I can honestly say I didn't expect to type this sentence at all for the 2015-16 NHL season: the Dallas Stars are your Stanley Cup betting favorites.
That is the case at Bovada , with the Stars at +700, just ahead of the New York Rangers and Montreal (both +800). Dallas enters Tuesday's game at Buffalo with 28 points (14-4-0, best 18-game start in franchise history), which gives the Stars the lead in the Central Division. Behind Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, who are No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, in the NHL in points, the Stars are No. 2 in the NHL with 65 goals. The offense will be there all season, but I still don't trust that team's goaltending. Kari Lehtonen is 8-1-0 despite a 2.38 goals-against average that's just 21st in the NHL. He splits time with Antti Niemi, who is 6-3-0 with a 2.80 GAA.
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The Stars will get some reinforcements on Tuesday. Forwards Patrick Eaves and Travis Moen are ready to return from injury. Eaves missed 15 games with a lower-body injury. Moen missed 14 games with an upper-body issue. The game I'm looking forward to this week involving the Stars is at Washington on Thursday. Here are some other games to watch this week:
Chicago at Edmonton, Wednesday: Your Hart Trophy favorite for NHL MVP has to be Chicago's Patrick Kane. Kane, who no longer has to worry about those sexual assault charges in Buffalo, leads the league with 28 points, with 13 goals and with a plus/minus of plus-14. Think he's playing with a bit of a chip on his shoulder after those accusations? Kane has scored at least one point in 13 straight games, one shy of his career-best mark, and has a goal in seven in a row -- that's the longest streak by a Chicago player since Joe Murphy found the net in nine straight in 1995. Kane has been held off the score sheet only twice this season and has eight multipoint games. Predictably, the Oilers have gone into a funk since losing former Calder Trophy favorite Connor McDavid to a broken collarbone. Chicago beat visiting Edmonton 4-2 on Nov. 8. Kane had a goal and three assists and rookie Artemi Panarin had two goals.The Hawks opened as -147 favorites for this one on BetOnline.
Colorado at Pittsburgh, Thursday:
What is going on with the Penguins? No team has the forward depth they do, but Pittsburgh ranks just 27th in the NHL with 2.06 goals per game and dead last
in power-play percentage at 12.3. Evgeni Malkin was asked what was wrong with the offense and he simply said: "Everything. ... We don't play right, we
don't work hard." Malkin has 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 17 games while Sidney Crosby has been limited to two goals and seven assists, easily
the worst start of his career. The only reason this team is above .500 has been the goaltending of Marc-Andre Fleury. The Avalanche are going to be without
goalie Semyon Varlamov for a while as he was placed on injured reserve Sunday retroactive to Nov. 10. That might actually be a good thing considering he is
just 3-6-1 with a 3.26 GAA and .890 save percentage. The Avs are playing much better with Reto Berra in net.
He struggled for most of last season as the Avs' backup.
New York Rangers at Tampa Bay, Thursday : A rematch of last season's Eastern Conference Finals and the Rangers bring an NHL-best nine-game winning streak into it. It's the longest for the team in 43 years and one shy of the franchise record. During that run, the Rangers have trailed in only three games. Right now, they have both the league's best shooting percentage (10.7) and save percentage (95.9) at even strength. Henrik Lundqvist is 10-2-2, including a 1.69 goals-against average,.947 save percentage and one shutout. Make sure to always bet on the Blueshirts in the second of a back-to-back as well. They are 5-0-0 in those situations this season and 15-1-1 in the past 17 such occasions. Of course the Lightning won a Game 7 at Madison Square Garden last spring to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Los Angeles at Detroit, Friday: It's the only trip to Motown this season for the Kings, who have taken their rightful spot atop the Pacific Division and have played better on the road than at home, where they used to be nearly unbeatable. The Red Wings are largely treading water and need to get more out of Darren Helm. He has only one goal and no assists after 15 goals and 33 points last season. In Monday's win over Ottawa, the Wings used Helm on a checking line with Luke Glendening and Riley Sheehan. An injury at the start of camp sidelined Helm until the fifth game, and he hasn't seen the power-play time he saw last season. Monday was the first time in seven games the Wings scored more than two goals in a game and only the second time all season they had 30 or more shots on goal.
Anaheim at Tampa Bay, Saturday: Many national publications had this as the Stanley Cup Finals matchup this season. Right now, neither the Ducks nor Lightning would even make the playoffs. The Bolts have been outscored by three goals this season as guys like Tyler Johnson (who currently out with an upper-body injury), Ondrej Palat (out 2-4 weeks with an ankle problem) and Valtteri Filppula have struggled, among others. Anaheim has been fine defensively, leading the NHL in penalty-kill percentage and allowing the fewest power-play goals. The Ducks aren't scoring themselves with only 33 goals, tied with Philadelphia for the fewest in the league. Star Ryan Getzlaf scored an empty-net goal Monday; it was his first goal of the season in his 14th game.
Montreal goaltender Carey Price hasn't played since Oct. 29 due to a lower-body injury and it's not likely he will this week, either. He did take some shots at practice on Monday for the first time since the injury. Backup Mike Condon started off really well in Price's spot but has been shaky in his past three outings.
Islanders winger Mikhail Grabovski left Monday's victory over the Arizona Coyotes after suffering an upper-body injury and did not return. He has registered three goals, five assists and is a plus-5 through 19 games.
Minnesota star Zach Parise hasn't played since Nov. 5 because of an MCL injury but has resumed skating. There still remains no timetable for his return and it won't be until the weekend at the earliest. In 12 games this season, Parise has seven goals and two assists.
Philadelphia's top defenseman, Mark Streit, was to have surgery on Tuesday to repair a pubic plate detachment -- it hurts me just typing that -- and will miss six weeks. Streit has three goals and six assists while playing more than 22 minutes per night.
Columbus center Brandon Dubinsky will miss 2-3 weeks with an elbow injury. In 16 games this season, Dubinsky is second on the team in scoring with 11 points (four goals, seven assists). He leads the team's forwards in average ice time (18:46). Very little has gone right for the disappointing Blue Jackets this season. Nick Foligno will center the second line between Matt Calvert and Cam Atkinson in Dubinsky's spot.
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