Welcome to the weekly installment of my “NHL Games To Watch” betting column. I’ll preview some of the marquee games taking place between Thursday and Sunday targeting some interesting betting spots and looking for potential value with undervalued sides and totals.
Philadelphia Flyers @ Tampa Bay Lightning
Thursday, March 12, 7 p.m.
This game represents a battle of contenders in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers were the hottest team in the NHL, on a nine-game winning streak heading into Tuesday’s games. Philadelphia had played a complete team game during the streak, scoring four or more goals eight times. But the Flyers were also playing solid defense to go with razor-sharp goaltending from Carter Hart. Philly is a top-10 team in goals scored and goals allowed per game, which propelled its run and has the Flyers in a battle with the Capitals for the Metropolitan Division lead. Tampa Bay has cooled off a bit since a double-digit winning streak ended, going a mediocre 3-5-1 in its last nine games, and will need to be at its best to knock off the surging Flyers. The Lightning are minus two key pieces with defenseman Victor Hedman and captain Steven Stamkos out due to injuries. I will be looking to back the red-hot Flyers on the road at a relatively decent price as long as they are still on their winning streak.
Toronto Maple Leafs @ Boston Bruins
Saturday, March 14, 7 p.m.
Two Original Six rivals resume their battle. The Maple Leafs tenuously stood just one point ahead of Florida for third place in the Atlantic and the final divisional playoff spot. Boston is battling cluster injuries on the blue line with Brandon Carlo and Torey Krug, and it is unclear if either will be back Saturday. Carlo and Krug are important defensemen who play in all critical situations. The good news for Boston is it does have solid depth on the blue line and has a very hot top line to rely on with Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. The latter had six points on a five-game point streak. Toronto went winless in three games on its California trip against San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles, and that has brought Florida right back into the playoff race. Games are of utmost importance for the Leafs, and that’s why the timing couldn’t be better to get their best defenseman, Morgan Rielly, back from injury. He returned Tuesday against Tampa Bay. It’s a huge boost to a defense that has struggled most of the season. Toronto has inexplicably seen its offense dry up, having scored two or fewer goals in three straight. It’s difficult to bet on Toronto, considering all the struggles it has had with the Bruins in recent seasons — even though the Leafs need the points right now. But if the Bruins’ injury situation on the blue line doesn’t seem in better shape by Saturday, that could leave them vulnerable against the Leafs’ high-octane attack.