The countdown is really on now as the opening ceremonies to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia are to take place on Friday, and with the last bit of NHL action before the Olympic break taking place on Saturday, we have just five nights of NHL action before the two-week hiatus. Plenty of action across the NHL slate tonight as we will look to heat up heading into the Olympic break.
New York Islanders @ Washington Capitals
My Pick – CAPITALS (-120) 5 Dimes
The New York Islanders and Washington Capitals will meet for the third time this season as the Caps have take the first two from their Metropolitan Division rivals and have outscored the Isles 9-4 this season. The Capitals are coming off of a huge 6-5 overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday afternoon as Alex Ovechkin sealed the deal for the Caps by firing home his 39th goal of the season in overtime to lift the home team to victory. For the Islanders it has been an outright struggle all season long and their last stretch of games has been no different. The Islanders have given up six goals twice and four goals twice over their last five games while scoring just two combined goals over their last two games. Their road game could be one of the worst in the NHL this season. They rank 29th in overall defence surrendering 3.4 goals per game, however they give up 3.5 goals per game on the road, good for 30th and dead last in the NHL. Their road penalty kill sits 28th in the NHL with a lowly 75.7% success rate, and that could be very bad news as the Caps boast the league’s 2nd best powerplay on home ice with a 26% clip at the Verizon Centre this season. The Capitals offence has (and will likely remain) the team’s backbone for success as they have scored 21 goals over their last five games while winning three of their last five. The Islanders have lost five in a row, 16 of their last 21 against Washington and 6 of their last 8 in Washington. Let’s go with the home favourite tonight at a reasonable price to keep up their domination over their new division rivals.
Toronto Maple Leafs @ Florida Panthers
My Pick – LEAFS (-110) AND OVER 5.5 (-115) 5 Dimes
The red-hot Toronto Maple Leafs will be in Sunrise, Florida tonight to do battle with the Panthers with hopes of continuing one of the hottest streaks going in the NHL. The Leafs scored six goals against these Panthers last Thursday evening and followed that performance with another six goals and another 6-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night in Toronto. The Leafs are 9-1-1 over their last 11 games and have their sights set on second place in the Atlantic Division. The Panthers are winless over their last three contests and have dropped four of their last five, and have given up 23 goals over that stretch. The Leafs boast one of the league’s hottest offences and one of the hottest players in the world. Phil Kessel was named the NHL’s 2nd star of the month on Monday and deservedly so. The superstar had seven goals and 13 assists over 20 games in the month of January and that includes a hat trick on Saturday against the Sens. Nazem Kadri has deepened the Leafs scoring threat in a fantastic stretch of January games as well as the youngster has compiled 17 points in his last 14 games and more recently three goals and four assists over his last three games. The OVER is 9-1 over Toronto’s last ten games and in all five of their last five games on the road. The OVER is also 5-2 in Florida’s last seven contests. The Leafs are 4-1 in their last five games overall against Florida, and as mentioned they are the hottest team going right now in the Eastern Conference while the Panthers have lost three straight. Let’s roll with the hotter team tonight to continue their winnings ways with another high scoring contest.