NHL Hockey Odds and Picks: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 10/13/2014
The most impressive team of the first week of the NHL season? Probably the Minnesota Wild. The least impressive? Perhaps the Colorado Avalanche. It just so happens that those teams first two games were against one another.
The Wild beat the Avs 5-0 in their home opener on Oct. 9 and then 3-0 in the Avalanche's home opener two days later. Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper was named the NHL's second star of the week. He stopped 46 total Avalanche shots in the two games and at age 24 became the youngest netminder in NHL history to have a shutout in each of his team's first two games of a season. The Wild became the fifth team since 1943-44 to begin a season with consecutive shutouts (something the Sharks also did last week).
For some reason, the Wild don't play again until at Anaheim on Friday, followed by a trip across town on Sunday to face the Stanley Cup champion Kings. So let's hold off on calling Minnesota a contender in the West until we see what it does against two powerhouses. The Wild are 6/1 at Bovada to win the West and 10/1 to win the Stanley Cup, shockingly tied for the second-shortest odds with Boston and Los Angeles behind the Blackhawks (6/1).
Colorado did get its first win Monday afternoon against Boston when Daniel Briere scored with only 0.5 seconds left in regulation time. It was Briere's 300th career goal.
Columbus will be without one of its best players for the next six weeks or so as forward Brandon Dubinsky had abdominal surgery. He had 16 goals and 34 assists a year ago, and the Jackets aren't exactly an offensive force even with him in the lineup. The team is already without Nathan Horton (back) indefinitely and Boone Jenner (hand) at least the first month or so.
The Hurricanes won't have captain Eric Staal and forward Patrick Dwyer on Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres. Center Jeff Skinner, who sustained a concussion during a preseason game Oct. 5 against the Washington Capitals, skated by himself Monday and is close to rejoining the team, but it won't be Tuesday. It's not too wise to bet on Buffalo that often as the Sabres are terrible, but Tuesday might be a good day to do so. There is no opening line because Buffalo plays Monday afternoon as well.
Flyers forward Vincent Lecavalier will miss two weeks with an apparent foot injury suffered during a 4-3 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. Lecavalier has one goal and two assists in three games. He's averaging 15:37 of ice time per game, including 4:32 on the power play to lead all Philadelphia forwards.
Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle is expected to miss four to six weeks after breaking his hand while blocking a shot in his first game with the team. He's generally very good on the power play.
This Week's Games to Watch
San Jose at Washington, Tuesday: This line opened with both clubs at -105 and the total at 5.5. I picked the Sharks to upset the Kings in Los Angeles on opening night and San Jose did just that, 4-0. Antti Niemi started that one but then Alex Stalock started three days later and blanked Winnipeg 3-0. It looks as if the Sharks will rotate those guys all season. This is the start of a five-game East Coast road trip for the Sharks. San Jose plays 15 of its first 21 on the road. The Capitals have started 1-0-1 with Alex Ovechkin scoring twice already.
Boston Bruins at Detroit Red Wings, Wednesday: It's always fun when two Original Six teams face off. Detroit hosted Boston in its home opener on Oct. 9, winning 2-1, and now plays the Bruins six days later again in Motown? Then Boston visits just once more, and that's late in the season. The Bruins got some good news in Monday's loss to the Avalanche in dropping to 1-3. Center Bruins C David Krejci returned to the lineup after missing the first three games with an undisclosed injury. The B's haven't scored more than two goals in a game yet.
St. Louis Blues at Los Angeles Kings, Thursday: In another schedule quirk, the Blues routed Calgary 4-1 on Saturday and are off until this excellent matchup. The Kings still haven't won with Jonathan Quick in net yet. He was in there for the opening loss to San Jose and then a 3-2 loss in Arizona. Backup Martin Jones started Sunday's 4-1 win over Winnipeg. Los Angeles won two of three meetings last season.
NY Islanders at Pittsburgh Penguins, Saturday: These are two of the most explosive teams in the NHL, and there's no reason why that won't be the case all season. Isles young star center John Tavares looks healthy off his serious knee injury with five points in two games. Sidney Crosby is, well, Sidney Crosby as the Pens lead the NHL in goals per game. He was the league's third star last week with six points (three goals and assists). He is the first Penguins player to record at least three points in each of the team's first two games of a season since 1995-96. You will see a likely total of six in this one, which has been very rare for any game in the early going.
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