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Wednesday picks: Flames and Kings square off for last division spot

Division Spot

Only two games on the docket for the NHL, but as they always say it’s about quality, not quantity. The BlackHawks and Maple Leafs square off in what is a matchup between one team trying to build a division lead, and another group trying to claw their way back into the playoff conversation. Then the Flames and Kings square off with the third division spot on the line in a Pacific Division collision.

Flames vs. Kings

Pick: Flames

The Flames are coming off a disappointing overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres, but they still managed to push their point streak to nine straight games. The Kings will be playing the second game of a four-game road trip for them, and this game will be crucial.

The last division spot is on the line in this game, and yes there is a lot of time left, but every point matters in hockey. This will be a huge momentum builder for whatever team wins.

The Flames have struggled a bit on their home-ice this season, and currently, have a record of 12-11-2. They have dropped their last two games at home in overtime. They will be going up against a Kings team that has found ways to win on the road. The Kings are 13-8-2 on the road this season and will be looking to push that win total to 14 games.

Defense Is The Best Offense?

Division Spot
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The Kings have one of the best defenses in the NHL this season, but they just have not gotten it done on offense this season. Out of their 47 total games played this season, the Kings have scored two or fewer goals 22 times. With the best defense in the NHL regarding goals-against average, this is a team that has to start finding the back of the net more often. They have lost three of their last four, and a win versus the Flames could light a spark under this team.

The reality is the Kings scorers need to start getting goals in the net. Their offense has played average to below-average all season long, and it’s hurting what is a phenomenal defense is Los Angeles. They’re giving up the least amount of goals in the NHL, and they also have the best penalty kill unit in the league, but it is going to waste on an offense that is only scoring 2.8 goals per game.

Is The Flame Burning Out?

Fueled by leading scorer Johnny Gaudreau this Flames team has put together a nine-game point streak, but after Monday’s 1-2 loss in OT against a terrible Sabres team the question of “is this streak coming to an end?” has to start getting asked.

The answer lies with Johnny Gaudreau. Gaudreau has been the catalyst for this run in Calgary, and he could very well be the reason it ends as well. Gaudreau has scored in eight of the nine games on this run and has accounted for 14 points, but in the last two overtime losses, Gaudreau has just one point.

On this run, the Flames are scoring 3.2 goals per game and are only allowing 2.0 goals per game, but over these last two, they have only managed to scrape in two goals. The defense of the Flames is still playing very well, but the offense has not been able to get going. It will be tough to get back on track against a Kings defense that is very good.

A Tight Contest

This game will be a very close hard-fought battle. With the last division spot on the line, both of these teams will be playing extra excited. In a game of two struggling offenses with great defenses, expect this to be a low scoring affair that very well could go to overtime. I like the Flames chances in this one though, The Kings have the excellent defense, but not enough weapons on the offensive side like Calgary. The Flames will win this one by no more than two goals.

Blackhawks vs. Maple Leafs

Pick: Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs are headed to Chicago to start a short two-game Central Division road trip versus the Blackhawks and Stars. The Maple Leafs have struggled recently and are losers in five of their last six games; however, they are going up against a Blackhawks team that has struggled an equal amount this season. Chicago is at the bottom of the Central Division with 50 points, seven points behind the Avalanche for that last wild-card spot.

Chicago’s struggles are due to the injury to goalie Corey Crawford. Crawford is likely to miss the rest of the season, and in his absence, the Blackhawks have looked mediocre. The Maple Leafs average 3.1 goals per game this season and have a power play that connects 20.4 percent of the time. Whether Chicago goes with Forsberg or Glass it won’t make much of a difference. Toronto will win this one and Chicago’s rough 2018 will continue.

Current Picks Record: 12-7-4

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