minnesota (+1.5) at NY (-1.5)

Total Over/Under

  • 5

Two of the best teams in the league clash on Friday night in a huge East vs. West showdown in New York City. The Wild roll into Madison Square Garden after a tough matchup against the Canadiens on the road only to play the second game in as many nights.

The Rangers will be well rested, but licking their wounds after Pittsburgh gave them the business 7-2 on Tuesday night. The Penguins have been taking everyone’s lunch money as of late, so the loss isn’t that bad, but the seven goals are. All seven goals cam from different Pittsburgh skaters and exposed some serious flaws in New York’s defense. They’ll be out for revenge but it won’t be easy against the best defense in the NHL.

Let’s break it down a little further so you know where to put your money and have a little left over to buy those last-minute Christmas gifts.

Offense

Only the red-hot Blue Jackets and Penguins score more goals than the Rangers this season, and New York is gaining on them. The Rangers are averaging 3.29 goals a game this year and despite not having a player with more than 23 points, have managed to keep up their scoring each game.

They’re led by a top line of Derek Stepan (23 points), Mats Zaccarello (22 points) and Chris Greider (21 points) and have depth elsewhere in their forwards with Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller holding down the second and third lines. Stepan has been particularly effective in anchoring the top line, especially on the power play.

Rick Nash has been injured on and off this year, and is expected out until at least December 29th, but still has 13 goals on the season. There’s not one or two players carrying the load, but that doesn’t seem to matter when almost every forward can stuff the stat sheet on any given night.

Their defense are no strangers to the back of the net either. Ryan McDonagh, Nick Holden and Brady Skjei have combined for a whopping 49 points this season skating out from the blue line and despite just six goals between them they’re finding ways to facilitate the puck and get the entire team involved.

The Wild are known for their defense, but don’t let that distract you from the fact that these guys can flat out score. They’re averaging 2.94 goals a game which ranks 6th in the NHL, just three spots behind the Rangers.

Like the Rangers, there’s no star that leads the team offensively, but a collection of gifted players. Eric Staal (25), Charlie Coyle (23), Miakel Granlund (21) and Nino Niederreiter (20) have all broke the 20 point plateau and all have a plus/minus rating in the double digits.

Also like New York, Minnesota’s defensemen are no strangers to scoring either. The blue line has contributed 13 goals this season from their top six players and Ryan Suter has five goals himself to go along with 13 assists on the season.

Both these teams can score, and it will be fun to watch which defense makes it out of this alive.

Defense

If we’re going to pick a defense to survive the onslaught, it has to be Minnesota. The Wild have been downright incredible this season, allowing just 1.94 goals against per game which ranks first in the NHL.

No team has broken the sub-two goal barrier except for the Wild, and the plus minus numbers are flat-out ridiculous. It’s good enough that Ryan Suter leads the entire league with a plus 22 rating, but it gets even better. The Wild have three of the top ten, eight of the top 30, and ten of the top 49 in plus minus rating this season. Think about that for a second. Minnesota has TEN PLAYERS that range from number 1 to 37 amongst all qualified skaters in plus/minus rating. That’s just flat-out miraculous.

To be fair, the Rangers aren’t too shabby themselves. New York allows just 2.34 goals a game and ranks 6th in the NHL in that department. They like the number 6 evidently, as they also rank 6th in penalty kill, succeeding 84.38 percent of the time, just one spot behind Minnesota in the league ranking.

Nick Holden and Mark Staal are a combined +25 (Ryan Suter is a +22 by himself, by hey, who’s counting?) and the Rangers continue to find ways to shut the opposition down. After a brutal seven goals allowed performance against Pittsbrugh, they’ll be trying to tighten it up against Minnesota on Friday.

Goalies

We’re at the point where very little else can be said about Devan Dubynk. He’s basically running away with the Vezina trophy at this point with a ridiculous .948 save percentage and a 1.55 goals against average. He may get the night off after a back to back right before Christmas, but we doubt it with how good the Rangers have been.

In New York it feels like the power has finally shifted back to Henrik Lundqvists corner. After it looked like Antti Raanta was going to get more playing time he let in seven goals on 47 shots against Pittsburgh. Now it’s true that 47 shots are way too many to face, but so iOS letting in seven goals.

Lundqvist will be back between the pipes against the Wild, and owns a a nice .920 save percentage and 2.34 goals against average this year. He’s lost just once in his last five starts and will try to stay hot against Minnesota.

Key Matchup

Devan Dubnyk against Henrik Lundqvist. We said there was no real star power on offense, but it’s a whole different story between the pipes. Dubnyk has been the best goalie all season, but King Henrik isn’t ready to give up his crown just yet.

Advice

After Minnesota beat a very strong Pittsburgh team, they have to take on a Rangers team in need of a bounce back win after getting humiliated by the Penguins. As hot as the Wild have been, we like New York to bounce back and get a win at home on the moneyline.

Pick

New York
2
Minnesota
0

Buffalo Sabres at New York Islanders

Moneyline

  • Buffalo (-110) at New York (+100)

Spread

  • Buffalo (-1.5) at New York (+1.5)

Total Over/Under

  • 5

Over in Brooklyn New York’s other team plays on the eve of Christmas eve as well. The Islanders welcome the Sabres in a battle of less-than-ideal performances so far this season. New York sits at the very bottom of the Eastern Conference with a 12-14-6 record and have watched their goal differential plummet to an abysmal -16.

They have just two players (John Tavares, 23 points + Josh Bailey 20 points) to hit the 20 point plateau this season and Jaroslav Halak was a disaster in net to start the campaign. His stats through 19 games are a .907 save percentage with a 3.13 goals against average. Thankfully for New York it looks like the reigns have been handed over to Thomas Greiss, who’s .918 save percentage and 2.61 goals against average gives the Islanders a much better chance to win.

Buffalo doesn’t have much more to cheer about with a record of 12-11-8 but they have been playing some inspired hockey as of late. Their last two games have both been heartbreaking overtime losses and yet they’re still 5-2-3 in their last ten games.

Jack Eichel’s return from injury may have sparked the Sabres into playing a bit more competitively. The 20 year old has eight points in ten games and will be a player to keep an eye on as the season progresses and he gets more ice time.

Key Matchup

John Tavares and Kyle Okposo. The two ex-teammates in New York have had very similar campaigns this far. Oppose has nine goals and 13 assists for 22 points while Tavares has nine goals and 14 assists for 23 points. We can’t wait to see the two go against each other on the ice Friday night.

Advice

Buffalo has been decent on the road this season, and playing much better as of late, but with both teams playing poorly so far this season, we’re comfortable taking the Islanders at home with the spread in their favor.

Pick

New York
4
Buffalo
2

Detroit Red Wings at Florida Panthers

Moneyline

  • Detroit (+129) at Florida (-142)

Spread

  • Detroit (+1.5) at Florida (-1.5)

Total Over/Under

  • 5

From one battle in the basement to another, the Panthers and Red Wings clash in Florida on Friday night. The Wings looked as though they may be ready to compete after captain Henrik Zetterberg gave an inspired speech that propelled them to a win over the Ducks a few games ago, but since then they’ve lost again to the Lightning 4-1 and are now 3-5-2 in their last ten games and two points out of last place in the East.

Zetterbeg can only do so much. He’s the only player on the team with more than 20 points (23) and doing so at age 36. He still plays great two way hockey, but if the Wings cant find more scoring they’re doomed. They’re finding the back of th net just 2.39 times this season which ranks 25th on the year.

Florida has been slightly more fortunate, at least during Jagr’s push for the record books. Te Panthers  still don’t score much (just 2.45 goals a game) and their power play is awful (15.18 percent) but they’re finding ways to stay in hockey games.  They may tired after playing Boston the night before, but even a tired Panthers team is capable of beating the Red Wings.

Key Matchup

Jaromir Jagr and Henrik Zetterberg. Even though Zetterberg is one of the oldest players in the league at age 36, he still isn’t even close to Jagr at 44. The two are still capable of being the best player on the ice in any one game, and maybe seeing each other on the ice will start up a “Who’s the best old guy game?” Awesome.

Advice

Florida is way too heavily favored for our liking in this game. They played a tough physical team in Boston just the night before, and aren’t getting good enough odds to be trusted on the moneyline. Take Detroit on the spread and hope Zetterberg gets some help to keep it close.

Pick

Detroit
3
Florida
1

LA Kings at Dallas Stars

Moneyline

  • LA (+116) at Dallas (-128)

Spread

  • LA (+1.5) at Dallas (-1.5)

Total Over/Under

  • 5

Just when it looked the Kings might be back to their dominant form a week ago, they’ve settled back into mediocrity and have everyone confused. Just the way they like it. LA is 4-4-2 in their last ten games and have watched their goal differential slip to 0 on the season.

Their inability to score has been the most troubling fact all season long. They’re lighting the lamp just 2.53 times a contest and have one of the worst power plays in all of hockey. Despite all the talent up front and along the blue line, the Kings’ power play is succeeding at a dismal 1.579 percent. Not exactly the mark you want to see from a potential Stanley Cup Contender.

In Dallas, the frustration is reaching the boiling point. After starting out the season hot the Stars find themselves outside the playoffs looking in with a 13-14-7 record and a 4-5-1 record in their last ten. Their goal differential is down to -18 and its mainly because like LA, no one can score.

There Stars and Kings own identical 2.53 goals-per-game averages and outside of Jamie Benn, Patrick Eaves and Tyler Seguin, no one can find the back of the net. Add in less than stellar goaltending from Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen and it’s easy to see why the Stars aren’t shining quite as bright as they once were.

Key Matchup

Tyler Seguin against Drew Doughty. Sequin has been terrific this season with 32 points in 34 games but will find it harder to score on LA’s defense. After a slow start Doughty is back to plus 6 with 17 points this season and will relish the challenge of stopping one of the league’s most gifted skaters in Seguin.

Advice

This game feels like a toss up, so why not take the team getting the underdog status? Mainly because that team is LA and they’re just 6-9-2 on the road compared to Dallas who is 9-5-3 in their own building. Add in some decent odds on the moneyline, and we like the Stars in this one.

Pick

Dallas
4
LA
3

Colorado Avalanche at Chicago Blackhawks

Moneyline

  • Colorado (+229) at Chicago (-258)

Spread

  • Colorado (+1.5) at Chicago (-1.5)

Total Over/Under

  • 5.5

Uh-Oh Colorado. The Avalanche are dead last in the NHL, play Toronto in Colorado the night before, then fly to Chicago to take on the best team in the NHL the very next night? All signs point to the Avs barely making it out of Chicago alive, let alone winning a hockey game, but the puck has a funny way of bouncing this team of year, so you never know.

There’s not much left to say about Colorado’s futility. They rank dead last in both goals scored and goals allowed and their leading scorer has 22 points. There’s some young talent on the team so not all is lost for the future, but right now it feels like everyone in Denver just wants this season to be over.

In Chicago, the good times just keep rolling don’t they? Even after a tough one goal loss against the Senators, the Blackhawks are still 6-3-1 in their last ten games, have their goal differential up to +17 and have six players who have reached the 20 point plateau this season. One player won hasn’t is Jonathan Toews…because he’s only played 16 games and is just now getting healthy. This team is scary good.

Key Matchup

Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene. The two 25 year olds are both incredibly skilled, but Panarin is on another level right now. He has 35 points in 34 games this season and is the leading scorer on the best team in the NHL. Duchene may want to stop and take some notes.

Advice

Our advice should be to stay away but that’s no fun right? If you’re like we are and think the puck can go in the wrong way any night why not put a couple bucks down on the Avalanche and hope for the best? Oh right, because you’re smart. Take the Blackhawks on the moneyline and enjoy the (almost) guaranteed win.

Pick

Chicago
5
Colorado
1

Vancouver Canucks at Calgary Flames

Moneyline

  • Vancouver (+155) at Calgary (-172)

Spread

  • Vancouver (+1.5) at Calgary (-1.5)

Total Over/Under

  • 5

A night after playing in an all-Canadian matchup against the Jets, the Canucks do it again against the Flames in Calgary. Both the Jets and the Flames have been better than the Canucks this season, but not by much.

After struggling to get going, someone fanned the fire and the Flames are jumping lately. Calgary is 7-3-0 in their last ten games, and a large part of that is due to rookie Matthew Tkachuk. He has six goals and 18 assists in 31 games this season and continues to help the rest of Calgary’s forwards find the back of net.

On defense, Mark Giordano has been his usual dominant self. He has just 12 points on the year, but it doesn’t matter when you’re shutting down the team’s best forwards each and every night. He’s a stud.

In Vancouver the lack of goal scoring is alarming. They’re averaging just 2.55 goals a game and their leading scorers are both 36 years old. The Sedin twins (22 points each) can still play some damn good hockey, but its tough to get it going each night when the guys around you can’t help produce.

Now they’re up against a goalie in Chad Johnson who’s been nothing short of stellar this year. Johnson owns a .922 save percentage and a 2.30 goals against average in 21 games played so far.

Key Matchup

Sedin Twins against Mark Giordano. We know Giordano can’t stop both by himself, but he may have to. The Flames are letting in 2.88 goals a game which is way below the league average despite Giordano being a +3.

Advice

Playing on the road on a  second night of a back to back is just too difficult, especially this time of year with distractions all around you. We like the Flames on the spread so that your money actually grows into something.

Pick

Calgary
3
Vancouver
0

Edmonton Oilers at San Jose Sharks

Moneyline

  • Edmonton (+147) at San Jose (-163)

Spread

  • Edmonton (+1.5) at San Jose (-1.5)

Total Over/Under

  • 5

This is going to be good. The Sharks are in regular season cruise control, as they’re often known to do time and time again. San Jose is 7-3-0 in their last ten games and coming off a 4-1 win against a very good Calgary Flames team.

The Sharks have done it on offense and defense this season, ranking in the top 6 in both categories but their defense is truly on another level. They’re allowing just 2.21 goals a game this season thanks to an absolutely stacked blue line.

Brent Burns has produced 30 points from the blue line and has a plus/minus rating of +9 on the season, while his counterpart and direct opposite Marc-Edouard Vlasic has shutdown the opposition’s best line seemingly every single night. Add in Paul Martin and Justin Braun and this core is one of the strongest in all of hockey.

It’s a good thing they’re so good, because they’ll be faced with the task of shutting down the NHL’s leading scorer on Friday night. Connor McDavid has slowed down a bit in his last couple of games, but still has 40 points in 35 contests this season. Leon Draisaitl has been excellent with 31 points this season and Jordan Eberle continues to produce alongside McDavid with 23 points of his own this season.

Their strong play has led Edmonton to score 2.94 goals a game this season and rock one of the best power plays in the NHL. They’re succeeding at a 22.32 percent success rate and its a big reason why they’ve won three straight.

Key Matchup

Connor McDavid against Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The highest scoring player in the NHL goes up against (arguably) the best shutdown defenseman in the league Friday night and we can’t wait. McDavid is primed for a big game and this has the feeling of a Christmas special.

Advice

Edmonton is rolling right now, and actually better on the road than they’ve been at home this season. We love taking Edmonton on the spread getting a goal and a half in San Jose. The Sharks might still win, but we’ll be damned if we’re not cheering for McDavid.

Pick

Edmonton
4
San Jose
1

New Jersey Devils at Pittsburgh Penguins

Moneyline

  • New Jersey

Spread

  • New Jersey (+1.5) at Pittsburgh (-1.5)

Total Over/Under 

  • 5

Close your eyes if you’re a Devils fan. After starting off the season in good shape, New Jersey has plummeted over their last ten games with a 2-6-2 record. They’ve scored 23 fewer goals than they’ve allowed and have just 75 goals on the season.

Now they have to play in Pittsburgh after playing at home against the Flyers the night before. New Jersey can’t seem to get any consistency out of the goaltender spot from either Cory Schneider or Keith Kincaid and their leading scorer has just 23 points.

Pittsburgh is the polar opposite. They have three of the highest scoring players in all of hockey in Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel and Evegeni Malkin and while their defense has struggled as of late, they have Matt Murray to save their bacon between the pipes.

Murray has been next-level of late with a save percentage of .947 and a goals against average of 1.63 while posting a 6-0-1 record in the month of December. He’s firmly stolen the starting job away from Marc-Andre Fleury and looks poised to carry the Penguins into the playoffs.

The Penguins will need to weather the storm while they wait for Kris Letang and Trevor Daley to return from injury on the blueline, but their firepower up front is more than making up for it.

Key Matchup

The three-headed beast against the no-names. The “no-names” might be an unfair assessment of the Devils’ defensive core, but honestly, no one is getting the job done against Kessel, Crosby and Malkin this year and it doesn’t look like New Jersey’s collection of misfits is going to be any more successful.

Advice

The moneyline isn’t good enough to take with Pittsburgh, but the spread sure is. Sit back with your favorite holiday cocktail and watch the Pens light the lamp over and over again.

Pick

Pittsburgh
5
New Jersey
1

Montreal Canadiens at Columbus Blue Jackets

Moneyline

  • Montreal at Columbus

Spread

  • Montreal (+1.5) at Columbus (-1.5)

Total Over/Under

  • 5

Thank you hockey gods for this Christmas miracle. We get another unbelievable matchup on Friday night with the scorching hot Blue Jackets trying to keep their win streak alive against the Montreal Canadiens

It’s the second game in as many nights for both teams, but for the Blue Jackets they get to play at home. They might somehow have more energy after absolutely dominating (what was) the best team in Eastern Conference. That distinction now belongs to Columbus who are riding an 11 game win streak thanks to contributions from all over the ice.

We already know how dominating Cam Atkinson, Brandon Saad, Nick Foligno and Alexander Wennberg have been all season long, but when Scott Hartnell starts getting hat tricks against the Pittsburgh Penguins you know you’ve got something special.

Add in Sergei Brobovsky’s incredible play as of late and a true six man defensive unit and the Blue Jackets are more than just a shiny power play. Oh, that power play by the way? Its succeeding at an absurd 27.06 percent on the year this season which blows any other rower play out of the water.

Now they battle a Montreal team that just played a hard fought game against the Wild, and now have to travel to Columbus to take on quite literally the best team in the NHL right now. If anyone can beat Columbus it may just be Montreal. The team has balanced scoring, one of the best goaltenders in the world in Carey Price and have an excellent goal differential of +31 on the season.

Max Pacioretty has been exceptional as of late after supposedly playing through November with a broken foot. He has eight goals and three assists in his last nine games and looks poised to improve his scoring after a slow start to the year by his standards.

Key Matchup

Montreal against taking penalties. Honestly, if you put Columbus on the power play, they score more than a quarter of the time. By that math, if you take four penalties you’re all but guaranteeing being scored against. If the Habs can stay out of the box, they may be able to snap the steak.

Advice

We love the Blue Jackets too much right now, and their latest win against Pittsburgh is evidence of a team that is firing on all cylinders. If you want to put some money on the Montreal spread we don’t bales you, but just take Columbus on the moneyline at home and enjoy the ride.

Pick

Columbus
3
Montreal
1

Tampa Bay Lightning at Washington Capitals

Moneyline

  • Tampa Bay (+150) at Washington Capitals (-196)

Spread

  • Tampa Bay (+1.5) at Washington Capitals (-1.5)

Total Over/Under

  • 5

Hats off to Tampa Bay. With their injuries mounting up at an almost comical rate, the Lightning have stayed strong and somehow kept their heads above water. They’re above .500, getting some of their forwards back to full health soon, and not out of it in the East just yet.

They’ll be gassed after playing against St.Louis the night before, and the Capitals won’t be easy, but they’re still capable of beating anyone with strong defense and a couple timely goals.

The Capitals continue to dow act they’ve done for the last several years, dominate the regular season. They’re just the second Wild Card team right now, but they have a comfortable lead, a goal differential of +14 and a 6-2-2 record in their last ten games.

Led by the unflappable Alexander Ovechkin and Braden Holtby in net, the Caps are a tough test for anyone, let alone a team as injured as the Bolts.

Key Matchup

Alexander Ovechkin against Andrei Vasilevsky. Vasilevsky has been thrust into the starter’s role in net after Ben Bishop’s injury and now has to go up against one of the best goal scorers in the world. Good luck.

Advice

Washington is heavily favored, and rightly so. Take them on the moneyline and watch a tired Tampa team struggle to keep up.

Pick

Washington
5
Tampa Bay
2

Toronto Maple Leafs at Arizona Coyotes

Moneyline

  • Toronto (-155) at Arizona (+135)

Spread

  • Toronto (-1.5) at Arizona (+1.5)

Total Over/Under

  • 5.5

This must be the best back-to-back ever for the Leafs. They get basement dwelling Colorado the night before and then take on their basement roommates the Arizona Coyotes.

The Leafs can flat-out score. They’re averaging 2.81 goals a game despite their power play operating at just 17.71 percent and have some young guns who love to shoot the puck. The trio of rookies in Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner are exceeding expectations and growing together with each passing game and it’s only a matter of time before that power play heats up.

Arizona’s power play would love to even be as successful as Toronto’s. They’re scoring on just 15.00 percent of their chances and averaging a total of just 2.24 goals a game. They’re bogged down by aging stars and their young players have not lived up to the hype entering this season.

They’ve lost three in a row and are just 3-7-2 at home. They carry a goal differential of -30 into this game and will be hard pressed to stop a Leafs team that continues to improve every time they step out on the ice.

Key Matchup

Auston Matthews against Arizona. Matthews is the pride and joy of Arizona and easily the most popular player to ever come out of the state. The place will be packed to see him play and he’ll be fired up to produce.

Advice

The Leafs on the moneyline isn’t terribly attractive, but it’s the best bet you have. Toronto has shown flashes of losing easy to win games, but they’ve looked strong of late despite some poor results. A date with Arizona might be just what they need to keep the confidence up.

Pick

Toronto
4
Arizona
1

Boston Bruins at Carolina Hurricanes

Moneyline

  • Boston (-107) at Carolina (-107)

Spread

  • Boston (-1.5) at Carolina (+1.5)

Total Over/Under

  • 5

The Boston Bruins continue to mystify us. No one can seem to figure them out. Are they a strong defensive team with a good goaltender and some depth up front? Or are they a weak offensive team with shaky defense and some inconsistent goaltending? There aren’t any definitive answers to these questions, and the good news for Boston is that they’re still 17-14-3 on the season and poised to make a playoff run, but the troubling signs are there.

They spoiled Jaromir Jagr’s milestone night after he passed Mark Messier for second on the all-time scoring list, and now they have to play a suddenly hot Carolina team. The Hurricanes have won two in a row and are now 5-2-3 in their last ten games.

Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask continue to lead the charge for Carolina who are trying to stay relevant despite losing more and more stars each year. Cam Ward is still capable of shutting down any team, any night, but his .915 save percentage is something we know he’d like to improve on.

Key Matchup

Jordan Staal against Tuukka Rask. Rask has been phenomenal lately with a .929 save percentage and a 1.94 goals against average on the season while Staal has…stalled if you’ll allow the pun. He has just 11 points in 24 games and it will be tough to find more against solid goaltending.

Advice

We like Boston on the road in this one even if the Hurricanes are playing well lately. Both teams are playing on the second night of a back to back, so fatigue will be the same for both. Let’s hope the good Bruins show up. Take them on the spread.

Pick

Boston
4
Carolina
1
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