Penguins vs Oilers – NHL Pick for November 1st
With every team playing at least 10 games this season things are beginning to fall into place. Some of the teams that surprised us out of the gate have begun to slow down. For example, the Vegas Golden Knights who started 8-1-0 have dropped their last two. Perhaps this 6- game road trip they are on will bring them back down to Earth. On the flip side, the Montreal Canadiens were off to their worst start in 76 years at 1-6-1. Now they have won 3 of their last 4 and panic has begun to ease for Habs fans. Even the historic start of Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos has to come to an end. They were the 1st set of teammates to begin a season on an 11-game point streak since 1992-93. However, game 12 was a 4-1 loss to Anaheim and they were held off the score sheet. They responded Monday, however, combining for 3 goals and 2 assists in an 8-5 win over the Panthers. Some surprises haven’t come to an end just yet. Many thought the St. Louis Blues would be on the outside looking in when the playoffs came around. Right now, they are tied for tops in the NHL with 21 points and are undefeated at 5-0-0 at home. The New Jersey Devils were thought to be a few years away before being a playoff team. They lead the Metropolitan division with 16 points and a solid 8-2-0 record. In all, it’s been a great start to the 2017-18 season and if you have been riding the underdogs you have been getting tons of value. Will it continue Wednesday? We have 5-games so let’s break it all down!
- Pittsburgh Penguins (-105) at Edmonton Oilers (-115)
This certainly was a game we would all have marked on our calendars before the season started. Definitely a strong candidate as a Stanley Cup preview. A collision between the top-2 players in the league with Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid. A grizzled 2-time defending champion Pittsburgh Penguin team against a young, preseason Cup favorite Edmonton Oiler squad. Things, however, haven’t been so smooth in either city to start the 2017-18 campaign.
In Pittsburgh, their record doesn’t seem all that bad. They sit 4th in the Metro division with a decent 7-5-1 record. They also occupy the first Wild Card spot if the postseason started today. However, if you delve just a bit deeper into their season it’s far less pretty. Three of those losses were 10-1 and a pair of 7-1 defeats. Hardly, the types of performances you’d expect from the 2-time defending Cup champions. Also, they are a -14 in goal differential. Only the Buffalo Sabres have a worse number in the East and they sit dead last with just 8-points. They are truly walking a fine line between the powerhouse we think they are, and a team on the wrong side of the playoff picture.
It’s even worse in Edmonton. Many pundits had this team hoisting the Cup at the end of the year. They were also the odds-on favorites to do so in Vegas. However, the Oilers are off to a horrible 3-6-1 start good for 7-points and second last in the West. Yes, the only team Edmonton can say they are better than in the entire NHL is the one-win Arizona Coyotes. Scoring has been an issue for the Oilers and they too own a bad goal differential. At -11 they are second-worst in the West ahead of just the Coyotes. If it’s not panic time quite yet for Edmonton it is certainly just around the corner.
The Penguins had the best offensive unit in 2016-17. This season hasn’t been so pretty. They are averaging just 2.8 goals a game good for 22nd in the NHL. Now, that number is a bit misleading. 2.8 goals a game last season would be a top-10 ranking. This season, goals have been going in at a record pace but that should slow down. Their offense as it always is, is led by Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. The duo has 13 and 11 points respectively in 13 games. Perhaps a bit surprising is Crosby. He won the Rocket Richard Trophy with 44-goals last season. He has just 5 to start this campaign. Phil Kessel has added some nice secondary scoring. He is tied for tops on the team with 13 points. He also has a pair of OT winners. Oddly, the power play unit was horrible last year but their 28% clip this season is 4th in the NHL.
Edmonton has had a terrible time putting the puck in the net. Their 2.2 goals a game is 31st in the league which is dead last. Yes, even those aforementioned 1-win Coyotes have scored more times than the Oilers. This team will go as far as McDavid can take them. He’s off to an okay start by his standards. He has 5 goals and 6 assists in 11 games. However, after that, there is a major drop-off. No one else on the team has more than 8-points. To give that some context. The Lightning is the highest scoring team in the league. They have 8-players with 8 or more points. Perhaps the return of Leon Draisatl will help. He missed sometime early but has 7-points in 6-games. He had a solid 77-points in the 2016-17 campaign. In the end, McDavid is going to need some help on offense if this team is to go anywhere.
Pittsburgh hasn’t been a great defensive club over the last few years. That’s been fine because their offense has been so prolific. This year has been much the same when it comes to defense. They are surrendering 3.8 goals a game which is 29th in the league. They are also as mentioned a terrible -14 on goal differential. They’ll need to start to see some better defensive play from their top guys. Kris Letang leads the team in ice-time. He’s averaging over 26 minutes a game but is a -14. Brian Dumoulin is 2nd in ice time and is a -8. Justin Schultz and Ian Cole were a combined +53 last year. In 2017-18 they are -7.
The Oilers are ranked 23rd in defense allowing 3.3 goals a game. Unlike the Penguins 3three awful games of 10-1, 7-1, 7-1. It’s been far more consistent for Edmonton. They have given up 3 or more goals in 6 of their first 10 games and 4 or more in 5 of those outings. That’s just too many goals to come back from. Their defensive core is young, led by Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson. The duo is averaging 21+ minutes a night but is a combined -8.
Goaltending has been an issue in Pittsburgh, especially at the backup position. Their original backup goalie was Antti Niemi. However, he has moved Florida along with his 7.49 GAA. Assuming Matt Murray gets the start his numbers have been average. He owns a 3.05 GAA and a .903 save percentage. He’s not winning the Vezina with those stats but he is 7-2-1 on the year.
Cam Talbot hasn’t been any better. He owns a 3.10 GAA and a .904 save percentage. His record is far worse though at 3-5-1. He’s been tasked with starting 9 of the Oilers 10 games. However, he’s been pulled twice this season. He’ll be tested against this strong Penguins offense.
- Sidney Crosby v. Connor McDavid
Could it be anyone else? The debate continues to wage on about who is currently the best player in the world. Some side with the 3-time Stanley Cup Champion Crosby. While others say the reigning Art Ross and Hart Trophy winner is already surpassed his counterpart. Both offenses move with these two and let’s hope we see some offensive output. Both have already provided some highlight reel puck-skills this season.
The Oilers are not as heavy of favorites as you would expect at home. Granted they are off to a horrible start but they were 25-12-4 at home last season. I think I will take the -110 value with the home side. Also, the over/under sits at 6. That is a dubious number in hockey but neither goalie has been good. Let’s take the over.