We’ve got 13 NHL games on the slate tonight, and there are some great matchups out there. Here are the picks I am rolling with.
Season Record: 18-13
Tail or fade with caution!
Panthers @ Blue Jackets
Pick: Blue Jackets ML (-115)
I went with the Blue Jackets on Tuesday in this matchup, and it was looking good until three seconds to go in the 3rd period. The Jackets were up 3-2 and on the brink of victory when Patric Hornqvist tied the game up and sent it to OT. Neither team scored in OT, and the Panthers won in a shootout. It was an extremely tough loss for Columbus, but I think they can get their revenge tonight. The Blue Jackets have dominated the Panthers at home, winning 14 of the last 17 meetings in Columbus. They played well on Tuesday, but just couldn’t close it out. Given that Columbus is very good at home in this series, I don’t think they will lose back-to-back games on their home ice. I think they come out motivated and ready to hand the Panthers their first loss of the season. Newly acquired Jack Roslovic will be making his debut for Columbus, and I think he will help out an abysmal power play that is 30th in the league (5.3%). It was also a good sign to see Cam Atkinson score his first goal of the season on Tuesday, and hopefully that gets him headed in the right direction. The Jackets have recorded points in five straight games, but they have just two wins. I think they pick up two points with a win tonight.
Islanders @ Capitals
Pick: Islanders ML (-135)
I also took the Islanders on Tuesday, and they were tied 2-2 with Washington late into the 3rd when Justin Schultz scored the game winning goal for the Caps with just 27 seconds to go. Much like the Blue Jackets, the Islanders put together a strong effort but just couldn’t come out on top. However, I think the will get it done tonight. The Isles have now lost back-to-back games, and I think their sense of urgency will be high. This is also a very winnable game as the Caps will be without Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Dmitry Orlov yet again. In addition, Nicklas Backstrom and Lars Eller both left Tuesday’s game with apparent head injuries. The Islanders need to make sure they take advantage of such a short-handed Washington roster. Semyon Varlamov suffered his first loss of the season in the previous matchup, but he still stopped 34 of 37 shots and still holds a .966 SV% this season. New York has been great on the PK (84.2%), and they did a fabulous job of killing off a five-minute power play late in the third period to keep the game tied. Their defense and goaltending have been great, it is their offense that has been suffering. They are scoring just 1.83 GPG (30th in the league), and after getting shutout by the Devils and held to two goals against rookie Vitek Vanecek, head coach Barry Trotz stated that a “shakeup” is coming to help find a spark in the offense. I think whatever Trotz has in mind is going to work, and I think we see a better offensive output tonight for New York. I’m taking them to pick up the win.
Flyers @ Devils
Pick: Over 5.5 (-130)
Both of these teams are giving up a ton of shots. In fact, they both are in the bottom three of the league in terms of shots allowed per game. Philadelphia is giving up 34.1 shots per game to their opponents, which is third-to-last in the league, and New Jersey is giving up 34.8 shots per game, which is second-to-last in the league. I think the chances will be there for both teams. With so many chances at bay, there is a good chance we see some goals in this one. Philadelphia has scored 25 goals on the season, and their 3.57 goals per game is 7th in the league. Jakub Voracek, Kevin Hayes, and Travis Konecny all have eight points apiece through seven games, and Philly is in the top 10 in power-play conversions (32.4%). Conversely, they are third-to-last in the league at killing penalties (65.5%), and they are giving up 3.43 goals per game, which is 8th-most. This combination has led them to play a lot of high-scoring games so far, as the Over is 6-1 in their games. Goalie Carter Hart has not been playing up to the level he needs to be, as his 4.18 GAA and .880 SV% is less than ideal. I think he will be better in this one, but overall, the total chances for both teams can lead this total to go Over. In matchups between these two teams, the Over is 5-1 in the last six games played in New Jersey. I think that trend will continue on Thursday night.
Red Wings @ Stars
Pick: Under 5.5 (-140)
On Tuesday, these two teams played a 2-1 game that needed overtime to find the third goal. Neither offense could get anything going, and the game saw a limited number of shots. Dallas had 22 and Detroit had 21. Through seven games, the Wings have scored two goals or less five times, and they are managing just 25.4 shots per game, which is 28th in the league. They have not been able to find consistent offensive production, and that might be a theme for them all season. Dallas goaltender Anton Khudobin is off to a 3-0 start with a 0.99 GAA and .958 SV%, but he will not be in net as rookie Jake Oettinger will get his first career NHL start. The Wings might be the most ideal team to play your first NHL game against, the I think with the rookie in goal, the Stars will focus on their defensive efforts. Dallas already has a defensive-minded approach, as they are allowing 24 shots per game so far, which is fourth-best in the league. Offensively, through three games Dallas has managed just 24 shots per game. They erupted for seven goals in their season opener, but have since come back down to Earth with three and two goals in their last two games respectively. I think Detroit knows their chances of winning a high-scoring game against Dallas are low, so I think they will prioritize limiting Dallas’ chances. I think we see another low-scoring affair here with the total staying Under 5.5.
Rangers @ Sabres
Pick: Rangers ML (-105)
I like the Rangers here. This is a team that has lost four games in a row, but all four have been by one goal. They have been right on the cusp of the win column, and after four tough losses like that, I think their sense of urgency will be high. The Rangers are one of the more interesting teams in the league, and I think they have a ton of talent. Mika Zibanejad had an incredible 41 goals in 57 games last season, and he has just one goal and one assist through six games this season. It is only a matter of time until he is on the scoresheet more often. Chris Kreider is another guy they rely on, and he has just two points through six games. Kaapo Kakko also has just two points, and No. 1 overall pick Alexis Lafreniere has yet to record a point. This team is bound to find a groove here soon, and I’m betting on it being tonight. Goaltender Igor Shesterkin is not off to the start anyone was expecting, as he has yet to record a win and has a less-than-stellar .886 SV%. After going 10-2-0 with a 2.52 GAA and .932 SV% in 12 starts last season, the talent and potential is there, it just has not come to fruition yet in 2021. The Rangers have won 20 of the last 28 meetings against the Sabres, and eight of the last 11 in Buffalo. I’m taking the Rangers to put an end to their losing streak tonight.
Maple Leafs @ Oilers
Picks: Maple Leafs ML (-130), Maple Leafs Puck Line -1.5 (+180), and Over 6.5 (+100)
The rare triple pick! Never done this before for an NHL game, but I think it makes sense here. I think we see a high-scoring game with the Leafs winning by two or more, perhaps on an empty-netter late. The Oilers are 1-3 at home this season, and all three losses have been by two or more goals. The Leafs are hot, winners of three in a row, and Mitch Marner is tied for the league lead in points with 12. He is leading a Maple Leafs team that is scoring 3.25 goals per game and who are deadly on the power play, scoring on 41.7% of their opportunities, which is 2nd in the league. Their high-flying offense is setup nicely here against an Edmonton team that is allowing 3.63 goals per game (26th) and 33.9 shots per game (27th). Not only that, but the Oilers will be starting Mikko Koskinen again in goal, and this will be his ninth consecutive start. You have to figure fatigue will set in at some point. Not only do I think Koskinen will be a bit tired, but he has been fairly inconsistent this season, and in his ninth straight start against an offense like Toronto’s, I think it will be a long night for him. Edmonton can score too, however, as Connor McDavid gave us another highlight reel goal on Tuesday, and Leon Draisaitl continues to fill the stat sheet as well. Frederick Andersen is posting a SV% below .900, and although he held Edmonton to two goals apiece in their first two meetings, I think this Edmonton offense is just too good to hold in check for three straight games. Given the offensive firepower on both sides, I think this one goes Over. As good as Edmonton’s offense is, I just think fatigue will set in and Koskinen won’t be able to keep the puck out of his own net enough. Leafs ML and Puck Line.
There ya have it! Eight picks today featuring the rare triple pick. Tail or fade with caution!
Best of luck. Cheers.
Title Photo: marner_93 on Instagram