NHL Hockey Odds and Picks: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 11/24/2014
This week marks the quarter pole of the 2014-15 NHL season as every team will have played at least 25 percent of its games by the end of the week. So what do we know thus far?
Penguins star Sidney Crosby is probably your Hart Trophy favorite with 26 points entering the week, but my pick back in October, Dallas' Tyler Seguin, is right there. He also has 26 points but leads the NHL in goals with 15, one ahead of preseason favorite Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay. Seguin probably won 't get the Hart consideration he deserves because the Stars have been a big disappointment with just 20 points. Those are the third-fewest in the Western Conference.
Your Norris Trophy favorite is likely Calgary's Mark Giordano, who leads all defensemen with 23 points and is a very solid plus-10. Giordano is a big reason why Calgary has been a surprise team when many expected the Flames to be at the bottom of the West.
Bovada lists Chicago and Pittsburgh as co +700 favorites to win the Cup, but the Blackhawks have been a disappointment with 25 points, good enough for just seventh in the West. That despite a goals differential of plus-19 that is second-best in the NHL to the Penguins' plus-25. I don't get why the site isn't kinder to Montreal, which is +1400 to win the Cup. The Habs lead the NHL with 33 points despite a moderately disappointing 2.35 goals-against average by Carey Price, my pick to win the Vezina Trophy.
Boston center David Krecji hasn't played since last Tuesday due to an undisclosed injury. Monday saw him miss a third straight game ninth in the past 11. The team wants to hold him out so he can finally 100 percent instead of yo-yoing Krecji in and out of the lineup. Boston star defenseman Zdeno Chara (knee) skated on his own for the first time in a month on Monday morning, but he's still at least a week from returning.
The Blues beat Winnipeg on Sunday without top defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. He suffered a lower-body injury in St. Louis' 3-2 win over Ottawa on Saturday afternoon. Sunday's absence ended Bouwmeester's ironman streak at 737 consecutive NHL games, the longest active streak in the league. The record is Doug Jarvis with 964 straight games.
Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk has missed the past four games and six of the past eight with a groin injury but says he's improving and could be able to go later this week. "I feel much better, but I think I need more full practices with team to make sure it feels good and it does not come back every second game," he said.
Leafs defenseman Roman Polak will miss approximately four weeks with a knee strain. Polak had three goals and two assists in 21:07 of ice time per night. He was second to Dion Phaneuf in ice time among Leafs blueliners, first among NHL defenders in hits and top five in blocked shots. Meanwhile, injured forwards David Booth (foot) and Joffrey Lupul (hand) both are expected to return as early as Wednesday's game in Pittsburgh.
This Week's Games to Watch
New Jersey at Vancouver, Tuesday: The Canucks were supposed to be rebuilding this season but are among the Western Conference points leaders. Willie Desjardins has to be a favorite for NHL Coach of the Year. I'm presuming the franchise will do something Tuesday night and perhaps the rest of the season (patch on jersey?) to honor former coach Pat Quinn. He died Sunday at age 71 in Vancouver. Quinn was beloved in Vancouver, where he played and later coached the Canucks. Quinn also served as co-owner of the Vancouver Giants, a major junior team in the Western Hockey League. His career NHL record stood at 684-528-154-34. He ranks fifth on the NHL's career list for games coached (1,400) and games won (684). Canucks right winger Jannik Hansen was last week's First Star of the Week in the NHL. Hansen led the NHL with five goals as Vancouver netted five of a possible six standings points. He capped the week by posting his first career hat trick in a 4-1 win over Chicago. The Canucks are -160 favorites at BookMaker for this one.
NY Rangers at Tampa Bay, Wednesday: It's the first game back in Tampa for probably the most beloved Lightning player of all time, Martin St. Louis. He hasn't played in Tampa since his request/demand for a trade to the Blueshirts was granted by the Bolts on March 5. St. Louis was ticked that Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, in his role as Team Canada GM, snubbed St. Louis in the Olympic selection process for Sochi. St. Louis has a home in Connecticut and always wanted to play for the Rangers. He could get his 1,000th point Wednesday as St. Louis is at 998. St. Louis has scored seven goals in his last 10 games.
Edmonton at Nashville, Thursday: Not that exciting of a matchup, but if you don't want to watch college football or the NFL game on Thanksgiving night then this is your only other sporting option with the NBA dark on the holiday. Nashville has whom I believe is the top goalie in the league this season in Pekka Rinne. The Oilers are atrocious and enter this week on a six-game skid, longest in the NHL. The Predators are 2-0 vs. Edmonton this season.
Chicago at Los Angeles, Saturday: The clear marquee game of the week and will be nationally televised on the NHL Network. It's the first time these teams have seen one another since the Kings ousted the Blackhawks in overtime of Game 7 of last season's Western Conference Finals. That was one of the greatest playoff series I had ever seen. Really tough second of a back-to-back for the Hawks as they visit Anaheim on Friday night. The good news for Chicago is the Kings game ends the six-game Circus Trip. The circus takes over the United Center each year around this time and forces the Hawks and Bulls to take long road trips. Chicago is +375 to win the West and L.A. +500 at Bovada.
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