Stars vs. Capitals – NHL Pick of the Week For March 20th
The pressure of being in a playoff race can affect teams in different ways, and we’re seeing that once again this spring.
When squads ratchet up their intensity and are rewarded with immediate results, there can be a snowball effect that turns into a hot run like the Florida Panthers and Columbus Blue Jackets have been enjoying recently. But when teams are bringing max effort every night and not seeing the dividends on the scoreboard, panic and frustration can quickly ensue, and the snowball effect works the other way.
The latter is what is happening right now with the Dallas Stars, a team that was comfortably in playoff position a few weeks ago and even looked like a legitimate challenger to Nashville, Winnipeg and Vegas in the West. But after losing 5 straight games, 8 of their last 10 and 11 of their last 15, the Stars now find themselves on the outside looking in at the post-season.
We took advantage of the Stars’ recent struggles (and some inflated betting lines due to the desperation level in Dallas) last week, cashing a fat +162 moneyline ticket on the Canadiens in their 4-2 upset of Big D. And though the odds aren’t nearly as generous tonight in Washington, we’re going to go right back to the well of fading the Stars until they get back on track.
Dallas Stars/Washington Capitals Betting Odds
The Capitals are almost always a decent-sized favorite when they’re playing at home, and things are no different tonight. BetOnline lists Washington as -134 on the moneyline to earn the 2 points, while the Stars pay +121 to pull off the upset.
The Over/Under has been set at 5.5 goals and early money has been on the Under, driving down the return on the Under 5.5 from a +109 opener to +102 at the time of writing. Over bettors now only need to lay -113 juice to support 6 or more goals in this contest. Washington pays +200 to cover the +1.5 puck line, while there’s -240 juice on the Stars +1.5 to keep things within a goal or pull off the outright win.
Stars Are In A Tough Spot Tonight
At this time of year, most bettors’ instincts are to bet on the more desperate team, believing that they will “try harder”. But Dallas has been trying hard for quite a while, and it hasn’t been doing the Stars any good.
Over their last 9 games, they’ve managed to score more than 2 regulation time goals just once. It’s not as if they’re not getting opportunities, having generated 30 shots or more in 7 of those 9 games. They’re simply pressing too much, feeling like they need to make the perfect pass or shot in order to score goals right now, rather than just relaxing and letting their instincts and skills do the work.
But even if Dallas was playing with confidence right now, the Stars would be in a very difficult spot tonight. This is the Stars’ 6th consecutive road game, an odd trip that began in Pittsburgh, headed north for visits to Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa, then went west to Winnipeg and now is back on the east coast in Washington. They haven’t had much downtime to rest or improve on their game, either. Dallas has played 2 back-to-backs over the past couple of weeks, and the Stars have had 2 days off between games just once since the end of February.
Frustrated and tired? That’s not a recipe for success in a tough building for visitors.
Capitals Have Plenty To Play For As Well
Dallas isn’t the only desperate team here, anyway. Washington still has plenty of motivation to close out the season strong, especially coming off a poor performance Sunday in Philadelphia when the Caps dropped a 6-3 decision.
Washington comes into action tonight with a 2-point lead over Pittsburgh for first place in the Metropolitan Division and 4-point bulge on third-place Philadelphia. Winning the division means a lot more than bragging rights and another banner to hang up in Capital One Arena. It also means avoiding playing either the Penguins (a.k.a. Washington’s playoff Kryptonite) or the Flyers (a team that always plays the Capitals tough) in the first round, instead getting a shot at wild-card entries like the Blue Jackets, Devils or Panthers.
The Caps have shown a tendency to bounce back strong after poor outings, winning 24 of their last 33 games following a loss by 3 or more goals. They’ve also won 16 of their last 21 games when allowing 5 or more goals in their previous contest. Even though Washington is playing its 4th game in 6 days tonight, the travel has been minimal (Brooklyn and Philadelphia) and I expect them to be both motivated and focused tonight.
Stars vs. Capitals Betting Pick
If you believe in trends, it’s not hard to like the Stars tonight. Dallas has won its last 6 visits to Washington, even cashing as +230 underdogs last March when the Stars were headed towards non-playoff season while the Capitals were on their way to the President’s Trophy as the top regular season in the NHL.
But any confidence the Stars may gain from their past success in the nation’s capital is more than wiped out by the frustration, desperation and fatigue they’re feeling right now at the end of a long and fruitless road trip. Washington is once again one of the toughest rinks for visitors to win in this season (the Caps are 25-9-2 at home), and this moneyline price is a bargain. Washington Capitals -134 on the moneyline is my NHL pick for the week.
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