The NHL schedule this week is a little funky with 13 games on Tuesday, two on Wednesday, 14 on Thursday, just one on Friday, and 12 on Saturday. I am going to post picks for today, Thursday, and Saturday when the most action is happening, so be sure to follow along! Here is what I am rolling with tonight.
Season Record: 15-9
Tail or fade with caution!
Panthers @ Blue Jackets
Pick: Blue Jackets ML (-115)
The Blue Jackets will be at home in this one where they have won 14 of their last 16 matchups against the Panthers. They are also coming off a very impressive 5-2 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. The Panthers have not played in a week, as their two games against the Hurricanes were postponed due to covid. They have only played two games on the season and took down the Blackhawks 5-2 and 5-4 in OT. Their offense looked great, scoring five goals in each game, but I think the Jackets defense can give them more problems than the Blackhawks did. Seth Jones and Zach Werenski lead a tremendous blue line for Columbus, and netminder Joonas Korpisalo is posting a solid .935 SV% through three starts this season. He has only picked up one win in those three starts, but I think he can get it done here. Columbus will also be in a more upbeat mood after shipping Pierre-Luc Dubois out of town in exchange for Patrick Laine and hometown kid Jack Roslovic (Go Redhawks). They will not be playing in this game, but I have to think that the atmosphere is a little better now that deal is done. There were not a whole lot of positive vibes with the PLD drama, and now Columbus can move on with their current squad. I think they get a win over the Panthers here.
Islanders @ Capitals
Picks: Islanders ML (-135) and Under 5.5 (-135)
The Islanders had been playing great hockey up until Sunday afternoon when they lost in disappointing 2-0 fashion to the Devils. I think they can bounce back here. This will be the third game the Caps are playing without Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov and Ilya Samsonov, as they are out due to covid protocols. That leaves them without a main core of their personnel on both ends of the ice. In addition, Tom Wilson left Friday’s game with a lower body injury and did not play in their game on Sunday. His status for Tuesday nights game is unknown, but with it being so early in the season, there is reason to think the Caps will err on the side of caution. The Islanders are a great defensive team, and although they lost to the Devils in their last outing, they still only allowed two goals and are still a team that is only allowing 1.60 goals and 27 shots per game. I expect them to want to move past that disappointing effort against New Jersey with a win here on the road.
If the Islanders are going to win, I figure it’ll be a lower-scoring game. The Under is 5-0 in Isles games so far this season, and not only is that due to their defensive approach, but because they are only scoring 1.8 goals per game, which is last in the league. Good thing they have Semyon Varlamov in net posting a 3-0 record with a .988 SV% and 0.33 GAA. For Washington, they will have youngster Vitek Vanecek in goal, who has been impressive so far. He has a .921 SV% in four starts and is coming off a 45-save effort against the Sabres. I think his confidence will be high. Both of these teams average under 28 shots a game, and I think chances will be somewhat limited. Add in the Islanders strong defense, Ovechkin and Kuznetsov not playing, and two goaltenders playing well and I see this one staying Under.
Penguins @ Bruins
Pick: Over 5.5 (-120)
The Bruins have no doubt figured things out offensively after a shaky start. Through three games, Boston had scored just four goals and none of them came at even strength. However, in their last two games they have scored 11 times and are clicking on all cylinders. Their power play is hitting at 35.3% which is 5th in the league, and they are getting the production they need from their stars. Through five games, Brad Marchand has seven points (3G, 4A) and Patrice Bergeron has six (3G, 3A). On the other side, Pittsburgh is also getting the production they need from their top guys as well. Sidney Crosby has seven points (3G, 4A), and winger Bryan Rust is on a five-game point streak. Evgeni Malkin may be off to a slow start, (1G, 1A) but it is only a matter of time until he is a main contributor. The Penguins power play is also top-ten in the league coming in at No. 9 and scoring 27.8% of the time. I think both offenses have the firepower to give us a high-scoring game. In addition, both Tristan Jarry and Tuuka Rask have save percentages under .900 this season. Give me the Over.
Red Wings @ Stars
Pick: Stars Puck Line -1.5 (+135)
After their delayed start to the season, the Stars have looked very sharp with two wins over the Predators 7-0 and 3-2. Their power play was great in those two games, operating at 66.7%. That may not be sustainable, but the Red Wings PK is operating at 72.2% which is 24th in the league. I feel like the Stars will be able to take advantage of that. The Wings are coming off two straight road losses to the Blackhawks, who they will most likely be fighting with to avoid last place in the division. The Hawks outscored the Wings 10-3 in those two games, and the Stars have the offense to light the lamp a lot as well. The Wings offense is only generating 26.2 shots per game, which is 26th in the league. Their offense just hasn’t been consistent much so far this season, and with Anton Khudobin in net posting a .961 SV%, chances may be limited for Detroit. I’m taking the Stars Puck Line here.
Maple Leafs @ Flames
Pick: Maple Leafs ML (-115)
The Leafs were able to beat Calgary on Sunday 3-2, but it was not a pretty game for them. Toronto gave up 33 shots and all three of their goals came off of extremely lucky bounces in front of the net. Auston Matthews and head coach Sheldon Keefe both stated in post-game interviews that they were not proud of their performance and that they are capable of playing a lot better. I think they will come out with the right mentality to put together an all-around solid game tonight. One thing that puts them in a good spot is their dominance in the faceoff circle. They have won 57.3% of their faceoffs this season, which is second in the league. Calgary sits all the way down at 24th with 46.3%. I think the Leafs will use that to gain control of the puck and generate more chances after a less than stellar outing on Friday.
Oilers @ Jets
Pick: Jets ML (-105)
The Oilers absolutely stole a game from the Jets on Sunday night, winning 4-3 with a buzzer-beating goal from Leon Draisaitl. The Jets were up 3-2 with under four minutes to go before Edmonton came up with the last-second victory. I think Winnipeg will come out with a bit of a chip on their shoulder tonight. They will also have reigning Vezina Trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck back in net, which gives them the advantage in goaltending. The Oilers have gotten spotty goaltending from Mikko Koskinen, and he has started all seven games. Hellebuyck is fully rested, as he had the last two games off, and I think he will be at his best tonight. The Oilers are just 3-7 in their last 10 games against the Jets, and after stealing a win in their last matchup, I think the Jets get their revenge tonight. Edmonton has also struggled to win back-to-back games, as they are 0-6 in their last six games following a win. Give me the Jets ML with Hellebuyck leading the way.
Best of luck. Cheers.
Title Photo: TheHockeyWriters.com