Last night was the night I’ve been waiting for as I went 3 for 3 with my free NHL picks and couldn’t be happier about it.
The first win of the night was an easy one. I took the Buffalo Sabres as -118 home favorites versus the New Jersey Devils and the pick was in the bag early as the Sabres jumped out to a commanding 5-0 lead after just 20 minutes. It was smooth sailing from there on out in a 7-1 Sabres win.
Shortly after, the New York Islanders and Detroit Red Wings completed their contest under the 5.5 total, as per my pick at nice +101 odds. The pick was in much more doubt than the one above with the Islanders leading 2-0 after one and 3-1 after two, putting the game on pace for the over. However, a lone Islanders third-period tally had this one finish 4-1 for the road side.
Finally, our final winner of the night was also an easy one as the Blues jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead and never looked back in a 4-0 victory on the road over a depleted Blackhawks lineup. We took that one at -125 odds.
All told, it was a wonderful night and we’ll look to keep it up on this 10-game NHL schedule!
Season Record: 35-29-1
Let’s have a look at this free NHL pick featuring the Wild vs. Panthers from the BB&T Center in Sunrise!
Wild vs. Panthers Betting Odds
- Wild (+113)
- Panthers (-125)
- Wild +1.5 (-210)
- Panthers -1.5 (+180)
- Over 6 (-114)
- Under 6 (+103)
Wild vs. Panthers NHL Pick Breakdown
Now let’s take a look at each of these teams before I get into my final pick!
Don’t look now but the Wild have won three in a row and five of their last seven games to pull themselves out of the basement in the Western Conference standings.
They’ve finally gotten some home games under their belt where they’ve won three in a row, however they’ve also won their most recent road game after dropping their previous two in extra time. It’s been their 5-10-2 road record that’s put them in harm’s way this season as they’re a quality 7-1-2 at home.
Improved defensive play has been at the forefront of their three-game winning streak. They’ve averaged four goals per game in that time thanks to a 7-2 home thrashing of the Ottawa Senators last week, however they’ve also allowed just two goals in each of their last three contests and two regulations goals in each of their last four.
While their road defense has indeed improved, they do still rank 23rd with 3.47 goals against per game on the road this season and they will turn to young netminder Kaapo Kahkonen for what will be his second career start tonight.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing has Kahkonen played well in his NHL debut in New Jersey last week, turning aside 32 of 34 Devils shots to earn a win in his NHL debut. He was promoted when Devan Dubnyk left the team to be with his family thanks to a 2.47 GAA and .909 Sv% posted in 10 AHL contests this season.
The Wild will likely have to find a way to increase their road offense in support of their goaltender to find success tonight, however.
Their 2.41 goals per game on the road this season ranks 26th in the league and their 28.4 shots per game on the road checks in at 25th.
Their advanced numbers paint a prettier picture, however.
Minnesota’s 51.54% scoring chances for percentage (SCF%) on the road at 5v5 ranks fifth and their big-time 56.36% high-danger chances for percentage (HDCF%) on the road at 5v5 checks in at second. Their 19th-ranked 14.8% power play clip on the road has hurt their offense, however.
Clearly, the Wild will have to find a way to turn their scoring chances into production and they haven’t done that to this point away from home.
The Panthers sit second in the Atlantic Division despite sporting some of the worst defensive numbers in the NHL.
Their 3.46 goals against per game on the season ranks them 28th while their 3.25 goals against per game at home puts them 27th in the league. However, that changed for the better on Saturday thanks to a savvy move from head coach Joel Quenneville.
Quenneville had finally seen enough from Sergei Bobrovsky and his sub-.890 save percentage on the season and opted to give 25-year-old Chris Driedger a shot in goal after Driedger dominated in the AHL this season.
The result was a 3-0 shutout win over a quality offense in the Nashville Predators in just his fourth NHL game, first since the 2016-17 season while with the Ottawa Senators, but also his first career NHL start.
Driedger spent time in the ECHL as recently as last season for 12 games, but went on to post a real good 2.45 GAA and .924 Sv% across 32 AHL contests. This season, he’s turned it up a few more notches and put together a 2.09 GAA and .938 Sv% across 14 AHL contests prior to his NHL promotion. Clearly, his Panthers debut could not have gone better in a perfect showing, making 27 saves for the shutout.
Obviously, the Panthers liked what they saw and Quenneville will give the nod to him again tonight, hoping he can allow their high-octane offense to win more games moving forward.
Quality special teams and that high-octane offense has gotten them to this point, but the hope moving forward is that Driedger can provide some defensive confidence, at the very least until Bobrovsky can find his game.
There’s little doubt that the Wild have played better of late, even on the road. That said, I want to see what this Panthers team can do with some goaltending at their disposal.
I mean, they’ve been good enough to sit second in the Atlantic Division despite the .886 Sv% they’ve received from their goaltenders ranking 28th. I’m not saying Driedger is going to be a savior, but he’s done nothing but stop the puck regardless of what league he’s played in both this season and last season.
When we look at the home scoring of the Panthers versus the road scoring of the Wild, the Panthers hold a 3.75-2.41 advantage, good for a +1.34 differential. It’s never that simple, however to me that’s a strong indicator of future performance.
Despite some strong road advanced numbers at 5v5, the Wild have simply struggled to generate consistent offense on the road and consistent defense for that matter. Add in the suspect special teams – especially compared to Florida – and I don’t like their chances in this one.
Give me the Panthers tonight at what I believe are attractive -125 odds.