There has been a plethora of NHL storylines that have gone under the limelight this week due to the ‘hoop-la’ of the BCS Championship game, NFL playoff football, LeBron’s tweeting, and even rumblings in the MLB world. So lets catch some of you hockey fans on this week’s major headlines:
It seems as though Sidney Crosby’s concussion woes are more serious then first thought. The Penguins star will miss his fifth consecutive game Saturday in Boston because of a concussion. Crosby showed no signs of a concussion after absorbing a blind-side hit from the Capitals’ David Steckel and thus was allowed to play against Tampa. The NHL’s leading scorer was rammed headfirst into the boards by the Lightning’s Victor Headman in that game and has not played since.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are road warriors, well at least this week they were. The Leafs took 3 of 4 on a western road trip, which catapulted them into 11th in the Eastern ranks. Toronto actually looked quite legitimate offensively during that stretch where they knocked in 17 and gave up 12. It will be interesting to see how the team responds to having just one day off before facing the Calgary Flames Saturday in a battle of Canadian franchises that are spinning their wheels well outside the playoff race.
And it is looking more and more like Steven Stamkos might be this years’ Hart award winner. He notched another 3 points so far this week and will be looking for his 33rd goal of the season when he and the Lightning head to Carolina on Saturday night. He is tied with Sid the kid for goals in the league with 32 and he has his club in second place in the highly contested East. Steven may very well be the best young two-way player in the game right now. It will be a compelling story to see how he battles and competes during the home-stretch this year.
The NHL is in full swing this Saturday with 12 games, so here are three considerations for you puck hogs…
Tampa Bay Lightning @ Carolina Hurricanes (Total: 5.5)
Overall, the Lightning have struggled on the road this season and are coming off a tumultuous start to the week as they dropped two contests to the lowly Devils. The Hurricanes have been playing well over their head for some time now and I expect them to come back down to earth this Saturday night at home.
The two clubs have met already this year with the Lightning spanking Carolina at home, 5-1 was the final tally. Tampa Bay is 11-5 SU in its last 16 games and is 4-2 SU in its last 6 games on the road. The Lightning need to establish a legitimate starter in net and I expect either Dan Ellis, Dwayne Rollison, or Mike Smith to perform well tonight. Tampa Bay is also 4-2 SU in its last 6 games when playing Carolina.
The Hurricanes are coming off a road loss to Buffalo on Thursday night, a game in witch they only notched two tallies. The Hurricanes have been quite admiral this year offensively, they average 3 goals per contest and are pounding 30.6 shots at opposing goaltenders. This game sets up as a let down game for the Canes’ as they are staring right in the eyes of a tilt between the Bruins on Monday night, a game in which they extremely would like as Eric Staal was hit illegally in that one.
Consider Steven Stamkos and the Lightning earning an important road victory at the RBC Centre come Saturday night.
Pick: Lightning (Moneyline @ +119)
Calgary Flames @ Toronto Maple Leafs (Total: 5.5)
The Toronto Maple Leafs are coming off of one of their most impressive road trips in some time now and are looking like they are poised for a late season push towards the postseason. They took 3 of 4 on their western swing and had it not been for a let down performance in the desert on Thursday night, they would have come home on Saturday night with a 5 game winning streak.
The two clubs have met already in Alberta this year, a homecoming of sorts for Dion Phaneuf. The Leafs put forth a lackluster effort in a 5-2 road loss at the Saddle Dome and Phaneuf was booed on virtually every shift he played. The Leafs offense since that performance seems to be finally rounding into shape. They scored 17 times on their 4 game road trip and they are getting nice movement from the defensive end to the offense. The total has gone OVER in 4 of Toronto’s last 5 games and when the Leafs return from a road trip of 3 or more games the OVER has hit on 75% of games since 2000.
The Calgary Flames are having a rough year and the trade deadline could see the departure of their feature star Jarome Iginla. The defense has been the weak-point for this club as teams are tallying 3 goals on average per contest against them. The total has gone OVER in 5 of Calgary’s last 6 games when playing Toronto and has gone OVER in 4 of Calgary’s last 6 games when playing on the road against the Maple Leafs.
With the Leafs returning home and the Flames wanting to get home I expect the defense on both clubs to be porous and the avenues towards the net to be vulnerable.
Consider Dion Phaneuf getting his redemption tonight against his old club with a goal and propelling this game towards the OVER.
Pick: OVER 5.5 (+105)
Chicago Blackhawks @ Nashville Predators (Total: 5.5)
Has any team looked more impressive and driven then the Nashville Predators in the month of January thus far. They have been absolutely lights out as of late and head coach Barry Trotz has this team clicking on all cylinders. Nashville is 6-1 SU in its last 7 games and 7-3 SU in its last 10 games at home. They are coming off of a western swing that saw big wins in Minnesota, Anaheim, L.A., and San Jose.
The Blackhawks are on a three game winning streak of their own and come into Nashville on Saturday night 8th in the West. This Stanley Cup winning team from last year has been hurt by injuries all year long and are getting inconsistent play from the goaltending position. A strong point this year has been the teams’ power play, Chicago is second on the power play in the league at 24.4%. Nashville has the second stingiest defense in the league at 2.3 goals per game and is third in penalty killing in the league at 86.0%, it will be interesting to see how these units match up when the Preds are on the PK.
The Blackhawks stole the thunder from the Predators playoff run last season when they eliminated them in 6 games, but so far this season the Predators have had the Blackhawks number. Nashville has taken 2 of 3 games thus far and have done so by pelting the Chicago net with an average of 31.3 shots per game.
For the Predators being an underdog on the moneyline I am all over this game. Consider the Predators winning the season series with another win on Saturday night against their western counterparts in the Chicago Blackhawks.
Pick: Nashville (Moneyline @ +104)