After a couple of key days off Thursday and Friday, we’re back at it Saturday for a busy slate of NHL games. Our last victory came Wednesday evening, when the Eastern Conference-leading Montreal Canadiens knocked off the Toronto Maple Leafs. With that win, our record here at The Sports Geek improves to a stellar 19-9 with our featured games, and 35-20 overall when including the bonus plays. For tonight’s selection, we’ll return to a game involving the Canadiens, as they host Sidney Crosby and his Pittsburgh Penguins.
Pittsburgh Penguins (+100) @ Montreal Canadiens (-120)
How the Penguins are underdogs in this game is beyond me. The Habs have been getting fortunate breaks for the majority of the season, and do not deserve to be a favourite against one of the best teams in the league, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Now, it is true that the Pens will be without superstar Evgeni Malkin, but Crosby and company have more than enough firepower to knock off the Habs, and look for that to materialize on Saturday night.
Montreal plays a solid team game, buoyed by a pesky defense and top-notch goaltender. The Pens have all of that and more. They’re an explosive bunch that will be raring to play in front of a sold-out Bell Centre. The Habs are leading the East, and Pittsburgh knows that should be their spot. Without Malkin, look for Crosby to put on a show against his childhood team, and lead his Pens to victory. This is a nationally-televised game in Canada, and with the Leafs not playing, Crosby will know the eyes of the country will be on him. Expect a very special performance from Sid the Kid.
Montreal will be without key players Raphael Diaz and Rene Bourque for this game, as both remain out with concussions. This game will mark the first time Montreal head coach Michel Therrien faces the team that fired him four years ago. Storylines are limitless in what should be a key Eastern Conference clash, just expect the Pens to come out on top. Marc-Andre Fleury will be between the pipes for Pittsburgh, and the Quebec native always plays well against the Habs. Fleury has a 3-0-1 record and a 2.38 GAA in his last four starts against Montreal. Expect that trend to continue, and look for the Pens to deal Montreal their first regulation loss in their past 10 games.
PICK = Pittsburgh (+100)
Some bonus selections for the rest of today’s NHL slate. These currently sit at 16-11 entering the day.
Bonus Pick #1: Buffalo (-110) This is a tale of two teams headed in opposite directions. The Devils over-achieved at the outset of the season, and are currently learning a lesson in regression. Meanwhile, the Sabres are a capable group, and it seems like the coaching change has woken their group up. Look for Buffalo to keep rolling against a New Jersey team with no Martin Brodeur.
Bonus Pick #2: Los Angeles (+110) A re-match of last year’s opening round play-off series in which the #8 Kings knocked off the top-seeded Canucks. You can bet that Vancouver will seek revenge, but whether they’ll be good enough to get it remains to be seen. The ‘Nucks were dealt another blow this week when they learned star centre Ryan Kesler is out for the next 4-6 weeks with a broken foot. L.A. is finally over their maligned Cup hangover, and enter winners of five straight contests. The Kings are solid road value in this spot, and should be able to make it six in a row Saturday night.