After a pathetic outing from the Habs Saturday night cost us a victory with our feature selection, we’re back at it for a new week of crucial NHL games. We enter the final two weeks of the NHL regular season sitting at a 33-20 record for our top picks, and will look to finish strong.
Tonight’s selection features yet another pivotal clash, this time in the Western Conference. The young and surprising Columbus Blue Jackets will look to continue their playoff push as they travel to the Mile High City to do battle with an Avalanche team that seems content to end their year right now.
Columbus Blue Jackets (-115) @ Colorado Avalanche (-105)
Nobody, and I mean nobody, expected the Columbus Blue Jackets to be in this position when the season began back in January. After trading their star player Rick Nash in the off-season and getting minimal pieces in return, the Jackets are poised to end their lengthy playoff drought, and a win tonight in Colorado would do wonders for their cause.
After picking up star sniper Marian Gaborik at the trade deadline, the Jackets have looked revamped, and now pose a legitimate offensive threat. They seemed to have captured some depth on their top-three lines, and the goaltending they’ve gotten from Sergei Bobrovsky has definitely been Vezina-worthy. The Jackets have their fan base excited once again, and should be able to assert themselves as the more motivated group tonight against a punchless Avalanche team.
Though Colorado entered this season with an abundance of optimism due to their young talent, this year has simply been a disaster in the Mile High City. This team was recently called out by their back-up goaltender, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who claimed certain teammates were more concerned about their “Vegas trip” than actually winning hockey games. There seems to be some internal dissension within the Colorado locker-room and as a result, look for a disinterested Avs team to show up yet again. Though they beat Vancouver Saturday night, the Jackets have everything in the world to play for, and are desperately seeking the two points to keep their playoff chances alive. Colorado has lied down for teams all season, and tonight will be no different.
On the injury front, the Avs are also quite the depleted group. Key defenceman Erik Johnson has a hand injury and will be out, as will forwards Milan Hejduk, and Chuck Kobasew. Starting goalie Semyon Varlamov remains out as well, and his replacements have been less than stellar in relief. Expect a fresh and hungry Jackets team to walk right into Colorado, take full advantage of their fragile situation, and skate them out of the building. Columbus, after years of mediocrity, seem poised to end their playoff drought. Though they’ve surprised many, their young players are better than expected, and this group can be trusted in such a pivotal game. Take the Jackets on the road, at what should end up at a very favourable price.
PICK = Columbus (-115)
Just one bonus pick for the evening. We enter the week just 32-28 with these, but feel that tonight there is some very solid value on the NHL board. As the season winds down, there is less room for error, and the teams that need to win for their playoff lives, should get big W’s tonight. Read below for tonight’s additional thoughts on three very intriguing contests.
Bonus Pick #1: Ottawa (+145) The Sens were reeling before escaping their last two contests with victories. Now that they’ve created some breathing room, look for Ottawa to comfortably secure a playoff spot this week. They own the best goaltending in the league, and have overcome everything thrown at them thus far in 2013. This is an impressive group, and as huge underdogs tonight, they represent exceptional value going up against a very depleted Bruins squad. Boston is overrated at the moment, and people are placing too much emphasis on winning the Northeast Division for the Bruins. The B’s would be fine matching up against Toronto in Round One, and people need to realize this. Boston seems to be using the final weeks to get healthy and ready for the post-season, whereas the Sens are still fighting desperately to qualify. Take the hungrier team, at a very juicy price.
Bonus Pick #2: Minnesota (-140) Things have started going south for the Minnesota Wild lately, but tonight represents a great chance to get back on track. Calgary is one of the worst teams in the NHL right now, and should be due for a big letdown after putting the final nail in the coffin of their hated rivals, the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night. After ending their chances at the post-season, Calgary will look to derail the Wild, but don’t count on it. The Wild are a deep group that should be able to steamroll a Flames team that resembles an AHL group. Minnesota needs to make the post-season, especially after all the hoopla and fanfare that surrounded them in the off-season. Ryan Suter is back healthy tonight and that should make a huge difference for a group needing his guidance and leadership. Look for the Wild to step up and make a statement against a Flames team that seems content to end the season right now.
Bonus Pick #3: Dallas (+160) Dallas has miraculously climbed their way back into a play-off spot, and will fight desperately to qualify for the big dance. Though they traded away two key players in Brandon Morrow and Jaromir Jagr at the trading deadline, the Stars have won five straight contests, all in impressive fashion. This is a young and hungry group, and they’ll be ready to take on a Blackhawks team, that really shouldn’t have all that much to play for. They’ve all but clinched the West, and the President’s Trophy, and as a result it wouldn’t shock me to see a bit of a down performance from Chicago. Look for Dallas to capitalize on this Hawks team that is fresh off a back-to-back situation, and make it six in a row. The Stars will continue their push for the top-8 tonight, and are well worth a wager at this huge price.