There are 12 NHL games on this fine Saturday, and I’ve got some picks ready to roll. Here is what I am going with.
Season Record: 22-17
Tail or fade with caution!
Devils @ Sabres
Pick: Over 5.5 (-120)
The New Jersey Devils have lost three of four, and they are coming off a 3-1 loss to the Flyers on Thursday. The Devils may have fallen short on the scoreboard, but their chances were there. New Jersey doubled Philadelphia’s shot total 34-17, but Carter Hart put together a strong performance in net, stopping 33 of those 34 shots. I think the Devils can build off of that performance. Their first line gave the Flyers all they could handle, but the Devils just couldn’t break through. Kyle Palmieri has not scored so far this season, but he put six shots on net on Thursday and is generating chances at a higher clip. After scoring at least 24 goals in the last five seasons, it won’t be long until Palmieri lights the lamp again. The youngster Jack Hughes is off to a hot start with seven points (3G, 4A) in seven games, but he has been left off the score sheet in back-to-back games now, and has just one point in his last four. I think Hughes, Palmieri, and the New Jersey offense will generate some quality chances in this one. Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark was the main reason his team was able to pick up a point on Thursday, as he played excellent and stopped 35 of 38 shots. If he starts again, it will be his fifth start in a row, and I don’t know how energized he will be after how busy he was on Thursday. Backups Carter Hutton and Jonas Johansson both save percentages under .900, and with a Devils offense starting to generate more chances, I think New Jersey has a fine offensive day. For Buffalo, they are in the top-10 in power play conversations, striking 30% of the time, while New Jersey is second-to-last in the league in killing penalties (68%). Jack Eichel, Taylor Hall, and Sam Reinhart should give the Devils problems all game, and after a subpar outing on Thursday, I think Buffalo bounces back offensively. I’ll take the Over.
Penguins @ Rangers
Pick: Penguins ML (-110)
These two teams are coming off of two very different outings the last time we saw them on the ice. The Rangers won on the road in Buffalo in thrilling fashion as No. 1 overall pick Alexis Lafreniere scored his first NHL goal for the win in overtime. It was a moment that organization was waiting for ever since they drafted him, and it was awesome. On the other side, the Penguins lost 4-1 to the Bruins and generated just 17 shots on goal. The offense could not muster up much of anything, and it was a long night for Pittsburgh. That puts us in the predicament of rolling with the younger team who has momentum, or taking the more experienced team who we think will bounce back. I’m going to go with the veterans. New York’s win on Thursday was great, but they are still a young team figuring out how to play together on the ice. Pittsburgh’s roster is more experienced and I think after losing back-to-back games in Beantown, they will come out firing. The Rangers have scored three goals or less in six of their seven games, and the Penguins are a solid defensive team that is allowing just 26.5 shots per game, good for 7th in the league. The Penguins have yet to win on the road game this season, but I think they get it done here.
Canucks @ Jets
Pick: Jets ML (-125)
After a 2-5 start, the Canucks enjoyed three straight game against the Senators, beating them 7-1, 5-1, and 4-1. Ottawa is 1-6-1 thus far and figures to be at the bottom of the division all year, so Vancouver routing them three teams in a row was not too much of s surprise. But now, they head over to Winnipeg to face a Jets team that is 13-3 in their last 16 as a home favorite. Connor Hellebuyck is one of the best goaltenders out there and he has won three games in a row. His .906 SV% is solid but not indicative of what he is capable of, and after giving up four goals on 26 shots in his last outing, I think he will come back strong in this one. The Winnipeg offense is also off to a strong start, as their 4.0 goals per game is third in the league. Nikolaj Ehlers, Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, Andrew Copp, and Blake Wheeler are all producing over a point per game thus far, and the Jets are seventh in the league with 32.6 shots per game. I think their top guys will be able to put pressure on the Canucks, while Hellebuyck holds strong in net. The Canucks are 1-3 on the road this year, while the Jets are 3-1 at home. In addition, the Canucks have won just once in Winnipeg in their last 11 meetings with the Jets. I’m taking the home team.
Panthers @ Red Wings
Pick: Panthers ML (-170) and Panthers Puck Line -1.5 (+145)
The Panthers are one of just four teams that have yet to lose in regulation, as they are 3-0-1 on the season. They are coming off a shootout loss to the Blue Jackets after picking up a shootout win against them the game before. I like them to pick up a win here against the Red Wings, and I am taking them on the ML and Puck Line. The Panthers have been very good against the Wings recently, winning six in a row against them. They have also been good playing Detroit in Detroit, as they have won six of their last seven when visiting the Motor City. Their offensive ability has been on full display so far, as their 33 shots per game is sixth-best in the league, and their 3.75 goals per game is fifth-best. The Wings are on the opposite side of the rankings with just 25.1 shots per game (29th) and 2.0 goals per game (30th). After their decent 2-2 start, things have quickly fallen by the wayside with four straight losses. Detroit’s -13 goal differential is second-worst in the league (Ottawa) and I just think Florida’s offense will be too much in this game. Panthers ML and PL.
Stars @ Hurricanes
Pick: Hurricanes ML (-125)
Both of these teams have played just four games apiece, but both are off to great starts. Dallas comes in at 4-0, while Carolina is 3-1-0. I like Carolina here for a couple reasons. After playing all four games at home, this will be Dallas’ first road game of the season. Given the nature of this season, that could have an effect on preparing for the game. The Stars power play has been lethal so far, scoring on 10 of their 19 chances, but that 52.6% conversion rate is not sustainable. The Hurricanes possess a very good penalty kill (91.7%) that is second-best in the league. Again, they are just four games in, but I think they have what it takes to slow the Stars power play unit down. Not only that, but Carolina is the fourth-least penalized team so far, and I think they will take that disciplined approach into this game so that they don’t have to use their PK unit as much. The Stars have been a bit reliant on their power play, and forcing them to play at even strength could benefit the Canes. Petr Mrazek has been great in goal (2-1, 1.01 GAA, .955 SV%) and has already posted two shutouts. While Anton Khudobin has also been fantastic (3-0, 0.99 GAA, .958 SV%), I think Mrazek makes one or two key saves that leads the Canes to victory. I’ll take Carolina at home here.
Best of luck. Cheers.
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