Every week, I preview three marquee NHL games taking place between Thursday and Sunday. I’m targetting interesting betting spots, looking for potential value with undervalued sides and totals throughout the season.
Nashville at Pittsburgh
Two teams that met in the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals will do battle. Nashville has been up and down of late. The Predators did snap a minilosing skid with a 1-0 win against the Minnesota Wild to begin the week, but they were badly outplayed and needed to rely on a struggling Wild offense and the goaltending of Juuse Saros to carry them to victory. Nashville just isn’t generating much offense these days as their scoring production has been mediocre at best. The Predators have failed to reach 3 goals in their last three games and the additions of Wayne Simmonds and Mikael Granlund at the deadline have not yet led to the uptick in scoring that was anticipated. Nashville lost to Pittsburgh in Music City last week 2-1 in a shootout. Pittsburgh enters this game on a three-game win streak and the team surprisingly has done it with defense and goaltending, which in the past is not what you first think of when it comes to the Penguins. Pittsburgh has yielded 2 goals or fewer in four of their last five games. These teams played an Under when they faced off against one another last week. Nashville is on a seven-game Under streak and Pittsburgh is 4-1 to the Under in its last 5 games. Given the current form of both squads, the Under is probably worth another wager in this one.
Washington at Tampa Bay
You wouldn’t know the Tampa Bay Lightning has clinched everything in front of them with the way the team has continued to keep its foot on the gas pedal in these remaining games of the regular season. Last week, Tampa Bay clinched the Presidents Trophy and No. 1 overall in the NHL, but has kept pushing on, winning three of four games since clinching. Tampa Bay can surpass the NHL record of 62 wins in a single season set by the Detroit Red Wings in 1995-1996 if it can win four more games down the stretch, so motivation may not be lacking for this squad down the stretch. The Lightning’s incredibly deep lineup continues to deliver an offensive onslaught on a nightly basis as Tampa has scored 3 or more goals in 9 consecutive games. Tampa Bay’s special teams have been special as they own the #1 ranked power play and penalty kill units in the NHL. Washington is starting to surge and look more like the squad that won it all last season. The Capitals have put together a solid 6-4 stretch in their last 10 games and it’s worth noting three of the four losses came against either Tampa Bay or Pittsburgh. Washington has allowed 2 goals or fewer in three of its last four games as the Capitals try to rediscover their defensive game prior to the playoffs, which is something that has eluded them for extended portions of the regular season. We all know about Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom and how important and good that group has been for the Capitals offensively, but Tom Wilson and Brett Connolly are two unsung heroes for them as they have had career seasons with both scoring 20 goals. Things aren’t all good for Washington, though. It did lose one of its best defensemen, Michal Kempny, to a lower body injury in a recent game. He is out indefinitely and was having a strong season with a 24 rating for the Caps. Tampa Bay has won each of the first two regular-season meetings between these teams, and I would be reluctant to step in front of the Lightning as it pursues history and the most regular-season wins of all time.
Calgary at San Jose
This game could go a long way to locking up the Pacific Division title for the Calgary Flames as they travel to San Jose to face the floundering Sharks, who are in the midst of a brutal six-game losing streak, which has seen them allow 26 goals during that span. Suddenly, the struggling goaltending they are receiving from Martin Jones has come under scrutiny and appears to be a major concern heading into the playoffs. Calgary is six points ahead of San Jose for 1st place in the Pacific Division as of this writing. One would think a Flames win here would sink the Sharks and any last potential shot they have of catching Calgary for the division with both teams having only six games left in the regular season. Calgary’s top offensive players have climbed out of a recent funk, but the Flames are far from a confident group in terms of their own goaltending these days. Mike Smith is an aging veteran who has battled injuries and inconsistent play. David Rittich is still a relative newcomer in the NHL and is looking at potentially being tabbed as the #1 goalie for the Flames in his first Stanley Cup Playoffs. The big difference between these teams right now is the blue line, where the Flames have been much tidier in their own zone than the Sharks. Calgary has surrendered 2 goals or fewer in six straight games excluding empty-net goals. That could be what separates these two teams -- not only in this game, but moving forward in the playoffs as well. San Jose has been a good fade in recent games, and I would lean toward the road side here in this one.