Tuesday Picks: Penguins and Hurricanes Meet In Fierce Division Battle
Tuesday will be a busy day for the NHL with 12 games being played. Carolina and Pittsburgh meet in a fierce division battle. The two teams are separated by just three points so expect a very intense game.
Colorado will look to continue their winning streak against a struggling Montreal team; Meanwhile, the top three teams in the Central Division will be in action. It should be an eventful night across the NHL.
Penguins vs. Hurricanes
Coming off a two day break the Penguins are back home against the Hurricanes in what should be a tough division battle against the Hurricanes. Just three points currently separate Pittsburgh and Carolina in the standings, but both teams are playing below original expectations.
Obviously, the Penguins are not where they want to be at this point in the season. At 53 points, and currently out of the playoff picture the Penguins are trying to right the ship and sneak into the postseason.
The Hurricanes considered themselves a team that was flying under the radar going into this season. The signing of goaltender Scott Darling has flopped so far with Cam Ward outplaying him. Now at the midpoint of the season the team leader in points, Sebastian Aho, is out. The Hurricanes sit at 50 points and are just like the Penguins, on the outside looking in at the playoff picture.
Both situations for these teams add to the magnitude of this matchup. Each side is going to have to treat this like a playoff game because the points from this game could be the difference between who makes the playoffs, and who doesn’t.
Who Will Step Up In Aho’s Absence
Sebastian Aho went down with a concussion and a lower-body injury on January 14th. In the two games, Aho has missed so far his scoring abilities have been missed. If the Hurricanes are going to win big games without Aho, they will need production from some key role players.
I expect Carolina to look to players such as Justin Williams and Elias Lindholm to pick up the scoring slack. Both players have played reasonably well for the Hurricanes. Lindholm has put up 27 points this season, and Justin Williams has put up 29. Both totals are fairly high among the team rankings, but with extra playing time it would help out tremendously if one or both of these players increase their scoring production.
Pittsburgh Power Play
The Penguins power play is the best in the NHL currently at 26.4 percent. 46 of Pittsburgh’s 140 goals this season have come on the power play, but unfortunately for the Pens, the Hurricanes are the most disciplined team in the league when it comes to not taking penalties. The Hurricanes have the fifth worst penalty kill unit in the NHL, but have the least amount of penalties this season.
Penalties are the ultimate decider for me in this game. Pittsburgh is heavily reliant on the power play to put pucks in the net, but that unit will not be out there on the ice. This will be a fierce division battle, but it will also be a clean game. Playing five on five for most of the night I like Carolina’s chances to take down the Pens.
Bruins vs. Devils
The Bruins take on the Devils in a battle of two of the Eastern Conference’s best teams. New Jersey currently sits second place in the Metropolitan, and Boston is second in the Atlantic.
Recently, the Bruins have turned in some good hockey games. Boston has put together three straight wins, and have their point streak up to ten games. Brad Manchard has led the way for the Bruins over the last three games, with seven points in the previous three games.
Taylor Hall has been a catalyst for the Devils offense all season long. He leads the team in points (48) and is currently on a seven-game point streak. Hall could be the counter to a red-hot Brad Manchard. The matchup between these two will be enjoyable to watch.
The difference maker in this game will be Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask. Rask has been lights out this season posting a save percentage of .921 percent and goals against average of 2.17 per game, Rask is in the top half for goalie play this season. Although Schneider has played well for the Devils this season, Rask will make it hard for Hall and the rest of the Devils to score. The Bruins will take this battle between some of the conference’s top teams.
Canadiens vs. Avalanche
The Canadiens have not been very good so far this season. Going up against an Avalanche team that is playing some of the best hockey in the NHL, I don’t think there is much debate about who wins this one. Nathan MacKinnon creates a major mismatch that I do not think the Canadiens can match, and the defense in Colorado is just too much.
Red Wings vs. Flyers
The Flyers have won seven of their last eight games and are one of the hottest teams in the league right now.
Sean Couturier has been one of the front-runners in scoring for Philadelphia this season, and this recent splurge of success is no different. In Couturier’s last eight he has contributed 11 points. The Flyers have been winning games this season, but in odd fashion. The team stats for them won’t blow you out of the water and they rank about average in almost every category.
Detroit is having a rough go at it so far this season; they rank 26th in goals per game and 22nd in goals allowed per game. Detroit has a young core headlined by Dylan Larkin, but there is no real help around any of them. Because they are coming off a game last night going into this one, I don’t think Detroit will fare well. The Flyers continue to win games, and their winning ways will continue against the Red Wings.
Blues vs. Senators
St. Louis brings a balanced scoring attack in versus Ottawa. The Blues have five players over the 30 point mark this season, and Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko headline an excellent first line; however, the Blues tend to play down to their competition level. In their last game St. Louis lost to Arizona which is currently ranked dead last in the NHL in points and lost to Florida just two games before that.
The Senators are one year removed from almost making the Stanley Cup and this season has been a struggle. Mark Stone has been the one bright spot with his team-leading 44 points on the year. Stone also has his plus-minus sitting at +10 on the year, which shows when he is on the ice, the team is efficient.
I like the Senators to steal this one from the Blues, the Senators have been surprisingly good coming off of back to backs with six of their wins coming from them. This should be a good game, but the Sens will get themselves a nice road win.
Predators vs. Lightning
This game should be one of the better games of the night. The Lightning are headed to Nashville with the number one ranked offense, and they will be going up against a top three defense.
The Lightning brings in a scoring barrage of Kucherov, Stamkos, and Point. The Lightning play very fast and very effective. This is a great matchup because the Predators are a very physical team that likes to wear teams down.
I like the Predators in this one because of that. Tampa Bay will be coming off a game the night before, and the Preds will have had two days of rest and no travel. The physicality of the Predators will be too much for the Lightning, and Nashville will walk away from this one victorious.
Stars vs. Panthers
The Stars will be coming back home after a four-game road trip where they won three games. Dallas was having trouble clicking early on this season, but as of late they have managed to get things together. Currently, the Stars own the first wild-card spot in the west with 58 points. Team leading scorer Jamie Benn will be looking to keep his high play going. Benn is riding a seven-game point streak and will be looking to push it to eight games against Florida.
Florida is playing in the very top heavy Atlantic Division. At 44 points they are thirteen points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for third place in the division. Barkov has played well lately for the Panthers. Barkov has recorded a point in five of his last seven games.
The Panthers are not a bad team this season, but the Stars will be very rested and have the home ice. The Stars will continue their solid play and decently beat the Panthers.
Oilers vs. Sabres
The Sabres have struggled mightily this year, and they find themselves tied for last in the NHL 46 games into the year. The Oilers are not nearly as bad, but they are sharing the same disappoint in their season. The Oilers are 10 points out of the second wild-card spot, and their recent play says they will not be getting there anytime soon. Edmonton is losers in seven of their last ten games; the Oilers are wondering what is going wrong?
Their first issue is that they don’t have a scorer outside of McDavid. Connor leads the team with 53 points, and the next closest is Leon Draisaitl with 39. As good as McDavid is, he does need help. The Oilers Penalty Kill unit is also the worst in the league at 72.7 percent, which isn’t great for a team that has 182 penalties on the season.
The Sabres are on back to back, and they just don’t have enough to get it done. Buffalo is giving up 3.46 goals per game, while at the same time only scoring a league-worst 2.2 goals per game. With tired legs from the night before, expect the Oilers to take this one.
Canucks vs. Kings
In what is the first of a four-game road trip for the Kings, they will be looking to get back on track.
The Kings are losers in six of their last seven games and have seen themselves drop out of the top three in the Pacific and the wild card. Anze Kopitar has been a bright spot for this team lately. Kopitar has a point in seven of his last eight games, but the Kings still haven’t found their way out of the slump.
Good for the Kings they are playing a Canucks team that has struggled a lot this season. Oddly, the Canucks 7-12-3 at home. Vancouver has struggled to win games on their ice. The struggling Kings will be looking to take advantage of this, and I expect them to come out on top in Vancouver.
Golden Knights vs. Blue Jackets
Pick: Golden Knights
The Knights currently have the most points in the entire NHL, and the stats back that up. The first reason for Vegas’ success is they stay out of the penalty box. The Golden Knights have the second least amount of penalty minutes in the league, and they have an above average penalty kill unit for when they do end up there. The Knights also have a balanced scoring attack; nine players currently have 20 or more points on the roster making it difficult for teams to know who is going to score on what night.
The Blue Jackets are sitting in third place in the Metropolitan Division. They are a completely different team on the road, as opposed to at home. At home, Columbus is 16-8-0, but on the road they are 10-10-3. Going up against the best team in the NHL on the road, I have to go with Vegas to take this one.
Ducks vs. Rangers
The Rangers are coming off two losses to a red-hot Avalanche squad and the Kings. Going up against a Ducks team in Anaheim that is giving up only 2.66 goals per game, I don’t like their chances. The Rangers struggle with scoring the puck at times, and I think that will continue in this one. The Ducks will run away with.
Sharks vs. Jets
In what is the last game of a very busy Tuesday for the NHL, the Sharks, and the Jets meet for a big-time clash. With the Sharks at 58 points and Winnipeg at 63, there will be some playoff seedings on the line.
When the Sharks played the Ducks, I said their physical style makes them more capable of winning playoff atmosphere type games, and that’s what I am going within this one. It is a home game for the Sharks and they will tire out the Jets and win in a very close one.
Current Picks Record: 7-2-2
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