Free NHL Picks and Predictions for Monday 2/27
After a busy weekend filled with some thrilling overtime games, big upsets, and even an outdoor match in Pittsburgh the NHL slows right down on Monday with a three game schedule. The lack of games doesn’t mean a lack of betting though. There’s always ways to place a ton of different wagers on each game and to make some serious money.
There’s just six weeks left before the playoff march to the Stanley Cup begins but for many teams the race is on now. Five teams are separated by just four points with only three playoff spots up for grabs in the East while the West is starting to show a bit more separation and focused on jockeying for better seeds. Either way the action is going to be tense, and the desperate team may not always be the better one. Let’s get to it!
- LA (+120) at Minnesota (-150)
The clock is ticking on the LA Kings’ season. A perennial powerhouse and notable late bloomer the Kings are really pushing it to the extreme this season. With just 21 games left in their schedule LA still finds themselves three points out of a playoff spot in the West. They’re 30-27-4 overall with a 4-6-0 record in their last ten games and if the wins don’t start coming soon they could find themselves on the wrong side of the postseason when the season stops.
With all that being said, they are coming off an impressive 4-1 win over the Ducks and will hope that momentum keeps going when they travel to Minnesota for a very tough game against the Wild. Minnesota is sitting in first out West with a 39-14-6 record on the year including a 6-3-1 mark in their last ten games. They’re coming off a 5-3 loss to the streaking Blackhawks but are still one of the most balanced teams in all of hockey. They’re also excellent at home and own a 21-8-1 record in their own building this year.
With Minnesota trying to fend off Chicago for first place they still have some fight left in their season despite being so far ahead, but for the Kings it’s all about desperation. LA no longer controls their own fate and need to win some games while hoping for losses.
LA’s offense has been in shambles recently with the four goals they scored against the Ducks the most they’ve put by anyone in their last six games. The Kings are averaging just 1.9 goals a game over their last ten contests and have bene shutout three time during that span. They are now ranked 25th in the entire league in goals per game at 2.46 and have the 22nd ranked powerplay. They’re firing the 9th most shots on net but when those chances aren’t quality ones it’s hard to score goals. They’ve averaged just 2.00 goals against the Wild in their last ten games as well and will need to find more creative ways to score down the stretch if they want to make the postseason.
Jeff Carter continues to be the only reliable source of offense on the Kings and is up to 55 points in 61 games this season. He’s the only player to hit the 50 point plateau for LA this season, let alone 40 points. The next closest scorer has just 37 and it shows how much the Kings have struggled to produce this year. Carter is coming off a goal and an assist against the Ducks but has just three points in his last five games. If he starts to get cold the Kings will be in real trouble.
In Minnesota the Wild just keep scoring goals and are now ranked second in the NHL averaging 3.36 goals per game. They also have the second best power play in all of hockey and are succeeding on 22.70 percent of their chances. With the Kings’ tendency to take stupid penalties early in games the Wild may find themselves out to an early lead if the power play heats up in time.
Unlike the Kings the Wild have a tremendously balanced attack with six players to have hit the 40 point plateau this season and one who is tied with Jeff Carter with 55 points. That player is Mikael Granlund and he is quietly turning into one of the NHL’s brightest stars. He’s still just 25 years old with plenty of room to improve especially on a club as well coached and talented as the Wild. He’s scored three goals in his last two games including two against the Blackhawks and will be tough for the Kings to keep an eye on, especially on the power play.
The Wild know how to score, but they also know how to stop the other team from doing it. Minnesota has the second ranked defense in the league, allowing just 2.34 goals a game. They also have the 10th best penalty kill and the combination of their two special teams makes them a threat against anyone. As we stated before the Wild have limited the Kings to an average of just 2.00 goals a game in their last ten meetings and clearly have a beat on how to stop LA’s attack.
The top three plus/minus leaders in the league are all on Minnesota with Ryan Suter having the distinction of being number one He plays a whopping 27:14 minutes of ice time a night and his plus/minus rating of +33 is a thing of beauty. Him and Jared Spurgeon have been rocks for Minnesota on defense and the Kings will find trouble getting by either especially with their offense struggling.
At least LA has still been decent at stopping pucks this year. The Kings are ranked 5th in the NHL in goals allowed per game at just 2.48 and they do so by limiting the amount of shots on net. Teams average just 25.79 shots on goal a game against LA which ranks number one in the NHL. They also have the 5th best penalty kill in all of hockey and the argument can be made that this LA team has the strongest defense in the game when it’s clicking.
In their last four games, they’ve given up more than one goal just once and if their offense ever figures out how to get going this team will be extremely difficult to play against. Drew Doughty is having another strong year along the blue line with a plus/minus of +11 to go along with 34 points. He’ll need to be at his best against a Wild team that can fill up the net in a hurry.
The Kings owe a lot of their defensive numbers to their goalie. Peter Budaj was never supposed to be the starter for LA but after Jonathan Quick went down he was thrust into the role. While Budaj was excellent in relief, now Quick is back and this team gets a big upgrade. He stopped 32 of 33 shots against the Ducks in his first start and is now 1-0-0 this season having made 48 of 50 saves over a combined four periods. If he can find a rhythm this team could go on a big run.
Opposite him is arguably the best goalie in the league this year. Devan Dubnyk was lit up for four goals on 38 shots in his last outing against Chicago but has been a rock all year. He has a 2.01 goals against average with a .933 save percentage and may be well on his way to winning the Vezina trophy.
Jonathan Quick against Mikael Granlund. Granlund runs the Wild’s offense and with three goals in his last two games he’s clearly on a bit of a hot streak. Quick will have to be as sharp as he’s ever been against the Wild to try and get his Kings team back in the win column and that means shutting down Granlund.
The Kings are a different team with Quick in net and he gives them a little more freedom to take chances on offense. LA still has a lot to work on but we love when a big positive change happens to a team and Quick is definitely that change. Take LA on the spread getting amazing odds and hope they pull off the upset.
- Montreal (n/a) at New Jersey (n/a)
Well that’s one way to silence the doubters. Montreal pulled off a huge overtime win against the Leafs in overtime in Toronto on Saturday to give the team a little bit of confidence and extend their dominance over their rivals. Montreal made it 14 straight wins against Toronto and gave them a little more breathing room in the division. The Canadiens are now four points ahead of Buffalo and Ottawa and five past the Leafs with approximately 20 games remaining for each team in the division.
Now they need to keep their momentum going on the road in New Jersey. Montreal is still just 3-6-1 in their last ten games and have been playing some of their worst hockey of the season in the month of February. Their road record is still respectable at 15-12-4 and they’ll hope that holds up against the Devils.
New Jersey is slowly slipping out of the playoff picture and are now eight points back of the Leafs for the second Wild Card spot. With five teams ahead of them in the standings they’ll need to go on a prolific run if they have any shot of playing hockey in the Spring. They can start with a win at home where they’re just 13-12-5 this season. They’re also just 4-4-2 in their last ten games and coming off a heartbreaking overtime loss at the hands of the Rangers.
The Devils still can’t find any consistent source of offense outside of Taylor Hall and even he’s started to struggle a bit. He’s registered just 41 points this season but done it in 51 games. He’s scored just one goal over his last five games and with the Devils needing to find some offense the burden unfortunately falls on him to do it all. It won’t be easy against Carey Price and the Habs.
While Price has struggled this month with a 3-7-0 record over his last ten games and a save percentage of just .908 he bounced back against Toronto stopping .941 percent of the shots against him and making 32 of 34 saves to carry his team to a big win. If he starts playing at the other-world talent he’s capable of the Canadiens can beat anyone in the league.
Shea Weber against Travis Zajac. Zajac has had a bit of a disappointing season with just 37 points in 60 games but has got hot recently with six points during a four game point streak. He’s scored twice over that streak as well but will now deal with thew big physical presence of Weber. Expect some hard hits from the Habs’ defenseman early to set the tone.
The Habs may be struggling, but the Devils are significantly worse team this year and still can’t find any means of generating offense. Take Montreal on the spread and hope they snap out of their slide after the big win against Toronto.
- Ottawa (+135) at Tampa Bay (-165)
The Senators finish the second part of their Florida swing in as many nights after taking on the Panthers the day before. Two games in two nights is never fun for any team, especially when you’re on the road. Ottawa is trying to fend off the Leafs and Bruins in their division while also trying to catch Montreal. The Senators were shut out against the Hurricanes in their game before taking on the Panthers and offense continues to be a real problem with so many of their players dealing with injuries.
Their star defenseman Erik Karlsson continues to lead the team in points despite playing along the blue line and he’ll be needed more thane ever as guys like Bobby Ryan, Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone are all dealing with injuries. That’s a huge blow to a team that was starting to turn the corner and looking like they could make some noise in the playoffs.
Don’t complain about injuries to the Lightning though. Tampa Bay has dealt with them all season and now find their season ending with a whimper instead of a bang many predicted. The Lightning could still realistically make the postseason, but closing a seven point gap is hard for anyone, let alone a team that is still without their best player in Steven Stamkos.
Tampa is still plugging away though and are now 5-3-2 in their last ten games. They’re coming off a loss at the hands of the red-hot Flames (yes pun intended) but have won two out of their last three games against the Senators. They’ll also be playing at home where they’re a decent 15-11-2 this season and a win in front of their fans could give them a little more hope as the final stretch of the season begins.
Nikita Kucherov against Erik Karlsson. Kucherov has done all he can without Stamkos in the lineup and now has 54 points in 53 games this season for one of the best points per game marks in the NHL. He has five points in his last two games alone and will be eager to keep the train rolling against a banged up Sens team. That means it all falls on Karlsson to stop Kucherov while also trying to generate offense himself.
Take the Lightning at home against a tired, and injured, Ottawa team. Tampa Bay may not make the playoffs but they still have enough firepower to hang around with the Senators.
Prediction: Tampa Bay 3 Ottawa 1