Monday picks: Avalanche and Flames look to keep racking up points
There are no days off for the NHL, with six games coming on Monday night. The red-hot Avalanche and Flames take to the ice in hopes to keep racking up points. The Flames are currently on a nine-game point streak, while Colorado recently just pushed its winning streak to nine games. Both teams are playing excellent hockey, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Since their recent point streaks, both teams have lunged into playoff position, with Calgary currently placed second in the Pacific Division, and Colorado holding onto the second Wild Card spot. Both teams are racking up points at absurd rates, but now the question of “when will it end?” begins to linger.
Maple Leafs vs. Avalanche
Pick: Maple Leafs
The Avalanche will be in unfamiliar territory for the next two weeks as its next six games will all come on the road. During Colorado’s recent winning streak, only one of the games came on the road, and it was after a six-day break. The Avs will be coming into Toronto on just a one-day break. In what will be unfamiliar territory for the Avalanche, I expect them to struggle a little bit.
At home this season, Toronto has been very solid with a 13-7-2 record so far, giving them an advantage over the Avalanche, who have struggled on the road this season. In its 19 road games, the Avs are 8-9-2.
Tale of the tape: Matthews vs. MacKinnon
Auston Matthews and Nathan MacKinnon are two of the NHL’s best young stars. With the help of his recent stretch of play, MacKinnon has taken the NHL by storm. His 59 points are ranked second highest among the entire NHL. MacKinnon is the catalyst for a Colorado team that has found new life at the midpoint of the season.
Just like MacKinnon, Matthews is a young star leading the charge for a team that should be competitive for the next few years.
Matthews is more of a pure scorer than MacKinnon, but so far, MacKinnon has blown Matthews out of the water in every statistical category except one. Matthews has a plus-minus rating of +15, while MacKinnon’s sits at just +10. MacKinnon has seen his rating make a steady rise on this miraculous run, but Matthews has been reasonably consistent all season long.
Both of these players are playing at high levels this season, but MacKinnon has been on a roll so far. MacKinnon is racking up points at an alarming rate and is creeping up on Nikita Kucherov for the NHL lead.
Despite the significant scoring disparity between Matthews and MacKinnon, the offenses for both teams are relatively similar. The Maple Leafs are scoring 3.1 goals per game this season, and that is only 0.21 less than the Avs. At the same time, the power plays even at 20.9 percent.
Will the Avalanche keep racking up points?
It’s tough to pick against the Avs this year, but they have struggled on the road, and they are playing an excellent Toronto team. Before I start picking Colorado on the road, they will have to start showing that they’re capable of having winning stretches outside of Colorado. If the Avs can pull this one off, it will be a huge statement win for the team, but I think the Maple Leafs will take this one.
The Avs winning streak will come to an end, but they will for sure have a couple more this season.
Devils vs. Red Wings
The Devils have been a pleasant surprise for the NHL this season. Currently, they sit second in a very deep Metropolitan Division with 56 points. This is the point in the season where upsets become rarer to see. Teams like the Devils won’t take nights off against far inferior teams. The Red Wings are scraping the bottom of the conference with just 43 points, and New Jersey won’t do them any favors with this game.
The Devils have had one of the top offenses in the league this season, and as a team, they are scoring 3.1 goals per game. It’s the perfect storm because Detroit is giving up just over three goals per game. Taylor Hall, Jesper Bratt, and Nico Hischier should make things very difficult for Jimmy Howard and the Red Wings Defense.
I don’t think New Jersey will have any problems in this game. They should beat Detroit by two goals or more. In games past the midway point of the season, teams can’t take nights off. This is especially true in a division that is as tight as the Metropolitan.
Wild vs. Senators
Just like the Devils, the Wild are playing for its lives right now. The Wild are coming off of a huge win against the Lightning, but are still on the edge of the playoff picture. The Wild are essentially in a 35-game playoff. Every point matters for them, and they can’t afford to drop points against struggling teams like Ottawa.
The Wild offense has been blatantly average this season, but they will be facing an Ottawa team that is giving up the second most goals per game (3.4). The Wild should be able to use this game as a momentum boost for the future.
The Senators defense has been below average at best, so its best chance to win is in the physicality battle. The Wild have the least amount of hits per game at 17.2. Ottawa is ranked seventh with 23.5 hits per game. The Wild do not like playing physical hockey, and it is the one thing the Senators specialize in.
If the Senators can get a goal early, they could potentially wear the Wild down and steal one at the Xcel. However, I do not see this happening. I think the Wild will come out fired up after a big win against Tampa Bay and will handle the Senators in front of the home crowd.
Blackhawks vs. Lightning
Both of these teams are coming off demoralizing losses and will be looking to redeem themselves. Without Corey Crawford, the Blackhawks have had a tough time winning games consistently. Anton Forsberg has seemed to be the better option this season so far, but his 2.92 goals against average and .911 save percentage are far below the numbers Crawford was putting up before he went down.
After a rough showing against the Islanders, who have an offense very similar to Tampa Bay’s, it is tough to pick Chicago to win. Tampa Bay has one of the top defenses in the league to go with its top offense, so I don’t see Chicago getting much going on either end of the ice.
Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos will lead an overpowering attack, and the Lightning will hand the Blackhawks a loss to Chicago.
Flames vs. Sabres
Just like the Avalanche, the Flames have been racking up the points recently. Calgary is going up against an inferior Buffalo team, and I don’t see the Sabres having much success against one of the hottest teams in the NHL. Especially on the road.
During the Flames nine-game point streak, they are scoring 3.1 goals per game while only giving up 1.78 goals per game. Buffalo’s offense has been the worst in the NHL this season, and its defense is ranked third to last. The Sabres have the second worst goal differential in the NHL (-52). That tells you they don’t just lose games, they get blown out.
The Flames should be able to score early and often on the Sabres. I expect that they will keep its point streak going with a dominating win over an awful Buffalo team.
Islanders vs. Coyotes
The Coyotes are coming off a rare victory on Saturday night. Unfortunately for them, its awful defense will be facing one of the best offenses in the NHL, but they have a chance because the Islanders defense has been atrocious all season long.
The Isles give up the most goals per game and have the second-worst penalty kill in the entire league. Its offense continues racking up points constantly, but its defense doesn’t get it done. New York has been a hit or miss team all throughout 2017. They also tend to drop games to bad teams. The Coyote’s offense ranks dead last in the entire NHL, but I expect that Clayton Keller, Derek Stepan and Christian Dvorak will take advantage of the space and put pucks in the back of the net. The Coyotes will steal one from the Islanders in Arizona.
I like the Flames to keep racking up points on Monday with a win. Before I start picking the Avalanche, they need to prove they can win on the road consistently. I like the Devils, Wild and Lightning to take its Monday matchups, and I think the Coyotes will find a way to upset the weak defense of the Islanders
Current Picks Record: 4-0-1
Featured image by Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports
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