NHL Betting: The Week's Biggest Stories
by Trevor Whenham - 02/16/2009
Setting A Record
Washington's Mike Green set an impressive record this week when he became the first defenseman to score a goal in eight straight games. He had 10 goals over the streak to raise his season total to 22 with 28 assists. He's also a whopping +28, so he is the rare defenseman who can contribute offensively without ignoring his duties in his own end. The Caps respond well when he scores - they are 13-4-2 when he has a goal. This is a new level of offensive competence for the 29-year-old pivot, and it's a big reason why his team is a big success both in the standings and at the betting window. Only three teams have been more profitable over the season than the Capitals, and only three have more points.
San Jose is going through a rare rough patch lately. They are just 1-2-4 over their last seven games. The skid isn't as bad as it looks - three of the losses came in the shootout. Still, for a team that has looked almost unbeatable at times this is an unexpected and concerning development. Or at least it would be if it didn't have a good explanation. The team has been hit badly by the flu over the last week. Several players have missed practices, required IV, and generally been at less that 100 percent. That, combined with an abnormally high number of overtime games over the recent stretch, and that the team is on a five-game road trip, can explain away a good portion of the troubles. That being said, the team has been favored in every game they have played since Dec. 18, and are likely to continue being favored, so it probably makes sense to let them show us that they are back in form before trusting them with your bankroll.
There's another potential explanation to be considered as well. It is very hard to play at full speed all season. Boston is playing flat right now. Detroit just came off a down period. Calgary is working through a rough spot. Montreal and the Rangers have been awful recently. Good teams play badly from time to time. That doesn't make them bad.
Pittsburgh Makes A Change
Michel Therrien has been fired as coach of the Penguins, and has been replaced for the rest of the year by interim coach Dan Bylsma, who was previously the coach of Pittsburgh's AHL affiliate. There is just one question that this move brings up - what took so long? There were stories as early as last year that Therrien's style wasn't sitting well with his players, the team has gone from the finals last year to being five points out of the playoffs now, and Sidney Crosby, while still very good, hasn't been the dominant player he should be at this point in his career.
The question now is whether Bylsma can turn this team around in the 25 games he has remaining. Though he is not well known, he seems like just what the Penguins need. He's young - he has rocketed through the coaching ranks after retiring from an unremarkable NHL career after the 2004 season. He's enthusiastic, too, and that should help him get the young Penguins' stars on side. Making the playoffs is going to be a tough challenge, but the team certainly has the talent to get it done. It just remains to be seen if this move is the boost that it seems like it could be.
If Pittsburgh wants to make the playoffs then one team they are in a contest with is the Rangers. If New York keeps playing like they have the last couple of weeks then I like the Penguins' chances. The Rangers have just one win in their last eight games. The reason for the problems is no mystery - they have scored just eight goals in the seven losses, and they have been shut out twice. Those offensive struggles can in turn be traced to the general impotence of the team's supposed offensive powers. Markus Naslund is leading the team in goal scoring, yet he has just 17 goals. Scott Gomez has been an expensive bust with just 10 goals. Chris Drury had 37 goals two years ago with Buffalo, yet he has just 15 now. Despite their expensive acquisitions over the last couple of years, the Rangers sit dead last in scoring with just 2.35 goals a game. That's a problem when you give up 2.74 goals a game. I expect the Rangers to be active between now and the trade deadline - perhaps both on the bench and behind it. If they aren't then they will remain what they are now - a team not to be trusted.