We made it! The best night of the week is upon us, not just because you survived whatever shenanigans you got up to on Friday night but because you get to help your recovery with the busiest night on the ice.
Saturday hits us hard this week with an 11 game slate full of divisional matchups, storied rivalries and a huge battle in the Western Conference. With a few teams riding hot streaks, others showing signs of starting, and several playing their second game in a row – there’s money to be made!
The Battle of Ontario is upon us again. Round two of this always epic matchup is set to drop the puck at seven, and to make tuning in even more exciting, it’s one of two free games on the night!
Ottawa has Toronto’s number lately overall, with a 7-2-1 record in their last ten meetings, but the Leafs have the most recent victory, a 4-2 victory in Ottawa in their last meeting in Ottawa on January 14th. This isn’t the same Toronto team Ottawa has been beating up on recently either. The Leafs are 7-3 in their last ten games and firmly in the playoff conversation.
Toronto is coming off a tough 5-2 loss at the hands of the Rangers. The game wasn’t as bad as the score suggests, with the Leafs generating some scoring chances late and New York putting the game away with a shorthanded breakaway goal followed by an empty netter.
Ottawa isn’t dwelling on any recent loss. They’ve won two in a row including a stellar 2-0 win over the Blue Jackets in Columbus. They’re on a win steak and out for revenge against their bitter Province rivals, but it won’t be easy. Toronto is 11-8-2 at home this season and thanks to their recent surge actually have a higher goal differential (+) than the Senators (+2).
Toronto’s skill on offense has been on display all season long. They’re on pace to shatter the record for rookie scoring and rightly so. Six of their top ten scorers are all rookies, and the team is led by Auston Matthews’ 38 points, first among rookies in the NHL.
His 22 goals are third in the entire league and only Michael Grabner has scored more playing at even strength. Matthews’ combination of size and skill is practically unmatched on the ice and he’s the main reason the Leafs find themselves fighting for a playoff spit in the second half of the season.
Toronto is averaging 3.12 goals a game which ranks 6th in the NHL and their powerplay has been virtually unstoppable as of late. Their recent surge has catapulted them up the standings to tie Columbus for the best powerplay in all of hockey, operating at 24.63 percent.
William Nylander and James van Riemsdyk have been dynamos on the powerplay this season with 28 points between them. With Nylander’s combination of crafty passing and goal scoring and van Riemsdyk’s size in front of the net it’s no wonder the Leafs have found themselves so successful with the extra man attacker this season.
In Ottawa, the Senators would kill for a fraction of what the Leafs have on the powerplay. They are scoring on just 16.91 percent of their opportunities, which rank well below the league average, and is a troubling stat for a team currently sitting in a playoff position.
Outside of a few key players, Ottawa has trouble scoring in general. They’re finding the back of the net just 2.63 games, more than half a goal worse than the Leafs and well below the league average in the rest of the NHL.
Erik Karlsson leads the team with 37 points and while he’s always going to be an offensively minded defenseman it’s troubling to see him have to do so much while he’s on the ice. Help seems to be on the way for the Swede though, with Mike Hoffman, Kyle Turris and Mark Stone all picking up their play as of late.
Stone had three points the other night, and Kyle Turris scored his 16th goal of the season to lead the team in their win against the Blue Jackets. Add in Hoffman’s 14 goals and the offense is clearly capable of getting it done, but the lack of depth is still apparent. With noted goal scorer Clarke MacArthur set to miss his second straight season with concussion-like symptoms other players are going to have to step up and find the back of the net. It’s a scary situation for MacArthur and we wish him and his family the best.
We know the Leafs can score, but can they stop the puck? The short answer is no as Toronto ranks well below the league average, letting in 2.98 goals a game. That’s far too close to how many goals they score a night and far too high in general.
With the loss of Morgan Rielly to a knee injury, Toronto is going to have to find ways to stop the other team without relying on Jake Gardiner too much. Gardiner has played almost 30 minutes in both games since Rielly went down, and that sort of usage is going to catch up to him and the Leafs eventually.
Rielly is hands-down the Leafs’ best defender, and with him out of the lineup the powerplay suffers tremendously as well as the puck-movement out of the zone. That could be a huge factor against the speedy forecheck of the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night.
Ottawa’s defense is obviously led by Karlsson, but there are other players that have contributed to their stellar 2.58 goals a game average. Dion Phaneuf, Marc Methot and the recently improving Cody Ceci are all tough defenders to skate against and a huge reason why the Senators are capable of shutting down teams like the Blue Jackets the other night.
No shutout can be accredited entirely to the defense of course, and Mike Condon wants to be noticed. With an injury to Andrew Hammond and Craig Anderson tending to the health of his wife, the goaltending has been a rollercoaster for the Senators this season. Condon may have brought them some consistency.
He stopped all 42 shots he faced against Columbus and has now started 17 straight games for the Senators posting a record of 12-7-3 on the season. His .920 save percentage and 2.31 goals against average are both incredibly respectable numbers for a goalie thrust into the starting role.
In Toronto Frederik Anderson has struggled as of lately, but he seems to be doing all he can given the circumstances. He’s been instrumental in the Leafs recent stretch of success but we would still like to see him straight up steal a game. He let in four goals against the Rangers, but did face a whopping 40 shots. We expect him to be steadier against a much weaker offense in the Senators.
James van Riemsdyk against Dion Phaneuf. The former teammates are often the two biggest players on the ice and with JVR’s tendency to stand in front of the net you can expect a few less-than-friendly crosschecks from Phaneuf. Bring it on.
The Leafs looked like a rookie team when they got run over by the Rangers without Rielly in the lineup. The Senators aren’t the Rangers and with the Leafs playing at home we like Toronto on the moneyline.
The Blues and Jets get the action started early on Saturday when they drop the puck at three in the afternoon in Winnipeg. The Blues have struggled lately with just three wins in their last ten games and it’s officially time to panic in St.Louis.
The goal scoring is there, as evidenced by their combined seven goals in their last two games, but they can’t seem to stop anyone from doing the same (or worse) to them. The Blues have been outscored 13-7 in that span and the blame is starting to be passed around.
That blame needs to start with the goaltending. Jake Allen got pulled for his third straight game after letting in four goals on ten shots against the Capitals and Carter Hutton fared no better when he jumped in to promptly let three goals by him.
Hutton also let five goals in his start prior and it’s getting to the point where the Blues might have to start looking for a goalie elsewhere. St. Louis had Stanely Cup aspirations to start the season, but when you’re letting goals in at this rate the playoffs might not even be in reach.
The Jets will happily take advantage of the poor defense. Winnipeg is scoring 2.81 goals a game and more than capable of lighting up a shaky goaltender. Still, the Jets would like their rookie phenom to return to the lineup. Patrik Laine was leading all rookies in scoring before going down with a concussion and the Jets have lost all five games he’s missed.
There’s good news on the way though. Laine was seen skating before Wednesday’s game and may be set to join the team sooner than originally projected. Cross your fingers Winnipeg fans.
Mark Scheifele against Jake Allen/Carter Hutton. Whoever gets the start in net for the Blues is going to have to worry about Scheifele all night. The Jets leading scorer is going to have to carry his team with Laine out and that means more shots on net.
We think the Blues struggles are real, but Winnipeg’s are just as apparent. With the odds the superior team (St.Louis) is getting on the road we like taking them on the spread.
Poor Carolina. Less than a week after losing 4-1 to the Jackets in Columbus they have to go play them again, and on the second night of a back to back with Pittsburgh being their opponent the night before.
The Hurricanes struggles on the road have been well documented this season, but this schedule seems downright unfair. Playing any team twice in a row in their building is a recipe for disaster, and we don’t love the Hurricanes chances to break the trend in this matchup.
Columbus is coming off a tough 2-0 loss to the Senators and are a less than intimidating 5-5-0 in their last ten games, but four of those losses came without Sergei Brobovksy in net. Now that he’s back and healthy the Blue Jackets will be eyeing another long win streak like the one they compiled earlier in the season.
Brandon Dubinsky against Justin Faulk. Faulk is still recovering from an injury and the big body of Dubinsky won’t be easy to deal with, but Dubinsky’s 0.43 points per game are the lowest of his career right now. He needs to get it going again to make Columbus even more dangerous.
We wish we could take Carolina on the odds they’re getting, but playing in Columbus after just losing there a night after playing the Penguins is a recipe for disaster. Take the Jackets on the spread and the moneyline in what should be a bit of a blowout.
What did we say about the Islanders?! New York promptly responded to the firing of their head coach by shutting out the high-scoring Stars and now have a two game win streak to enjoy and are no longer dead last in the Eastern Conference.
This Islanders team is flat-out talented, and while the depth isny quite there they are still totally capable of making the playoffs in the East and will try everything they can to get there. We talked about Thomas Greiss a bit last game, but he’s worth mentioning again.
New York’s goalie has been brilliant since letting in seven goals last week and now has back to back shutouts lowering his goals against average to 2.30 and raising his save percentage to .930.
The Kings will have trouble scoring on Greiss if they continue their recent play. They’ve lost two straight and are now out of the last Wild Card spot. They’re scoring just 2.51 goals a game and captain Anze Kopitar needs to figure out how to get him and his team going.
Kopitar had a mini four game point streak before falling ill last week but needs to find the strength to get his team back in the win column. His season has been a disappointment by his standards with just 24 points in 39 games this season. That’s just not going to cut it from your captain.
Jeff Carter against John Tavares. The two best goal scorers on either team will be looking for their shots early and often as they try to will their team to a victory. Both are some of the most dangerous shooters in the game.
The Islanders have won two straight and look motivated under new head coach Doug Weight. Greiss has been exceptional in net and New York is 12-8-4 at home and getting good odds. Take them on the moneyline.
The Devils have shocked the world lately with three straight wins against some of the best teams in the NHL before their date with the Canadiens on Friday night. Luckily for the Devils it gets eaier after that when they travel to Philadelphia to take on the struggling Flyers.
The Flyers are just 2-6-2 in their last ten games and have lost two straight including an embarrassing 5-0 defeat at the hands of the high-flying Capitals. Philly’s problem all year has been defense, and that problem is front and center during their recent woes.
After a ten game wins streak earlier in the season that saw the Flyers outscoring everyone, they have watched their goal differential plummet to a dismal -16 on the season. Offense comes and goes but defense is consistent, and the Flyers’ defense is consistently bad.
They’re letting in 3.22 goals a game which ranks 29th in the NHL, and their lack of depth along the blueline is going to be a problem for the rest of the season. In New Jersey the Devils haven’t been blowing teams out of the water but their defense has been strong including Cory Schneider.
Schneider has been brilliant in net during their recent hot streak and while he’ll be in tough against the Flyers’ strong offense if he can make a few key saves the Devils can easily score.
Shayne Gostisbehere against Taylor Hall. Gostisbehere was a -2 in his return to the lineup after being a healthty scratch in his last game. He loves to move the puck up the ice, but can’t seem to figure out where to be to stop it. He’ll need to keep a close eye on the hot Hall all evening.
A tired Devils team on the road might be just what the Flyers need to snap out of their recent slump. Phialdephia is getting surprisingly good odds and we’ll take them. Take the Flyers at home on the spread.
The Sabres try their luck in Montreal on Saturday night, and while the game is a mismatch on paper, Buffalo still has some things to be excited about. The Sabres are 5-3-2 in their last ten games against the Canadiens and Montreal played New Jersey the night before.
Buffalo still has just four wins in their last ten games overall, but with a healthy Jack Eichel in the lineup they now possess the skill to beat anyone if the puck bounces the right away.
The Sabres still rank 26th in goals for this year, but we expect that number to grow as Eichel and company get more and more comfortable playing with each other. To make things more interesting, Carey Price is struggling.
Montreal’s goaltender is getting Friday night off but he will suit up against Buffalo. He’s allowed four or more goals in four of his last five games and looks nothing like the dominant netminder we saw earlier in the season. Playing so strong for so long with all the injuries around him may have finally caught up to him, but we fully expect him to bounce back for the second half of the season.
Alex Galchenyuk against Jack Eichel. Galchenyuk has been bumped down to the second line after failing to register a point in his last two games, and he’s expected to move back up if he can start producing again. He’ll have every opportunity against Jack Eichel and the Sabres, but needs to be weary of Eichel getting his touches as well.
Montreal will be tired after back to back games, but Carey Price wont. We expect him to bounce back in this game and shut down the Sabres.
The Lighting had a few big wins last week, and everyone was ready to anoint them as officially back. The reality remains that this team is injured and struggling, and while they’re doing a more than respectable job of staying afloat in the East, they need more wins than their 3-6-1 record in their last ten games.
That’s why this game against Arizona is so important. A win and the Lightning move further up the standings while some of their stars get healthy. A win against the Coyotes is easy to come by, for most teams anyways.
Arizona is a 2-7-1 in their last ten, losers of four straight and own a record of 8-11-2 on their home ice. Now they have to take on a skilled Lightning team despite the apparent injuries, and a healthy Ben Bishop.
Bishop looks more and more like himself with each game as evidence by the solid game he had against the Sharks, letting in just two goals. He’s on a personal four game winning streak with a goals against average of 2.00 or less in those games. Now he gets to shutdown an Arizona team scoring just 2,18 goals a game, good for 29th in the NHL.
Nikita Kucherov against Alex Goligoski. With Oliver Ekman-Larsson expected to generate some semblance of offense for the Coyotes form the blueline, much of the defensive work will fall on Goligoski. That means he needs to try and stop Kucherov who has 42 points in 40 games for one of the highest points per game marks in the NHL.
The Lightning are 7-2-1 in their last ten against the Coyotes, have a healthy starting goalie in net and are fighting for their playoff lives. Take Tampa on the spread getting decent odds on the road.
Can you hear that? Listen closely. It’s the sounds of pucks hitting the back of the net over and over and over again. Get used to that sound, it’s going to fill the arena in Dallas as both teams try their hardest to outscore the other.
The rate these two teams are scoring at is a beauty to behold. It reminds us of old-time hockey where teams repeatedly scored six or seven goals each a night. As good as Dallas has been at scoring Washington has been downright ridiculous. In their last six games the Capitals have reached totals of 4,5,6,5,7,7. That’s good for 34 goals over six games for an average of almost six goals a game!
Now they get to play against a Dallas team allowing 3.13 goals a game which ranks 27th in the NHL. You can’t set the over line high enough, and even if you did we’d still take it.
Nicklas Backstrom against the Stars’ goalies. Backstrom is on a seven game point streak after scoring in the Caps’ latest victory and now has 44 points in 45 games this season. Whether he goes up against Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi is of little concern to Backstrom, he’s going to get his.
Two of the highest scoring teams in hockey playing in an arena that loves high scoring games is the formula for taking the Over. We also like Washington’s odds on the road, so grab them on the spread as well.
The Wild host the Ducks in one of our latest and best games on Saturday night. After consistently plugging along the Ducks are finally showing their teeth (Do ducks have teeth?) and the rest of the NHL is taking notice.
Anaheim is on a nice win streak of two straight and is a dominant 8-1-1 in their last ten games. That type of success has them atop the Pacific division with a three point lead over the very dangerous San Jose Sharks.
The Ducks are coming off a 2-1 win over the Avalanche, and while that’s nothing to brag about it will help give them confidence as they prepare for another game against the Minnesota Wild.
The Wild are the best team in the West and coming off a road win of their own. They’re 7-2-1 in their last ten games and still possess an absurd goal differential of +46 on the season. They are easily one of the most balanced teams in all of hockey, and have lost just five times at home this season.
Devan Dubnyk against John Gibson. Gibson had shaky start to the season, and just tweeks ago we were talking about how big of a mistake it was to let Frederik Anderson go in free agency. That “mistake” is turning out alright for the Ducks as Gibson has seven wins in his last start and has improved his save percentage to .922 on the season and dropped his goals against average to 2.26.
As good as those numbers are they pale in comparison to Dubnyk’s. With Carey Price’s recent struggles the Vezina trophy is there for the taking for Dubynk. He has a 1.88 goals against average with a save percentage of .936 and already has 26 wins on the season. Both goalies will need to be sharp on Saturday.
The Ducks are rolling, but beating the Wild at home is a whole different beast. Take Minnesota on the moneyline in what should be a close one.
Our second free game of the night is also an all-Canadian matchup and province battle. The Oilers visit the Flames in the newly revived battle of Alberta with both teams enjoying success this season or the first time in a long time.
Both teams have won five games against each other in the last ten, so the matchup is alive and well. Edmonton bested Calgary 2-1 in their last meeting, but with the action returning to Calgary the Flames will be itching to defend home ice.
It won’t be easy against the Oilers who have won four in a row and are feeding off of Connor McDavid’s skill and energy. The leading scorer in the NHL is on a tear right now and shows no signs of slowing down.
That’s bad news for Calgary who are coming off a loss and now have a goal differential of -4 on the season. They’re still sitting in that first Wild Card spot, but a win would go a long way to separating themselves a bit from the rest of the pack.
Leon Draisaitl against T.J. Brodie. With all the attention on McDavid players often lose Draisaitl on the ice, and that’s a problem. He has 40 points this season and continues to leave teams scratching their heads. With Mark Giordano focusing on McDavid, Draisaitl could be a tough matchup for Brodie who is tied for dead last in plus/minus rating this season.
The Battle of Alberta is always close, hard-hitting, and meaningful. That’s certainly the case with both teams playing so well this season, and with Edmonton getting good odds on the road we’ll take the hot Oilers to squeak out a win.
The night ends with a whimper, not a bang, as our biggest mismatch rounds up the day’s action. You’ll all be aslepe by then anyways, dreaming of all the money you’ve won, but for the diehards like us here’s the lowdown:
Colorado is bad.
San Jose is good.
If that sounds simple it’s because it is! Colorado is the worst team in the NHL, losers of four straight with a 1-9-0 record and an overall mark of 13-29-1. They’ve been outscored by 58 goals on the season and with Semyon Varlamov out indefinitely with a pulled groin the season is only going to be harder for the Avalanche.
The good news is they don’t have to lose in front of their home fans. Colorado actually has better record on the road than they do at home this season which is saying something about the team’s pressure to perform. Still, that means little when you still have a losing record on the road and have to play against the Sharks who are 16-6-1 at home this season.
San Jose trumps Colorado in every conceivable category and the Avs just don’t have the horses to stay in this race.
Nathan MacKinnon against Marc Edouard-Vlasic. MacKinnon leads his team with 31 points this season, and while he’s still an incredibly talented forward his lack of help is concerning. Now he has to try and do it himself against one of the best defensemen in the league. Good luck.
Our advice would be to put a small amount of money down on the Avalanche and hope for the best, because it’s hockey and the odds are incredible. Since were not in the business of hoping for the best, we’ll be smart and take San Jose on the moneyline.
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