Thursday Night Hockey April 6

by Cameron Dorrett
on April 6, 2017

After the usually quiet Wednesday in the NHL hockey returns with a bang on Thursday night as 24 teams are in action all trying to make their mark before the season ends. With most of the playoff picture set in terms of teams, many clubs are just trying out new players and new strategies before the season ends. It’s easy to take advantage of that as a bettor and we’ll be sure to identify any instances where that may be the case.

As for those still fighting to get into the postseason it really boils down to four teams. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators are separated by just one point as both teams fight for a place in the Atlantic Division while the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders need to win their last three games in order to have a chance of catching up. Both teams sit at 88 points and are four points back of the Leafs. Let’s get to it!

Tampa Bay Lightning (+1.5)
VS
Toronto Maple Leafs (-1.5)
Total: 5.5 (-125o, -105u)

Moneyline

  • Tampa Bay (+135) at Toronto (-165)

We explained the playoff situation above but it’s directly reflected in this huge game on Thursday night. Without getting too deep into the math, the basic thing you need to know is that if the Lightning lose, they are out of the playoffs and the Leafs will clinch a spot. That’s huge stakes on the line for both teams and while the playoffs might still be a few games away this game has all the drama you need to recreate the feeling.

Both teams are coming off brutal losses that could have seriously helped them in their pursuit of the postseason and will be looking to bounce back in a major way on Thursday night. The Lightning were just shut out by the red-hot Bruins 4-0 in their last outing and are now just 5-4-1 over their last ten games. Of all the teams on the outside of the playoff picture looking in they still have the chance to make the most noise should they be able to squeak in, but their time and opportunities are running out in a hurry.

As for Toronto, the Leafs have worked hard to get where they are, but are still in danger of losing it all. They need just one more win to seal a trip to the postseason but with their next two games after Tampa coming against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets this feels like their best chance to lock up a playoff spot.

The Washington Capitals halted their run with a 4-1 win on Tuesday but the Leafs have been strong lately with a three game win streak before that and a 7-2-1 record over their last ten games. Toronto wasn’t expected to even sniff a playoff berth but now that the team is so close they would be devastated by anything other than an opportunity at a Stanley Cup.

Offense

Both teams combined for just one goal in their last game but have been playing well on offense as of late and should be able to find some goals on Thursday night. Toronto has been dynamite all season, averaging 3.08 goals a game to rank 5th in the NHL in that department. The Leafs have also been hot lately with 3.2 goals a game over their last ten contests.

Most of their production has come from their unbelievable tri of rookies. Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander have combined for a stunning 188 points this season but will need to play well beyond their years if they want to try and lock down a playoff spot and make some noise in the “second season”. In order to do that they’re going to need some help from the veterans on the team like Nazem Kadri and James van Riemsdyk. Both players have had strong seasons with 60 and 59 points respectively and are a nice compliment to the skill and youth of the three rookies up front. Kadri is up to 31 goals on the year and has five points over his last five games. He’ll need to lead by example with his team desperately needing a win.

As for the Lightning, they were shutout in their last game against Boston but poured in six goals in the game before against the Stars. They average 2.81 goals a game this season which ranks a respectable 13th but have had trouble maintaining their consistency thanks to their top-heavy setup.

Nikita Kucherov is responsible for 81 points with his next closest teammate being defenseman Victor Hedman at 67. 67 is a great number for anyone, especially a defenseman, but it just goes to show you how much the Lighnting have leaned on Kucherov as a forward to do most of the scoring. When teams lock him down (like Boston did on Tuesday night) the Lightning tend to lose.

Kucherov has five points in his last five games but hasn’t scored in four straight and the Lightning will almost certainly need him to find the back of the net more often during their last three games if they want to squeak into the playoffs. Toronto doesn’t have nearly as strong as a defensive unit as the Bruins to try and lock him down, and there should be plenty of free ice for the 23 year old to try and work his magic.

Defense

Speaking of Toronto’s defense, it’s struggled all season. The Leafs allow an average of 2.94 goals a night which ranks 24th in the NHL. They also allow the 28th most shots on net but make up for it a bit with the league’s 8th ranked penalty kill. They’ve improved a bit over their last ten games with an average of 2.6 goals allowed a night but will need everyone to step up in order to slow down Kucherov and the rest of the Lightning.

That means they need a strong game from Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner. The two young defensemen have had their share of miscues this season but have the talent and offensive touch to seriously help out their team. As long as they take care of the puck in their own end and jumpstart the offense Toronto should be in good hands.

The Lightning have struggled a bit to stop the puck as well this season but still rank much higher than Toronto in goals allowed per game at 17th. They’ve struggled mightily to stop pucks over their last ten games though and will need to improve in a hurry against the Leafs’ dominant offense. During their last ten games the Lightning have allowed 3.5 goals a game and are coming off giving up four against the Bruins.

Victor Hedman has been unbelievable for Tampa Bay this season but will need to be even better with the lack of depth along the blueline. His 67 points have gone a long way in keeping the Lightning’s playoff hopes’ alive but he’ll need to be more focused on stopping the puck than scoring it on Thursday night.

Goalies

Frederik Andersen got the night off against the Capitals on Thursday night and while the Leafs lost that game at least he’ll be well-rested for Thursday’s big showdown against the Lightning. Andersen has been solid for Toronto all year and has won five straight heading into this game. He’s now 33-15-14 on the year with a 2.65 goals against average and a .919 save percentage.

Across from him will be Andrei Vasilevskiy who took over the starting job from Ben Bishop after he was traded. It’s been up and down since then for the netminder who let in three goals on 37 shots against the Bruins and will need to be sharper against Toronto. He comes in with a 2.67 goals against average and a .919 save percentage and the matchup in net is about as tight as it can be.

Key Matchup

Auston Matthews against Nikita Kucherov. Matthews is just 20 years old and already carrying the expectations of a huge fan base on his shoulders. He’s had a spectacular season with 39 goals to break the record for most goals by an American rookie and leads all rookies in points this season. Still, he’ll likely need to do even more in his last three games to get his team into the playoffs and that means bettering Kucherov. The 23 year old Lightning player has morphed into a top ten forward in the league this season and is dangerous every time the puck hits his stick. We can’t wait.

Advice

Both teams are desperate but Toronto has the added advantage of playing at home. Their offense is unlikely to go cold in back to back games but we still think this one goes down to the wire. Take the Leafs on the moneyline in a close one.

Pick

Toronto
4
Tampa Bay
3
Pittsburgh Penguins (-1.5)
VS
New Jersey Devils (+1.5)
Total: 5.5 (-EVENo, -130u)

Moneyline

  • Pittsburgh (-190) at New Jersey (+160)

The Penguins have three games left to catch the Washington Capitals for first place in the Eastern Conference and the entire NHL and they need a little help to get there. Washington just needs one more win to clinch first place and while the results of their game against the Rangers aren’t available at the time of this writing Pittsburgh will still have a much easier game against the Devils on Thursday.

The Penguins roll into the meadowlands on the back of a three game win streak and are now 6-2-2 over their last ten games after struggling a bit earlier in the month. What’s most impressive about the Penguins in their ability to win games despite their injuries. As of this writing they’re missing Evgeni Malkin, Matt Cullen, Kris Letang, Chris Kunitz, Tom Sestito, Trevor Daley, Carl Hagelin, Olli Maatta and Bryan Rust. That is a shocking amount of very talented and very important NHL players and while most of them are expected back before the playoffs it certainly makes what the Penguins have been able to accomplish lately that much more impressive.

As for the Devils their season has been over for quite some time. New Jersey just snapped a six game losing streak with a 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers but still sit in dead last in the Eastern Conference with a 28-37-14 record and a 2-6-2 mark over their last ten games. They continue to have trouble scoring the puck and have managed just 1.7 goals a game over their last ten.

Key Matchup

Sidney Crosby against Cory Schneider. With Crosby missing teammates and Schneider getting no help from his there could be a lot of moments where the two square up against one another. Schneider has faced 40 or more shots seven times this season and will be under siege from Sid the Kid and the rest of the Penguins on Thursday night.

Advice

The Penguins are hurt bad right now but still have first place in their sights and get to take on the hapless Devils. Take Pittsburgh getting decent odds on the spread.

Pick

Pittsburgh
3
New Jersey
1
Winnipeg Jets (+1.5)
VS
Columbus Blue Jackets (-1.5)
Total: 5.5 (-115o, -115u)

Moneyline

  • Winnipeg (+160) at Columbus (-190)

The Jets had a dismal finish to their season but for a team riddled with injuries all year long they certainly made the most of it and showed flashes of some exciting signs ahead. As for Columbus, the Blue Jackets surprising everyone with one of the most dominant regular seasons in recent memory by a team who was barely expected to make the playoffs.

Columbus is sitting in third place in the Metropolitan Division and clinched a playoff spot more than a week ago. They’re coming off a 4-1 loss to the Penguins and have now dropped three straight games but it hardly matters for a team that can do no worse than third place in the division by the time the season ends. It’s impossible for them to catch up to Washington, but they can still hunt down Pittsburgh for the second place spot and we expect them to put in a better effort to snap out of their slide on Thursday night.

The Jackets haven’t been taken seriously by many people this year based on a lack of past success but that means nothing to this Columbus team who has proven doubters wrong all season. They’re just 4-4-2 over their last ten games though and have struggled to finish off the season the same way they started. That has bettors and fans worried but we’ve watched this team all season long and know they have the depth and coaching to get them out of their mini slump before the postseason.

Key Matchup

Patrik Laine against Sergei Bobrovsky. Patrik Laine has been nothing short of incredible for Winnipeg this season in his first year in the NHL and will likely be terrorizing opponents for years and years to come. He’s up to 64 points on the year and still has a few games left to try and catch Auston Matthews who sits in first place in rookie scoring with 67. At just 18 years old he’s racked up 64 points including 36 goals. He scored twice in his last outing and seems determined to try and catch up to Matthews for the league lead among rookies.

It won’t be easy against Bob the Goalie though. Bobrovsky is on his way to a Vezina Trophy but has struggled a bit over his last few games. The fatigue of a long season might finally be getting to him but we expect him to return to his regular form on Thursday night.

Advice

The Jackets are 28-11-1 at home this season and getting set to battle a Winnipeg team that is out of the playoffs. Still, the Jets have shown some serious life lately having won five straight games with a record of 8-2-0 over their last ten. It’s unfortunate this hot streak didn’t come a little sooner but we like the Jets to keep rolling against a struggling Columbus team. Take Winnipeg on the spread.

Pick

Winnipeg
4
Columbus
3
New York Islanders (+1.5)
VS
Carolina Hurricanes (-1.5)
Total: 5.5 (-115o, -115u)

Moneyline

  • New York (+110) at Carolina (-140)

The Islanders kept their playoff hopes alive with a huge 2-1 victory over the Predators in their last outing and are now tied with the Lightning at 88 points each. One more loss for the Islanders means the playoffs are out of reach and they’ll be playing with postseason desperation when they hit the ice in Raleigh on Thursday night.

The Islanders have won three straight games after a tough end to March and have done just enough to keep themselves in the hunt despite missing their captain and leading point scorer. John Tavares is likely done for the regular season with a lower body injury and while that makes what the Isles are trying to accomplish that much harder, it also gives them a sense of determination.

Without their captain, New York has had trouble scoring consistently but they’ve played excellent defense and have allowed just four goals during their three game winning streak. A lot of the credit has to be given to Jaroslav Halak who has come up from the minors to give some solid relief to Thomas Greiss in net but Greiss will get the nod on Thursday night. He’s given up just four goals over his last two starts but New York lost both those games and it’s time they rewarded him with some goals.

Key Matchup

Thomas Greiss against Jeff Skinner. Skinner did his best to get his Hurricanes into the postseason this year and leads the team with 61 points. He scored two goals and racked up an assist in his last game against the Wild and will now try and play spoiler against Greiss and the islanders. It’s been quite a few days since Greiss last saw the net and New York will have to hope he shakes off any rust before the puck drops on Thursday.

Advice

The Hurricanes have been incredible at home this season but nothing can top the desperation of a do or die game. New York still needs Toronto to lose in order to stay alive but they’ll only be worrying about themselves on Thursday night. Take New York on the spread.

Pick

New York
4
Carolina
2
Ottawa Senators (n/a)
VS
Boston Bruins (n/a)
Total: N/A

Moneyline

  • Ottawa (n/a) at Boston (n/a)

The Senators have yet to clinch a playoff spit despite being tied with the Bruins in points at 94. That’s simply because Ottawa doesn’t hold the tiebreaker against Boston or Toronto and will need to grab just one more point in order to lock up a spot in the postseason. Ottawa is coming off a 2-0 win over Detroit but has looked incredibly shaky during their recent stretch of play. Over their last ten games the Senators have gone just 3-4-3 and are trying to hold off the Leafs and Lightning as both teams try and crawl into the postseason.

As for the Bruins, there’s hardly a hotter team in the NHL. Boston has won six straight games and are now 6-4-0 after going on a four game losing streak prior to getting hot. They’ve locked up a playoff spot and are now just trying to hold off the Leafs and catch the Senators for the second spot in the Atlantic. Neither team wants to finish as the final Wild Card team because then a likely date with the Washington Capitals looms.

The Bruins have used a combination of offense and strong goaltending to go on their hot streak and have outscored their opponents 20-6 during their six game winning streak but trouble could be on the horizon. Brad Marchand has had a tremendous year for the Bruins but may be suspended for his next game thanks to a spear against the Lightning in his last outing. He’s up to 85 points in just 80 games to sit among the league leaders so be sure to check in on his status before the opening faceoff.

Key Matchup

Tuukka Rask against Craig Anderson. Raks was brilliant in his last game against a desperate Lightning team when he stopped all 28 shots he faced to grab the shutout. He’s now won four straight games and given up two goals or less in every single one. He has a 37-20-4 record with a 2.27 goals against average and a .914 save percentage. This is a big game for the Bruins so we expect Rask to be in net and on his best behavior on Thursday night.

Opposite him will be Anderson who came up clutch in what felt like a must win for Ottawa in his last game with a shutout against the Red wings. Now both goalie have both not let in a goal since two games prior and will be eager to continue their scoreless streak.

Advice

The Bruins are rolling and even without Marchand they still have enough of a veteran presence and skill up front to beat an injured and struggling Ottawa team at home. Take Boston on the spread.

Pick

Boston
4
Ottawa
2
St. Louis Blues (+1.5)
VS
Florida Panthers (-1.5)
Total: 5.5 (-125o, -105u)

Moneyline

  • St. Louis (+135) at Florida (-165)

The Blues may have already clinches a playoff spot but they’re still in an epic battle when it comes to seeding for the postseason. St. Louis is just one point ahead of Nashville with three games left on their schedule. While they have a game in hand against the Predators, they still want to ensure they don’t finish in a Wild Card spot after all the hard work they’ve put in.

St. Louis is coming off a loss against the red-hot Winnipeg Jets but are still one of the best teams in hockey right now with a 7-2-1 record over their last ten games. They’ve been decent on the road with a 20-17-2 record and will need to improve that when they take on the Panthers on Thursday night. The Blues had real problems on their defensive end, especially in net all season long but have seemed to turn it around thanks to the strong play of Jake Allen.

Allen was lit up by the Jets for five goals in his last outing but has been strong leading up to that game. It was just the first time in four games that he’s given up more than one goal and we fully expect him to be ready to rebound against the Panthers. Florida’s goalie situation had been fine all season long until Roberto Luongo went down with injury. James Reimer couldn’t pick up the slack and the defense couldn’t help him out and that’s ultimately why the Panthers are on the outside of the playoffs looking in.

Key Matchup

Valdimir Tarsenko against Jonathan Huberdeau. Tarasenko hasn’t been talked about as much as usual this season thanks to a slightly lower point total than some of the other big names but he’s still turn in a dominant year. He has 70 points to lead his team with the next closest skater coming in at 52 and is the engine that drives this Blues’ offense. He has three goals over his last five games but will be up against another energetic skater on Thursday night. Huberdeau missed most of the start of the season with an achilles injury but has looked spry with 23 points in the 28 games he’s played. He’s been held off the scoresheet in four straight though and will need to bust out in a hurry if he the Panthers want to give their fans a win at home.

Advice

The Blues haven’t been incredible on the road this season and lost 2-1 to the Panthers in their last matchup. We expect Florida to give their fans something to cheer about at home in one of their final games of the season so take the Panthers on the spread.

Pick

Florida
4
St. Louis
3
Nashville Predators (-1.5)
VS
Dallas Stars (+1.5)
Total: 5.5 (-115o, -115u)

Moneyline

  • Nashville (-135) at Dallas (+105)

The Predators are trying to chase down those Blues we just mentioned but considering they’re playing on the road it may be easier said than done. Nashville has been a dominant home team all season long but they’ve struggled once they’ve left the comfy confines of their arena. Nashville actually has a losing record on the road at just 16-19-4 and they’re coming off an overtime loss against the Islanders.

The Preds have luckily already clinched a playoff spot thanks to the collapse the LA Kings experienced down the stretch but they’ll need to start playing some better hockey if they want to finish the season strong and that may not come easy in the lone star state. Dallas is 21-12-6 at home this season and if wasn’t for their inability to win on the road they’d be flying into the playoffs.

Now the Stars are just playing for pride with only two games left on their schedule and they would love to knock the Predators down a peg with a win at home. Dallas is playing with a pretty substantial amount of injuries however, and they may put a pretty banged up team on the ice. With six key players all questionable to give it a go on Thursday the Predators might just be able to add to their lowly win total on the road.

Key Matchup

Filip Forsberg against Tyler Seguin. Forsberg has been one of the most inconsistent scorers this season, but still one of the most dangerous. He’s up to 31 goals on the year but has just two over his last five games and hasn’t found the back of the net in two straight. That’s hardly a slump, but with Forsberg it could quickly turn into one. Now he’s up against one of the most dynamic forward in hockey in Tyler Seguin and we’re pumped up to see who comes out on top.

Advice

Teams who struggle all year on the road don’t tend to figure it out at the last minute and the Predators are going to be no exception. Take the Stars on the spread playing in their second last game of the season at home.

Pick

Dallas
5
Nashville
2
Minnesota Wild (-1.5)
VS
Colorado Avalanche (+1.5)
Total: 5.5 (-125o, -105u)

Moneyline

  • Minnesota (-190) at Colorado (+160)

The Wild threw away any chance of finishing in first in the Western Conference weeks ago and since then have just tried to crawl back to respectability. They’ve won two straight games after an impressive 5-3 win over the Hurricanes and are hopefully ready to turn the corner and improve on their 4-4-2 record over their last ten games. After leading the West for the majority of the season the Wild are now a full six points behind the Blackhawks with just two games left to play.

They are now locked into the second seed and with only two games remaining you may see them start to rest some of their players, especially against a team as dismal as the Avalanche. Colorado’s struggles have been well documented this year but it’s always incredible to go over just how bad they’ve been. They are just 22-54-3 on the year and a full 21 points behind the Coyotes. Their goal differential is all the way down to -109 on the season but they’re coming off arguably their biggest win of the season after edging the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3.

Now Colorado gets to take on the struggling Wild at home and it wouldn’t be totally insane if the Avalanche pull off another win. Colorado scored four unanswered goals in that game to come back and steal the win from Chicago and it may have lit a fire under them to win a couple more before the season is all said and done.

Key Matchup

Matt Duchene against Devan Dubnyk. It’s been a tough year for Duchene who has just 40 points over 74 games despite being supposedly one of the best young players in hockey. He had limited help around him but was huge against the Blackhawks in the comeback win with a goal and two assists. Now he’ll turn his attention to Dubnyk in net who has struggled mightily for almost a month now. Anyone can win this battle on Thursday night.

Advice

The odds for Colorado are amazing again and sprinkling a few bucks on the Avalanche to pull out a win doesn’t seem as insane as it did a few days ago. Take the Avs on the spread and hope Duchene stays hot.

Pick

Colorado
3
Minnesota
1
Chicago Blackhawks (+1.5)
VS
Anaheim Ducks (-1.5)
Total: 5.5 (+110o, -140u)

Moneyline

  • Chicago (EVEN) at Anaheim (-130)

The Blackhawks are coming off one of their strangest games of the season after they gave up a 3-0 lead against the worst team in the league. They watched as the Avalanche scored four unanswered goals to beat them in overtime and now the Blackhawks will need to try and regroup to take on a Ducks team that is scalding hot.

Anaheim is 7-0-3 over their last ten games and have won back to back contests after handling the Flames 3-1 in a very physical contest. They racked up the penalty minutes and the goals and will be itching to keep their momentum going against the top seeded team in the West. The Ducks are 27-8-4 at home this season and will welcome a suddenly struggling Chicago team into their building on Thursday night.

The Blackhawks are just 5-2-3 over their last ten games and have had trouble keeping the puck out of their own net lately. Chicago has given up seven goals over their last two games and will need a little better goaltending with the season winding down. It’s tough to stay focused when you’ve already locked up the number one seed in your conference but the last thing Chicago wants to do is head into the playoffs in a rut.

Key Matchup

Corey Crawford against Ryan Getzlaf. Crawford got the night off after struggling against the Blues when he stopped just 26 of 29 shots and he’ll need to recapture his form before the season ends. That could be harder than he thinks against the surging Ducks and Getzlaf. Anaheim’s captain is up to 69 points on the year and has even over his last five games. He has just one goal during that span as he’s focused more on setting up his teammates and as long as that keeps the offense rolling the Ducks will be just fine.

Advice

Chicago is struggling to stop anyone and Anaheim has suddenly found their offensive touch. Take the Ducks on the spread at home and hope Getzlaf and the rest of his teammates keep up their strong play at home.

Pick

Anaheim
4
Chicago
1
Vancouver Canucks (n/a)
VS
Arizona Coyotes (n/a)
Total: 5 (-135o, +105u)

Moneyline

  • Vancouver (-125) at Arizona (-105)

Neither of these teams have anything to play for other than pride when the puck drops in the desert on Thursday night but pride can be a big enough motivator, especially for young players who are being given their first opportunity in the NHL with both the Canucks and Coyotes eliminated from playoff contention a long time ago the two teams have started calling up some prospects in order to get their feet wet on the big stage and that can often make for some pretty exciting hockey.

The Canucks enter Arizona with a brutal 2-8-0 record over their last ten games and have lost five straight after losing to the struggling San Jose Sharks 3-1 in their last outing. Vancouver continues to face the same problem they’ve had all year: scoring the puck. The Canucks rank 29th in goals per game in front of only Colorado at a dismal 2.22 a night. During their five game losing streak they’ve racked up just four goals for an average of 0.8 a game and as the injuries pile up and the stars get shut down for the season it’s going to be a lot more of the same for their remaining games.

The Coyotes aren’t faring much better. Arizona is just 3-6-1 over their last ten games and are coming off a loss in overtime to the Dallas Stars. They’ve been a scrappier team than their record suggests recently but still lack the depth or experience to close out important games. They still have some great young players like Max Domi and Oliver Ekman-Larsson to carry them into the future but until they get more help they’re going to continue to struggle in the desert.

Key Matchup

Mike Smith against Ryan Miller. Two veteran goalies will try and provide some stability and leadership to their teams as they struggle down the stretch. Miller has lost five straight games despite allowing more than two goals just twice during that span. He has a 18-27-6 record on the season despite some decent save percentage numbers and its truly a reflection of just how bad the Canucks have been at giving him goal support this year. Opposite him is Smith who is in a similar boat. Arizona’s goalie allowed three goals on 31 shots in his last outing and has now lost seven of his last eight games despite racking up some decent save percentage numbers as well.

Advice

Losing streaks are common, especially for teams who are struggling and already out of the playoffs but they need to end eventually and we expect Vancouver to snap out of theirs on the road in Arizona. Take the Canucks on the spread getting decent odds.

Pick

Vancouver
3
Arizona
2
Edmonton Oilers (+1.5)
VS
San Jose Sharks (-1.5)
Total: 5 (-115o, -115u)

Moneyline

  • Edmonton (+105) at San Jose (-135)

The Oilers and Sharks are tied at 97 points each with Edmonton currently holding the tie break and having a game in hand. Both teams are set to make the playoffs but still technically have a shot at catching the Ducks for first place in the division. The Oilers are coming off a tough 6-4 loss against a suddenly offensive Kings team but are still playing some of their best hockey of the season lately and own an 8-2-0 record over their last ten games.

San Jose on the other hand are just starting to break out of their slump. Despite a brutal 3-7-0 mark over their last ten games they’ve won two straight after making easy work of the Canucks and will now wait at home to try and leapfrog past their division rivals. San Jose is an excellent 25-10-4 in the Shark Tank this season but Edmonton knows how to play on the road. The Oilers come in with a 20-14-5 record away from home this season and are playing with a new level of confidence since clinching their first playoff berth in over 10 years.

The Oilers’ offense has been well documented this season thanks to one man in particular but their defense has been playing well as of late. During their five game win streak prior to losing to LA, Edmonton had given up just 10 goals for an average of 2.00 a night thanks in large put to their goaltending. Cam Talbot was lit up by the Kings in his last outing but has otherwise been rock solid for the Oilers down the stretch and will try and recapture his form Thursday in San Jose.

Key Matchup

Connor McDavid against Brent Burns. McDavid has all but locked up the scoring race with just two or three games remaining for most teams but that doesn’t mean he won’t try to improve his numbers. He currently leads all scorers with 95 with the next closest at 88 (Patrick Kane). He’s been on absolute fire lately with 20 points during an 11 game point streak and will try and see if he can get to 100 with three games left. That means going up against Burns who will love to take on the challenge of slowing down number 97 while trying to rack up some more points of his own.

Advice

The Sharks seem to be over their struggles and have been brilliant at home this year. While McDavid may still get his points, we picture the Sharks getting the win. Take San Jose on the spread.

Pick

San Jose
4
Edmonton
2
Calgary Flames (+1.5)
VS
LA Kings (-1.5)
Total: 5 (-120o, -110u)

Moneyline

  • Calgary (+110) at LA (-140)

Our last game of the night might be one of our best despite the Kings already being eliminated from the playoffs. It got extra chippy the last time these two teams met and with Calgary playoff bound the Kings might try to send them off with a few extra bruises before the rough stuff really begins.

LA threw away their chances at making the playoffs thanks to a lack of scoring down the stretch but they certainly found the back of the net a few times in their last outing. They piled six goals on the Oilers in a big win and will try to recreate that magic when Calgary comes to town.

It won’t be easy against the Flames who morphed into one of the best teams in the Western Conference during the second half of the season. Calgary is fighting with Nashville for the first Wild Card spot and currently holds the lead thanks to the tiebreaker with two games left for each club. The team that finishes with the worst record has the misfortune of playing Chicago in the first round and you can bet the Flames will have that in the back of their mind when they take the ice in LA on Thursday night. Calgary is just 5-5-0 over their last ten games and want to finish strong over their final two contests which means a win in LA to start.

Key Matchup

Jarome Iginla against Keith Tkachuk. Tkachuk is the Flames’ skilled but should we say “talkative” rookie. He loves to chirp on the ice and got himself in trouble with an illegal hit on Drew Doughty earlier in the year. Iginla loves to mix it up despite being 39 years old and we wouldn’t be surprised to see him lay some more big hits on the rookie.

Advice

Take Calgary on the spread as they gear up and get ready for a big playoff run. It won’t be easy against a team that desperately wants to beat the, but the Flames better get used to it in a hurry considering that’s exactly what the playoffs will be like every single game.

Pick

Calgary
4
LA
1
MONEYLINE
DECIMAL
FRACTIONAL
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