NHL Hockey Odds and Picks: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 3/16/2015
Back on Jan. 14, the Minnesota Wild made what looked like a rather inconsequential trade in acquiring goaltender Devan Dubnyk from Arizona for a third-round pick in the 2015 draft. You might not even have noticed that deal at the time. Dubnyk was flat-out lousy last year in Edmonton, going 11-17-2 with a 3.36 goals-against average and .894 save percentage. Dubnyk was just so-so early this season with the Coyotes, going 9-5-2 with a 2.72 GAA and .916 save percentage.
Now? He might be the Vezina Trophy winner (it probably will be Montreal's Carey Price, but Dubnyk will be a finalist) and is the biggest reason the Wild are surging and likely to earn a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Since Dubnyk joined the Wild, they have the best record in the NHL at 20-5-2. They beat an excellent Blues team on their ice Saturday, 3-1, behind 41 saves from Dubnyk. It was the Wild's franchise-record-tying seventh road win in a row and their first regulation win in their past 13 visits to St. Louis dating to Oct. 20, 2007. Dubnyk is an absurd 11-1-2 on the road with Minnesota. Those 41 saves were the most he has made with the Wild and it was his whopping 27th straight start. I'd be a tad worried, I suppose, that the guy wears down if the Wild can't give him a night or two off down the stretch.
Unfortunately for Minnesota, it plays in the ultra-deep Central Division so the Wild probably are still only going to finish fourth, which is where they are currently with 83 points. That's going to mean a very tough first-round playoff matchup against likely the Blues or Predators. Minnesota is now the third-favorite at Bovada to win the West at 5/1 (with St. Louis).
Penguins star Evgeni Malkin is going to miss 1-2 weeks with a lower-body injury suffered in Saturday's loss to Boston. That likely ends Malkin's chances to win the NHL scoring title as he entered this week sixth in the league with 68 points, four behind leader John Tavares of the Islanders. It was a rough weekend for the Pens as not only did they fall to Boston but were pounded on Sunday by Detroit and lost winger Patric Hornqvist for perhaps a week when he was hurt against the Wings. He has 23 goals and 22 assists in 56 games.
The Lightning got even worse news last week than Pittsburgh. Defenseman Braydon Coburn will be out 4-6 weeks with a lower-body injury, forward Ondrej Palat will miss 2-3 weeks with a lower-body injury and forward Cedric Paquette will be sidelined 10-14 days with an upper-body injury. Coburn was a trade acquisition from Philadelphia. He had two points and was plus-3 in four games with the Bolts. Palat is fourth on the team with 52 points and a stellar plus-28 on the year. He has been a big part of what has been one of the best lines in hockey this season alongside Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov. When that line has been on the ice this season during 5-on-5 play the Lightning have outscored their opponents 42-20. Paquette has 12 goals and seven assists.
Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein will miss 3-4 weeks with a left arm injury. Klein's plus-24 rating is tied with Rick Nash for the team lead. Klein has career highs of nine goals and 26 points while averaging 18:29 of ice time.
This Week's Games to Watch
NY Islanders at Chicago, Tuesday: It's the Isles' only visit to Chicago this season, although it wouldn't surprise me to see these two teams facing off in June. The Blackhawks have played well since losing MVP candidate Patrick Kane to a regular-season-ending broken clavicle, winning six of eight since then (including game he left). Chicago pounded San Jose 6-2 in California on Saturday. The best news from that was Patrick Sharp scoring twice, his first goals since Jan. 28. Goalie Corey Crawford continued his tremendous play as he is 5-0-1 in his past six with a GAA of 1.15. The Islanders are slumping at the wrong time, losing three straight and scoring just one goal in each. The Rangers are now pulling away, up five points atop the Metropolitan Division. The Islanders beat the visiting Blackhawks 3-2 on Dec. 13. Crawford wasn't in net for that game. The Hawks are -160 BookMaker favorites.
Los Angeles at Anaheim, Wednesday: No love lost between these rivals. The Ducks are a lock to win the Pacific Division and are tied for the NHL lead with 95 points. This game means much more for the Kings, who if the playoffs started Monday would be on the outside looking in. This is the last regular-season meeting between the Kings and Ducks. Anaheim leads 3-1, with the first three games all going at least to overtime.
Detroit at Tampa Bay, Friday: The short-handed Lightning are in a bit of an offensive funk as they had scored two goals or fewer in three straight games entering Monday's home matchup with Montreal. The Red Wings played one of their best games of the season on Sunday in trashing the Penguins 5-1 on Pittsburgh's ice. This one will be the second of a back-to-back for the Wings as Detroit is at Florida on Thursday. Tampa is 2-0 vs. Detroit this season.
Boston at Florida, Saturday: This matchup could have big wild-card implications as Boston enters the week holding down that final spot in the East with Ottawa five back and Florida six. Thus it's pretty must a must-win game for the Panthers. They are currently down to third-string goalie Dan Ellis. No.1 Roberto Luongo has missed the past four games with an upper-body injury and No. 2 Al Montoya is dealing with a groin injury. Dan Ellis has been manning the net with those two out. Somehow these teams have met only once thus far, a 2-1 Boston OT home win Nov. 4.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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