Free NHL Picks and Predictions for Thursday 2/16
What a week of hockey this has been! The Montreal Canadiens pulled one of the gnarliest moves in history when they fired Michel Therrien and brought back ex head coach Claude Julien who was just fired by the Bruins, and on Valentine’s Day no less!
The NHL isn’t messing around as we get closer and closer to the playoffs and that means you shouldn’t be messing around with your wagers either. Be sure to research carefully before each game as players are starting to get traded with more frequency and teams start to tinker with their lineups in hopes of finding success. There’s always little nuggets of information to be found and we’re here to help dig them up. Let’s get to it!
- Rangers(-120) at Islanders(-110)
It’s the battle of New York on Thursday night with both teams flexing their muscles recently but one showing a little extra strength. The Rangers enter the contest riding a six game win streak after a huge win over the Blue Jackets and are now tied with Columbus in points. One more win coupled with a Jackets loss and the Rangers will regain their spot in the Metropolitan Division instead of slumming it in the Wild Card race where they hold a 12 point lead over the next closest team, the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Islanders are chasing those leafs but after getting crushed 7-1 against Toronto on Tuesday night they’re now three points back. That’s still an easy margin to cover with the amount of games left and the Isles have been playing good enough hockey to get there. They’ve been one of the best teams in the NHL since firing head coach Jack Capuano and are doing well under new coach Doug Weight with a 6-2-2 record in their last ten games. The 7-1 loss to Toronto aside, this team has looked completely different since the All-Star break and will be a tough matchup for anyone down the stretch.
The Rangers bring one of the most potent offenses in the NHL into Thursday’s matchup averaging 3.43 goals a game and ranked third in the entire league. During their six game win streak they’ve scored less than four goals just twice and are consistently getting it done with the puck on their sticks. They dropped four goals on the Ducks, Predators and Flames who are all fairly decent defensive teams and will have no problem getting the offense going again on Thursday.
Kevin Hayes may not be a household superstar name around the league, but he’s certainly a star on this Rangers team this season. The 24 year old has 42 points in 51 games and has been on a tear during this win streak with seven points in his last four games including two goals in back to back contests leading up to the date with the Islanders.
The Rangers have one of the most balanced attacks in all of hockey with four different players to hit the 40 point plateau this season and seven different players above 30. Any single skater can seem to score at any single time and there’s not one player to really zero in on. Still, they may want to keep an eye on Michael Grabner who just keeps scoring. He leads the team with 26 goals and has scored every last one of them at even-strength. He doesn’t even need the extra man attacker to light the lamp, which is an incredible asset for the Rangers.
The Islanders are coming off a brutal one goal performance against the Leafs and their offense has experienced some peaks and valleys recently. They scored five the game before against Colorado but were shutout against Ottawa the game before that. Prior to playing the Senators they dropped six on Toronto and it’s anyone’s guess which version of the offense is going to show up against the Rangers.
Still, if we were betting guys (and we are!) we’d put our money on the good offense showing up in a heated rivalry battle. Much like his team, John Tavares has experienced some up and down games recently but still leads his club with 46 points on the year. He was held off the scoresheet against the Leafs but dropped two assists on the Avalanche prior to that and is due for a breakout. He hasn’t scored in five games and we wouldn’t be surprised if he lit the lamp once or twice against the Rangers.
If you’re a fan of the Over, get excited. The Rangers bring their third ranked offense into Brooklyn to go up against the league’s 25th ranked defense. That number is obviously even lower after letting in seven the previous night but the Isles are having some concerns stopping the puck. Dennis Seidenberg continues to be far and away their best defenseman and was still just a -2 on the night his team gave up seven and now leads the team in plus/minus rating with a +18 mark.
At the age of 35 though, he needs some help. That means players like Tavares, Brock Nelson and Anders Lee coming back on defense to help out their blueline, a trait we saw far too little of when they took own the Leafs on Tuesday. They’ll need to have their wits about them as well when they take on the streaking, and high scoring Rangers.
New York answers with the 10th best defense this season, allowing 2.62 goals a game, and when you’re scoring as frequently as this team, that’s more than enough for a deep playoff run. The Rangers’ top three plus minus leaders are all forwards and that goes to show you how committed this club is to team-first defense.
Nick Holden has also been excellent for the Rangers along the blue line this season with a +20 rating despite scoring just eight goals. He grabbed his first assist in five games against the Jackets and may be ready to chip in offensively as well, making this team even more dangerous.
Part of New York’s success at stopping the puck has been the primary person responsible for it. Despite a disastrous run leading up to the All-Star break Henrik Lundqvist seems to have settled down and looks ready to be a number one goalie again. He got the night off against the Jackets but will likely be back in net for this game. He has a 2.68 goals against average and a save percentage of .911 but his play recently has been excellent with five straight games of a save percentage mark above .900 including marks of .941, .977, and .973.
Thomas Greiss will be opposite him for the Islanders and despite a rocky start that saw him give up six goals on 34 shots against the Leafs he’s still been pretty dynamite for this Islanders team. He has a 2.55 goals against average with a .918 save percentage despite playing for one of the worst defensive units in the league. Expect him to bounce back a bit against the Rangers.
Michael Grabner against Anders Lee. Like Grabner, Lee leads his team in scoring with 21 goals this season and is a danger to put one in the back of the net no matter where he is on the ice. He’s scored three goals over his last five but was held off the sheet against the Leafs and will be aiming to bounce back early against the Rangers. Grabner meanwhile just keeps continuing to score and whoever has the better night between the two of these players may help their team win.
The Islanders are getting great odds at home, are the more desperate team, and know how much win would mean to their standings in the East. While the Rangers are rolling, we expect their winning streak to finally end in a heated rivalry matchup. Take the Islanders on the spread and the moneyline.
- Winnipeg(+190) at Pittsburgh(-240)
Well, Winnipeg’s losing woes are over after a 5-2 loss over the slumping Dallas Stars but the Jets are still just 4-6-0 in their last ten games and four points out of a playoff spot. They can easily make that up with some solid play but it won’t be easy on the road against Pittsburgh. The Penguins are rolling again after a few hiccups with a 6-2-2 record in their last ten games and are coming off a 4-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks.
Matt Murray was awesome as per usual for the Penguins in that shutout stopping all 29 shots he faced. He’s now 2-0-1 in his last three games and has given up just three goals during that timeline. He’s been so good that he hasn’t lost a game in regulation since January 26 and now has a 21-6-2 record on the year with a 2.27 goals against average and a .926 save percentage for some of the best marks in he league.
He’ll have to be sharp again against Winnipeg with the way Patrik Laine broke out of his mini goal slump the other night. We said he was due for a big game against the Stars and he proved us right with this third hat trick of the season. He now has 47 points in 51 games this season and is just one point behind Toronto’s Mitch Marner for the lead league.
Mark Scheifele against Evgeni Malkin. Well that didn’t take long did it? Malkin played his first game for Pittsburgh since January 24th and promptly returned against the Canucks with a goal and an assist for two points. He now has 46 points in just 48 games this season and him and Crosby are arguably the two best players in the NHL, on the same team. The Jets will rely on Schefele like they have all season long to get them in the win column. He was scoreless in his last four before dropping three assists on the Stars and he’ll need to stay hot if Winnipeg wants to move up the standings.
Pittsburgh is 8-2-0 in their last ten games against Winnipeg and playing back at home where they’ve dominated teams all season long. Malkin is back and healthy and Crosby and Kessel continue roll along. Take the Penguins on the spread and don’t think twice about it
- Ottawa(-115) at New Jersey(-115)
The Senators are having some difficulties as of late. They’re just 4-4-2 in their last ten games and coming off a loss at the hands of the Sabres. While it looked like they would glide into the playoffs earlier in the season, they’re now tied with Boston for second place in the Atlantic and have just a one point lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs. If Ottawa were to lose and the Leafs win they would effectively switch places making the Senators a Wild Card team.
For a club that started out so promising, that’s bad news. Their biggest issue is scoring goals, and has been all season long. The Sens average just 2.69 goals a game which ranks 18th on the year and over their last five games they’ve totalled just eight goals including being shutout twice. Erik Karlsson leads the team in scoring but can’t do it all for Ottawa as he is, after all, their number one defensemen.
A player that can step up is Bobby Ryan. He showed us a glimpse of what he’s capable of in his last game with a goal and an assist in a losing effort against the Sabres but those were his first points in five games. He has just 23 points in 48 contests this year and will need to pick up the pace if the Senators want to remain in the playoffs.
In New Jersey, the Devils are beginning to find a bit of a consistency and emerging as a dark horse to make a run at the 8th seed. They’re 5-4-1 in their last ten games and now just five points out of a playoff spot. They’re still behind three other teams in that race but have been playing some strong hockey as of late including their latest 3-2 win over the Avalanche. Now they need to try and hold down home ice against a Senators team in desperate need of a win. The Devils are just 12-10-4 at home this season but Ottawa is only 13-10-0 on the road, so something’s gotta give.
Craig Anderson against Cory Schneider. Both goalies have flown under the radar this year for very different reasons. Schneider has simply been decent while Anderson was missing time to deal with the health of his wife. Now that he’s back with the team Ottawa’s chances of winning improve. He has a 13-7-1 record on the year with a 2.37 goals against average and a .926 save percentage and should be huge for the Senators down the stretch. Schneider is coming off a win where he stopped 28 of 30 shots and has now won three of his last four games.
Both teams need a win badly on Thursday night and we think Ottawa is still the deeper, more talented club. If they don’t score goals, this could get dicey, but we think the forwards get it done for Anderson and Karlsson. Take Ottawa on the spread.
- Colorado(+140) at Buffalo(-170)
The Sabres seesaw routine continues as they bounced back from a loss to beat the Senators 3-2. They’re now 4-5-1 in their last ten games and yet stillest five points out of a playoff spot in what is turning into one of the most crowded Eastern Conferences we’ve ever seen. The Sabres are young, skilled, and not afraid of a challenge and can’t be taken lightly by any team.
The Avalanche meanwhile are young, and that’s it. With the exception of a few skilled players who are essentially packing their bags in anticipation of being traded, Colorado has been brutal this year. They rank dead last in the league with a 15-37-2 record and have now lost four straight. They have a 2-8-0 record in their last ten games and while they may win a few by luck here and there they are throwing in the towel on their season.
Now they need to travel on the road against a team that desperately wants to make the playoffs and have one of the most talented young players in the game on their team. It’s been an up and down season on the Sabres for Jack Eichel this year but he’s still turned in some excellent performances and is now up to 30 points in 36 games. He has seven points in his last five and will be the key to any sort of late season push from Buffalo.
Evander Kane against Matt Duchene. Kane, at times, can look like one of the best players in the entire NHL as evidenced by his two goals against the Leafs last week after scoring two goals against the Sharks just two games before. At other times, he can look disinterested as evidenced by his zero points in the three other games he’s played in the last five. Still, with four goals in five games he remains one of the premier goal scorers in the league when he’s on and Colorado will need to take notice. They’ll also need Matt Duchene to step it up. He has just one points in his last five games and when he doesn’t get it going, the team doesn’t either.
Colorado has somehow won nine of their last ten games against the Sabres and after losing four in a row they may have what it takes to get it done against a team they dominate. Take the Avalanche on the spread getting excellent odds and hope Matt Duchene shows up to play.
- Dallas(+170) at Minnesota(-210)
The Stars and Wild clash in Minnesota with two teams heading in very different directions. To say the Wild are tending may not be fair to a team that has just been consistently dominant all season long. Minnesota is first in the Western Conference with a 37-13-6 record. They have 80 points and are just four behind Washington for the lead league. They’re 7-2-1 despite coming off a loss to the Ducks, but even that victory was a tight 1-0 affair. When the Wild lose, if you can even catch it, it always seems to be close, and now the Stars will have to try and beat arguably the best team in the NHL.
Dallas has struggled recently with a 3-6-1 record in their last ten games after being rolled over by the Winnipeg Jets 5-2 in their last game. The Stars just can’t figure out how to play defense this year and are now 29th in the NHL at stopping the puck after Arizona leap frogged them last week. The Stars allow a shocking 3.22 goals a game and those numbers simply won’t do for a team trying to make the playoffs.
Despite all their problems they’re still just six points out of a Wild Card spot and can get hot at any moment if only one of their goalies would stand up and make some saves. Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi have been two of the worst goalies in the NHL this season, and they play on the same team. One of them needs to make some saves in a hurry to help get this ship back in the water and it won’t be easy against the Wild.
Jamie Benn against Devan Dubnyk. Benn has done all he can to get his Stars to the postseason. The Dallas forward has 53 points in 54 games this season and has been on a tear recently with seven points in his last four games including three goals. He’ll need to try and keep that offense going against the best goalie in the NHL right now. Dubnyk is coming off a loss but it was just one goal and he still has a 31-10-3 record with a 1.97 goals against average and a .934 save percentage. We wish Benn the best of luck.
Dallas lost to the Wild by just one goal the last time these two teams met, but we don’t see that happening again. Minnesota will want to redeem themselves after failing to score against the Ducks and the Stars will be the victims of their revenge. Take the Wild on the spread in what should be a blowout.
- Vancouver(+170) at St. Louis(-210)
The Canucks can’t figure out what they want to do. One minute they look like they’re ready to make a serious run at the playoffs and the next they’re getting shutout 4-0. They’re now just 3-7-0 in their last ten games and yet still only four points out of a Wild Card spot. Their goal differential of -29 is still a huge problem and now they need to go on the road to try to improve it against the Blues who are winners of four straight entering their game with Detroit on Wednesday before playing this Canucks team on Thursday.
St. Louis rocketed back up the standings after firing head coach Ken Hitchcock and are starting to look like the team that went deep in the postseason last year. They’re coming off a big 4-2 win over the Canadiens that essentially got Montreal’s coach fired and now get to welcome the struggling Canucks at home where they’re 17-9-4 this season.
The Canucks continue to have trouble scoring. Bo Horvat has done all he can but is getting no help. Loui Ericksson needs to get going, and get going now if the Canucks have a shot. He has just 22 points in 57 games this season and is a -10 on the year. He was supposed to help Vancouver make another playoff run and instead has had a dismal year with just one point in his last five games.
Vladimir Tarasenko against Luca Sbisba. Sbisba is one of the few Canucks players with a positive plus/minus rating at +7 and is a big strong defenseman that will have the taks of trying to stop Tarasenko on Thursday night. The Blues’ forward has 53 points in 56 games with three goals in his last three games and will be firing early and often.
Vancouver has won seven of their last ten against St. Louis but that doesn’t mean much with the way they’re playing right now. The Blues are rolling and back at home where they’ve been dominant all season. Take St. Louis on the spread.
- Philadelphia(+130) at Edmonton(-160)
The Flyers enter Edmonton two points out of a playoff spot in the East and playing the night before against Calgary. They entered Calgary with a big 2-1 win over the Sharks and we’ll see how they do against the Flames but neither game is going to be easy. The Oilers are 5-4-1 in their last ten games and coming off an easy 5-2 win against the Coyotes and are set on moving further up the standings and trying to grab a higher seed before the playoffs start.
They’re just two points behind the Anaheim Ducks and five behind the San Jose Sharks so they could conceivably end up at the top of the Pacific Division with a strong final third of the season. They’re just 14-10-3 at home this season so the Flyers know they’re not unbeatable but they’ve looked like as strong a team as any in this second half of the season.
Led by Connor McDavid, the league leader in points, the Oilers have reinvented themselves this season. McDavid has 63 points in 57 games this season and dropped two assists on the Coyotes in his last outing. Now he gets to go up against another one of the league’s worst defenses when the Flyers come to town.
Philadelphia will counter with their offense, but after starting off the season as a top 5 unit they’re now all the way down to the bottom 10 of offences in the NHL. Jakub Voracek has gone quiet with just two points in his last five games but still has 47 in 56 games this season and should be able to get back on track any second now.
Leon Draisaitl against Wayne Simmonds. Draisatl is quietly having one of the best seasons in the NHL this year with 50 points in 57 games. He just dropped a goal and two assists against the Coyotes and broke out of a mini slump in a huge way. As the secondary playmaker to McDavid he often gets left unchecked which would spell disaster for the Flyers. Philly needs Wayne Simmonds to heat up again. He has 23 goals on the year and has scored in back to back games. He needs to keep that pace up for the Flyers to make a push.
Philly is going to be tired after playing Calgary the night before and while Edmonton isn’t far away, back to back games on the road still suck. Take the red hot McDavid and his Oilers on the spread.
- Arizona(+190) at Los Angeles(-240)
After back to back wins the Coyotes came crashing back down to earth when Edmonton rolled over them 5-2. Now the Coyotes have to pick back up their socks and travel to LA to take on a Kings team that hasn’t played since February 9th. The Kings were dealing with their “bye” week and now return healthier and hungrier than ever.
After a disappointing start to the season they now find themselves in the second Wild Card spot and are 6-4-0 in their last ten after a 6-3 win over the Florida Panthers. The Kings haven’t played in so long that we don’t really have a lot to go on other than rest. As for Arizona, the Coyotes finally showed some life last week and are now an excellent 6-3-1 in their last ten games. Whether that means they have what it takes to beat the Kings on the road remains to be seen, but they aren’t the team every single opponent was walking all over earlier in the year.
Max Domi has been on a bit of a tear after an up and down season thanks to injuries. He has five points in his last four games and is now on a four game point streak. He has his total up to 24 points in 32 games and it’s good to see that the 21 year old hasn’t lost a step. He’ll be in thought against the Kings’ defense but if anyone on Arizona can get it done its him.
Mike Smith against Peter Budaj. Smith stopped all 36 shots he faced in his last outing for a shutout over the Flames and will be back in net to take on the Kings. Smith has a .918 save percentage despite facing some of the most shots in the NHL and has been stellar in back to back games. He’ll be up against Budaj who continues to hold down the fort until Jonathan Quick is healthy enough to come back. Budaj has been exceptional this season with a 2.11 goals against average and a .917 save percentage and will be rested and ready to go against the low scoring Coyotes.
Teams can often face some rust after a week off, but the Kings aren’t just any team. They’ll return from their break focused and ready to go and that’s bad news for the Coyotes. Take LA on the spread.