NHL Hockey Odds and Picks: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 10/27/2014
Could the Carolina Hurricanes be on pace to be one of the worst teams in NHL history? I'm not really ready to say that yet, but the Canes certainly appear like the worst in the league this season. They are the only team without a victory and have just two points through seven games. Every other team has at least seven entering Monday. Carolina is 27th in goals per game at 2.0 and 29th in goals against at 3.9.
If you are wondering, the 1974-75 Washington Capitals hold the record for fewest points in a full season with 21 in 80 games - they won eight as an expansion team - and three other teams have had 30 or less. Since the NHL began awarding points for overtime losses in 1999-2000, the worst a team has ever finished is the expansion Atlanta Thrashers in the first season with three-point games, when they managed 39 points. Since the 2004-05 lockout, which leveled the financial playing field with a hard salary cap, the worst a team has ever finished is last year's Sabres (who aren't much better than Carolina) as they were 21-51-10 for 52 points.
Is this the week the Hurricanes break through? They visit Vancouver on Tuesday night as +195 underdogs at BookMaker. The Canucks are 5-3-0 and 2-1-0 at home. I don't see a win there. I could, however, on Saturday when Carolina hosts Arizona, which has only seven points.
The biggest injury by far suffered last week was to Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, one of the best in league history at his position and a former Norris Trophy winner. He could miss up to six weeks with a tear to the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Since joining the Bruins in 2006, the Bruins are 341-204-66 with Chara in the lineup during the regular season and 9-7-5 without him. The longest he had been out since joining the team was five games back in the 2007-08 season. Chara had three points this season and led the team with 10 power-play goals last year.
Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta will play all this week but then undergo surgery next week to remove a tumor on his thyroid gland in his neck. Unfortunately, that has an 85 percent chance of being a low-grade thyroid cancer, team doctor Dharmesh Vyas said. The good news is the Penguins expect Maatta to make a full recovery and live a healthy life. He will probably miss four weeks, however. Maatta is part of Pittsburgh's top defensive pairing with Kris Letang. Maatta has one goal and five points in seven games, averaging 20:12 of ice time.
New Jersey isn't a particularly good offensive team, and it had to put forward Marty Havlat on injured reserve Monday with a lower-body injury. The move is retroactive to Oct. 21, when Havlat last played. He has one goal and three points in five games this season. The Devils have lost four of five entering Tuesday's game at Pittsburgh. The Pens are -175 favorites.
The Kings believe that star Anze Kopitar will be OK after he left Sunday's game against the Blue Jackets in the second period with an upper-body injury and did not return. He has two goals and an assist. L.A. just completed a perfect six-game homestand but begins a five-game road trip on Tuesday in Philadelphia. L.A.'s game in Pittsburgh on Thursday is must-see TV and could well be a Stanley Cup Finals preview. The Kings are +900 at Sportsbook.ag to repeat with Pittsburgh at +1000.
Flyers defensemen Braydon Coburn and Andrew MacDonald each will miss approximately four weeks because of lower-body injuries. Coburn has played in just one game, while McDonald has three points in seven games.
Blackhawks enforcer Daniel Carcillo will miss around four weeks with a knee injury. Carcillo has one goal, 14 shots and nine hits in seven games.
Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson, who had 17 points in an average of about 19 minutes per night last season with Toronto, will finally make his St. Louis debut on Tuesday. He had offseason hip surgery and is expected to be at top-four defenseman.
This Week's Games to Watch
Anaheim at Chicago, Tuesday: The Hawks are -150 favorites at BookMaker with a total of 5.5. It wouldn't be surprising to see these clubs playing this spring in the Western Conference Finals. The Ducks are atop the Pacific Division and had won seven straight since a season-opening loss to Pittsburgh before falling Sunday at home to the Sharks. The Ducks had allowed one or zero goals in four straight games before that. This starts a tough four-game road trip, with the Blues, Stars and Avalanche all up next. Like Chicago, those were all playoff teams in 2013-14. Chicago will again be without starting goalie Corey Crawford on Tuesday, but he is improving from an upper-body injury and could be back sometime this week. He is 3-0-1 with a 1.66 goals-against average and .926 save percentage this season. Incidentally, Chicago's Marian Hossa is three points from 1,000 career. Patrick Kane got his 500th point on Sunday.
Detroit at Washington, Wednesday: Washington star Alex Ovechkin has not scored in Washington's past four games, and the Caps are 2-2 in that stretch, not topping three goals once. Starting Washington netminder Braden Holtby got the team's last game off but will be back in there for this one, the first meeting of the season between the teams. Ditto Detroit starter Jimmy Howard after he sat out Detroit's last game, a loss in Philly. The Wings allowed their first power-play goal of the season in that one. Detroit's penalty kill of 96.2 percent is No. 1 in the NHL.
NY Islanders at Colorado, Thursday: The Islanders may be the most fun team to watch in the NHL as they lead the league in scoring, and I see no reason why they can't win the Metropolitan Division. New York just hung seven goals on Dallas behind a hat trick from Frans Nielsen. It was his first in his 455th career game. The Avalanche are struggling to score, ranking 26th in the league at 2.2 goals per game. They have just one win in their past six games and have scored more than three goals once all season. Nathan MacKinnon, the No. 1 overall pick in 2013, still hasn't had a goal after 24 as a rookie.
Chicago at Toronto, Saturday: Don't be shocked if Toronto's Randy Carlyle is the first NHL coach to get the boot this year. He was a favorite on that Bovada prop back in the preseason. The Leafs have yet to earn a regulation win at home over five games at the Air Canada Centre, with the lone win in OT against Colorado. The players were booed off the ice following Saturday's 4-1 loss to Boston. Carlyle changed up the top line at practice Monday. Star Phil Kessel played with Nazem Kadri at center and Joffrey Lupul on the other wing. Kadri and Lupul are normally on the second line.
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