Monday Night Hockey Picks for March 20th
After a busy weekend that included some huge overtime goals, comeback wins and a shake up in the standings the NHL eases into one of the last few weeks of the season with a four game slate on Monday. Despite the small slate of games there’s still some entertaining matchups with big playoff possibilities.
The betting only gets tougher as the season winds down with the unpredictably desperate teams a huge factor to consider. That’s why we’re here to help you sift through the noise and make your money do some work for you. Let’s get to it!
- Boston (-125) at Toronto (-105)
The Bruins and Leafs meet on Monday night in a pivotal game for both teams. For Toronto, their slim one point lead over the Islanders for the final Wild Card spot is better than nothing but they’d love to create some more separation, and a win against Boston on Monday night would do more than just that.
If the Leafs can defend home ice they’d be just one point behind the Bruins for third spot in the Atlantic Division. Making matters even more intriguing is the fact that Toronto has played one less game than Boston meaning a win puts them in control of their own destiny. They still need to worry about Tampa Bay who has been one of the hottest teams in the league in recent months but considering the Leafs just beat them 5-0 they should be feeling pretty confident heading into Mnday’s game.
The only thing Toronto desperately wants to avoid again is overtime. After their league leading 15th loss in the extra frame, it’s clear that the Leafs and overtime just don’t get along. They fell 2-1 to the Blackhawks with 17 seconds left in the extra frame before the shootout and while collecting a point against one of the league’s best teams is nice, the heartbreak certainly isn’t. This team is young and inexperienced enough as it is. The last thing they need is chronic overtime loss problem to worry about.
As for the Bruins, they’re just trying to bounce back from a tough loss at the hands of the Oilers. Edmonton whipped Boston 7-4 in their last game and with the Leafs possessing a great ability to score as well it could be a long night for the Bruins if they don’t get their defense in order.
Toronto comes in with an excellent offensive unit for the season. The Leafs rank 6th in goals per game at 3.03 and also have the best powerplay in the entire NHL. Toronto succeeds on 23.92 percent of their chances and just keep continuing to put pucks in the back of the net with an extra skater on the ice.
They only scored one goal against the Blackhawks but at least it came from Auston Matthews. Their franchise rookie center had been in the worst scoring drought of his young career and the Leafs needed him to break out in a major way. The one goal may not be a sign of things to come but considering he was the only Leafs forward to score on Monday night the team will take it. Matthews is still in a big race for the rookie scoring lead with Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine and his teammate Mitch Marner. If he can find a bit of a hot streak down the stretch his team has a better chance of making the playoffs and he has a better chance of grabbing that scoring title.
Toronto’s scoring has calmed down as of late with just 2.5 goals a game over their last ten matchups but a date with the Bruins might be what they need after Boston just gave up seven goals against Edmonton. In Toronto’s four wins in their last six games they reached at least the three goal mark and it’s clear that this team needs to fill up the net if they want to win hockey games.
As for Boston, their offense continues to improve and they’re now ranked 12th in the NHL in goals per game at 2.89. Only one other team fires more shots on net than they do and their 10th ranked powerplay is heating up at just the right time. Despite their loss against the Oilers they still scored four goals and their offensive output certainly wasn’t the problem. They’ve now scored 4, 5 and 6 goals over their last three games and are averaging 3.9 goals a game over their last ten.
You don’t need rocket science to figure out who’s been behind the recent surge. After a promising World Cup of Hockey performance before the regular season started Brad Marchand has picked up right where he left off. The five foot nine winger is on a tear right now with nine points in his last three games and 11 over his last five. He has seven goals during that span and is now second in the league in goals scored and points (both behind Sidney Crosby).
Boston had trouble scoring goals earlier in the year but that has changed drastically since they changed coaches. As long as Marchand stays healthy and the rest of the team draws inspiration from his play the Bruins will be just fine scoring goals down the stretch.
The biggest defense between these two teams comes on the opposite side of the puck. The Leafs rank 23rd in in goals allowed per game while the Bruins come in at a tidy 12th. Toronto allows 2.97 goals a game thanks in large part to how many shots find their way on net. Teams average 32.79 shots on net against Toronto which puts the Buds at 28th in the NHL. Considering how good Boston is at getting shots on net this could be a big problem for Toronto.
Toronto’s defense has been a cause for concern for bettors and fans alike all season long. While there’s no denying the skill of Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly, their blunders in their own end have caused headaches for fans and goals for their opponents. If they’re not more careful against an extra aggressive team like the Bruins, it could be a long night for their blue liners.
Boston isn’t coming off their best defensive performance of their season after letting in seven goals but they have the experience and depth to bounce back against Toronto. They’ve given up more than three goals just once in their last ten games and have held their opponents to two or less in six different games.
Torey Krug and Zdneo Chara make up a fearsome duo on the blueline and will be excited to get the challenge of keeping up with Toronto’s speedy forwards. They’ll try and be physical early to take the Leafs out of the game but this Toronto group has proved they’re not afraid to back down to anyone.
The X-Factor could be in net where both goalies have had somewhat inconsistent seasons so far. In Toronto, it’s been a bit of an up and down ride for Frederik Andersen but he’s still been the best goalie they’ve had in quite some time and seems to be in a rhythm right now. He stopped 37 shots against the red-hot Blackhawks and shut out the Lightning in the game before that. If he can continue that level of play not even Brad Marchand will be able to light him up.
In Boston Tuukka Rask was pulled in his last game after letting in five goals midway through the second period. That type of play won’t do against a Leafs team that can score as well and he’ll need to recapture the form that helped Boston turn their season around earlier in the month.
Auston Matthews against Zdeno Chara. The rookie takes on the vet when Matthews tries to bear down on Chara to create some offense for the Leafs. The goal against Chicago was a great sign that he may be ready to start producing again but it won’t be easy against the biggest man on skates.
Toronto is 17-10-7 at home this season and coming off a loss to Chicago in overtime. They know how important this divisional game is and have won three straight against the Bruins. Take Toronto on the spread to make sure your money goes the distance.
- Buffalo (+120) at Detroit (-150)
The Sabres and Red Wings don’t have the same playoff implications as the Leafs and Bruins but the excitement will still be on full display when two young and entertaining teams take the ice on Monday night. Both teams are enjoying winning streaks (although small ones) with the Sabres coming off a victory over the Ducks and the Wings coming off two straight wins with their last triumph a 5-1 thrashing of the lowly Avalanche.
Neither team has a virtual shot of making the postseason and are simply trying to improve as the season ends to implement a system for next year and teach their young players what it takes to score. Detroit has scored just 117 goals this season while Buffalo has popped in 120. Compare those numbers to a team like Pittsburgh that leads the league in goals with 249 and it’s easy to see where the improvement needs to be made.
Luckily for the Sabres, they have some players who can score, and happen to be young as well. With all the hoopla surrounding rookies Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and Mitch Marner not a lot of attention has been paid to the sophomore sensation Jack Eichel. The 20 year old is up to 49 points in just 51 games after sitting out the start of the season with an injury and is eager to prove to the rest of the league that he’s just as big of a star as anyone else.
He’ll get that chance against the Red Wings. Detroit gives up 2.53 goals a game to rank 24th in the NHL while they also rank 25th in average shots allowed on net and have the leagues 29’th ranked penalty kill. That means plenty of opportunities to score for a Sabres team that has some stud offensive players capable of lighting it up.
Evander Kane against Henrik Zetterberg. With the season winding down and his team out of the playoff race it may be tough to stay motivated for a 36 year old veteran. But Zetterberg is no ordinary vet. He takes pride in playing too way hockey and will be thrilled to try and shut down the pesky Kane. Buffalo’s forward leads the team in goals with 25 and can get hot at any moment.
With his team out of the race Jack Eichel is just focused on improving his game and making up for lost time earlier this season. Expect him to come out of the gates firing and lead his team to a rare road win. Take Buffalo getting great odds on the spread.
- Arizona (+220) at Nashville (-270)
With the Predators in a tight division race out West they should be happy to see the Coyotes come to town on Monday night. Arizona is second last in the Western Conference with a 26-36-9 record overall and while they’ve been playing some of their best hockey of the season recently they’re still just 4-4-2 over their last ten games and are coming off a 3-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues.
Those same Blues are the team that just moved ahead of the Predators for third spot in the Central Division. They’re technically tied in points with St. Louis but thanks to a tiebreaker in the Blues’ favor it’s officially an uphill battle for the Preds. That battle starts with an easy game at home against the Coyotes where Nashville has been strong all season long. They own a 20-8-7 record in their own building this season and want nothing more than to move back into third place with a win considering the Blues are enjoying a night off.
The Preds are coming off a surprising loss to the Carolina Hurricanes and are now a mediocre 5-3-2 over their last five games. If they want to become a team to fear with the postseason fast approaching they’ll need to take care of lesser teams like the Hurricanes and on Monday night they get that chance with the Coyotes in town.
Filip Forsberg against Mike Smith. With a lack of skill, talent and depth anywhere on this Coyotes roster outside of some young up and coming players a lot of the goal-stopping responsibilities fall on their goalie every night. That means Mike Smith needs to be sharp again on Monday. He faced another 39 shots against the Blues and continues to get peppered night in and night out. Now he needs to go against Forsberg who already has two hat tricks this month.
The odds stink but so do Arizona’s chances of winning this game. Take Nashville on the spread where they’ve been dominant at home against a much weaker team. The Predators know how important these games are at this point in the season and won’t disappoint.
- San Jose (-150) at Dallas (+120)
The Sharks and Stars clash on Monday night in Dallas with one team set for the postseason and another thinking about golf times. The Sharks sit in first place in the Pacific Division with a 42-22-7 record and have a four point cushion over the Ducks for that top spot. The Stars meanwhile couldn’t figure out how to play defense all year and so they find themselves fifteen points out of a playoff spot with 11 games left to play.
Dallas has scored 195 goals this season but allowed a shocking 233. The blame can be placed all over the ice but their two goalies have been especially bad this season. Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi were supposed to be one of the most fearsome goalie duos in the NHL this season and instead of some of the worst marks in the league. It goes to show that having one great goalie is always better than two mediocre ones and the Stars have some serious thinking to do this offseason.
Until then they’ll just try and give their fans a win at home against a good Sharks team. Dallas is 18-12-6 in their own building this season but the Sharks come in with an excellent road record of 19-12-3. San Jose won their last meeting 5-1 and have a much deeper team who know what it takes to win this late in the season.
Tyler Seguin against Brent Burns. If you had to guess who had more points between these two players at the start of the year almost everyone would choose Seguin. The Dallas forward has still had an excellent year with 68 points to lead his team in scoring but what Burns has managed to do from the blueline has been truly exceptional. He has 70 points on the year despite being a defenseman. He’ll have a tough task trying to score and shutdown Seguin at the same time but if anyone is up to the task it’s him.
The Stars play well at home this season and while they’ve got little to play for at this point of the season they’d still like to give their fans a big win. Take Dallas getting amazing odds on the spread at home.
- LA (+110) at Edmonton (-140)
It’s do or die time for the LA Kings and its leaning towards the latter half of that equation as things sit right now. The Kings are coming off a 2-0 win over the Sabres but are still six points out of the final Wild Card spot with just 12 games left to play in their season. They’re just 5-3-2 over their last ten games and need a much stronger finish to even have a chance of playing some meaningful hockey this spring.
Standing in their way from winning two in a row are the Oilers who are red-hot. They’ve won three straight after steamrolling the Boston Bruins 7-4 in their last game and are just two points behind the Ducks for second place in the Pacific Division. Connor McDavid may just want to get his team into the playoffs but he also wouldn’t mind a scoring title to add to his resume. He’s just one point behind Sidney Crosby for the lead league and you can be sure he’ll be thinking about it when the two teams take the ice.
Edmonton won the last game against LA but that’s about all the success they’ve had against the Kings recently. The Oilers have lost eight of their last ten games against the Kings and will have that in the back of their heads when the puck drops. LA’s biggest problem this season has been scoring goals and they can’t continue to rely on Jeff Carter.
Carter leads the team with 60 points this season with the next closest King coming in at just 43. Anze Kopitar is one of the highest paid players in all of hockey and yet his production this season has been just dismal. He’s still sitting at just nine goals and unless he finds some magic with only 12 games remaining the only thing his team will be hitting is long drives off the first tee.
Connor McDavid against Anze Kopitar. If Kopitar isn’t going to score the least he can do is try and slow down one of the hottest players in the game. McDavid is basically matchup-proof but to be fair to Kopitar the Kings’ forward is still one of the best back-checkers in the game. Giddy up.
The Kings need to make a playoff push, right? It’s basically tradition. We keep waiting for it to happen and if they can’t grab a desperation win on the road on Monday it might be finally time to put the dream to bed. Until then, we’re taking LA getting great odds on the spread.