NHL Hockey Odds and Picks: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 2/23/2015
Here come the champs!
For a while there, it looked like the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings might miss the playoffs. On Feb. 5, the Kings lost 3-2 at Florida, their third straight defeat and 10th in 12 games. They were just 21-18-12 and outside the playoff field.
Apparently the players got a sense of urgency because Los Angeles hasn't been beaten since. The Kings beat San Jose outdoors at Levi's Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers, 2-1 on Saturday for their seventh straight win. Goalie Jonathan Quick has been in net for all of them and the Kings have allowed more than two goals only twice in that run. They have given up just one power-play goal in that stretch. By the way, the attendance of 70,205 was the third-largest in NHL history. It was Quick's 200th career NHL victory, and he's the only goalie to record 200 wins in a Kings uniform. Drew Doughty played in his 500th-career NHL game and was on the ice a whopping 32:01. He leads the NHL in average time on ice at 29:29.
With the win, the Kings moved from out of playoff position into third place in the Pacific Division. L.A. is tied with Calgary and San Jose with 68 points but has played one fewer game than the Flames and three fewer than the Sharks. That's the same amount of points the Kings had through 58 games last season as well. Their winning streak is the team's longest since winning eight games in a row last season, from Feb. 6 to March 10.
Bovada has taken notice of this run as the Kings are now back up to fourth favorites to win the Cup at 10/1. Interestingly, the top five favorites are all from the Western Conference. Those playoffs are going to be a bloodbath.
The Kings are home to Detroit on Tuesday, the Wings' only visit of the season. Quick was named the NHL's No. 1 star for last week on Monday. He had a 1.33 GAA and .959 save percentage in three wins. There's no opening line on Wings-Kings because Detroit played on Monday night in Anaheim so it's not clear if No. 1 goaltender Jimmy Howard would be in net again Tuesday.
The Flyers are hoping to get back goalie Steve Mason from a knee injury this week. It's not likely to happen Tuesday in Carolina but could on Thursday in Toronto. Mason should for sure be ready by Saturday's home game with the Rangers. Mason had surgery Feb. 10 to repair a torn meniscus. He is 11-12-7 with a 2.27 GAA and .925 save percentage. Philly defenseman Kimmo Timonen could make his season debut Saturday. He has not played since being diagnosed with blood clots in his leg and lungs in August
All-Star Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has been out since Jan. 21 with a groin injury but team officials remain hopeful that he can return at some point this week. Bobrovsky was originally expected to miss 4-6 weeks. Backup Curtis McElhinney has played pretty well in his spot. Bobrovsky is 16-15-2 with a 2.85 GAA and .913 save percentage.
We stick with the goalies as Vancouver's Ryan Miller sustained a lower-body injury Sunday at the Islanders and the team sent him back to Vancouver to get an MRI. Miller was run into by teammate Jannik Hansen, who crashed into the net and made contact with Miller's right leg. Miller left the game and didn't return. He is 28-15-1 with a 2.47 GAA and .913 save percentage. Backup Eddie Lack will certainly be in net Tuesday in Boston.
Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin left last Wednesday's game against Ottawa and has been placed on injured reserve. He could be out multiple weeks. In 55 games this season Emelin has scored two goals to go with 13 assists and averages closes to 20 minutes per night.
Jets forward Mathieu Perreault has a "significant" lower-body injury and might miss the rest of the regular season. Perreault, who skated on the team's second line, has tied his career high with 18 goals in 56 games this season. Perreault's 36 points rank him fifth on Winnipeg.
This Week's Games to Watch
Montreal at St. Louis, Tuesday: The Canadiens enter Monday with the most points in the Eastern Conference with 81 and have one of the NHL's best road records at 17-9-1. The Habs ended a two-game slide with a 3-1 home win over Columbus on Saturday behind 31 saves from Carey Price. Montreal leads the league in goals-against average. This concludes a four-game homestand for the Blues, who are 1-2 on it, losing to Dallas and then Saturday to Pittsburgh and Pens backup goalie Thomas Greiss. The Blues lost their lone trip to Montreal on Nov. 20, 4-1. Price had 31 saves and Max Pacioretty two goals. St. Louis hadn't lost a game in Montreal since 2004. St. Louis is a -150 favorite at BookMaker.
Pittsburgh at Washington, Wednesday: NBC Sports Network will show this nationally. I had a Pens-Capitals game in this space last week and Washington improved to 3-0 against Pittsburgh this season with a 3-1 road win. Braden Holtby made 32 saves and Alex Ovechkin had a goal and an assist. Ovechkin has four points (three goals) in the three games vs. the Penguins, while Holtby has won all three with a goals-against average of just 0.33 and save percentage of .989. Sidney Crosby doesn't have a point in the three games and is minus-5. Marc Andre-Fleury started and lost all three, with a GAA of 3.05 and save percentage of .912.
Chicago at Tampa Bay, Friday: The Blackhawks remain 6/1 favorites to win the Cup, but they really have been inconsistent in the New Year. They enter this week on a three-game losing streak and were routed Friday at home by Colorado, 4-1, and then Sunday at the United Center by Boston, 6-2. It's Chicago's first three-game skid since last March. The Hawks lost defenseman Johnny Oduya to an injury against the Bruins and he's probably out a couple of weeks. Chicago is only 10-9-3 since Jan. 1 and definitely isn't catching Nashville for the Central Division title. Tampa lost in Chicago 3-2 in a shootout on Nov. 11. The Blackhawks had lost their last five games against the Lightning, with four of the defeats coming in a shootout or overtime.
Detroit at Nashville, Saturday: The Predators have climbed to the 17/2 second-favorites to win the Cup and it's hard to see how they aren't the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs. That's bad news for the league because Nashville has just three home losses. The Preds no doubt will want a bit of payback for one of their worst losses of the year, 5-2 in Detroit on Jan. 17. Goalie Pekka Rinne was out injured then. The Wings chased backup Carter Hutton after scoring three times in the first 12-plus minutes.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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