With baseball starting today, we are just getting warmed up in the NHL. A furious rush to make the playoffs is providing some of the most entertaining hockey of the year. The Red Wings got a massive win over the Maple Leafs last night, holding on for a 3-2 win in Toronto. That makes it 4 points for the Wings in the past two days. It appears like the ultimatum will come for the Red Wings this week, as they meet up with the very team they are racing for the playoffs, the Philadelphia Flyers. It’s going to feel like a playoff type atmosphere undoubtedly.
This week is going to feel like an extension of the playoffs in a way, in what amounts to play-in games for several teams. Sunday night in Anaheim is not featuring one of those kind of games, but there should be a good game, nonetheless. The Ducks are a team who benefits greatly from playing at home, so a strong finish to improve their playoff seed is important. The Ducks are currently 2nd in the Pacific and hoping to catch the Kings in the division.
The Stars are sitting nicely in the Central, currently holding 1st place in the division. Dallas is 4 points ahead of the St. Louis Blues, who are also playing today. There are no do-or-die situations on the line tonight, but this is going to be a nice preview of quality teams we are going to be watching in the postseason of the NHL playoffs. The Ducks got to this point by turning the energy up in the second-half of the season.
I have previously documented how it’s been a season of two tales for the Ducks of Anaheim. However, the adversity they had to fend off earlier in the year, may come back to help them out this time of the year. The Ducks are coming off a bad loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Friday night. Losses against bad teams this time of the year is no way to enter in the playoffs, but I think the Ducks will be fine, at least immediately in the 1st round. Dallas is in a great mood though, as winners of their last three games. Let’s get a taste of the NHL playoffs tonight in Anaheim as we search out a winning pick on the ice.
Dallas Stars vs. Anaheim Ducks NHL Pick
More than anything, this next week is a tune-up for the Stars and Ducks. It will be a nice playoffs test tonight for both squads, as they take on two legitimate playoff contenders. Do I really think the Stars are a worthy contender, though? I didn’t put much stock in the Colorado Avalanche when they had that spectacular season two years ago and I’m not with the Stars this season. Goaltending rules the playoffs, and I’m afraid the Stars do not have it. Or at least, somebody who could steal a series, which is needed to make it all the way. Kari Lehtonen does not strike fear into too many play-makers. He enters tonight with a 2.82 GAA and 0.906 save percentage. Could he catch fire in the playoffs? Sure, yes. But from what I have seen this season, there is nothing that indicates to me he could carry the Stars on a night their offense doesn’t show up. Note that defenseman Kris Russell is questionable for tonight.
The Stars and Ducks have been the two hottest offenses in the NHL lately. Dallas has averaged 3.80 goals per game over their last ten games, while the Ducks scored 3.90 goals in their last ten matchups. Thus, they have combined for 7.7 goals per game. The Stars are 1st in the league with 3.25 goals scored per game. Conversely, the Ducks are 18th, but if we take into account how awful the offense was playing at the start of the season, they have had a top 5 offense the past few months. The Dallas defense will be their problem in the playoffs, a unit which is 20th in the NHL with a question mark of a goaltender between the pipes. There is value to be had on the OVER 5.5 tonight in Anaheim, as we come close to bidding farewell to the regular season and embark in the playoffs.
PICK: OVER 5.5 GOALS (-105)