Avalanche at Sharks Picks and NHL Betting Odds
by Alan Matthews - 1/26/2013
The San Jose Sharks have long been considered underachievers. They usually have some of the greatest collection of offensive talent in the NHL but have yet to reach the Stanley Cup Finals in franchise history. Could this year be different? San Jose again looks dynamic offensively, ranking No. 2 in the league entering Friday’s action in averaging five goals per game and No. 3 in power-play percentage at 38.9. Take a look at the NHL points leaders list and it’s littered with Sharks: Joe Thornton (nine, No. 1), Patrick Marleau (eight, No. 2), Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski (seven, No. 4).
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The scary thing is that San Jose could get even better. The team recently signed Montreal Canadiens castoff Scott Gomez to a one-year deal. Gomez was amnestied by the Habs, who gave him a pro-rated salary of $5.5 million this season and two-thirds of next year’s $4.5 million salary just to go away. San Jose got him for just $700,000. The 33-year-old Gomez clearly isn’t what he used to be when he was one of the NHL’s top centers while with New Jersey. But he will be a terrific addition as the third-line center and is an upgrade over Michal Handzus. Gomez has yet to debut for San Jose but could do it in this game. He spent 11 games with the Alaska Aces of the ECHL this season, recording six goals and seven assists. Gomez is second among active U.S.-born players in career points with 686.
Avalanche at Sharks Betting Story Lines
The Avs are one of the younger teams in the NHL and are on the rise, but they lost a key player to a season-ending ACL injury this week. Forward Steve Downie tore the ligament in Tuesday’s game against the Kings. He was acquired from the Lightning last February and had two goals and 11 assists in 20 games with the Avalanche. Downie, who skated on the No. 2 line, had one assist and six penalty minutes this season before the injury. Chuck Kobasew has replaced Downie for now.
Downie’s injury could spur the Avalanche to get center Ryan O’Reilly in the fold. The youngster led Colorado with 55 points last season (18 goals, 37 assists). O’Reilly is a restricted free agent who played in Russia’s KHL during the lockout. A few days ago, O’Reilly and his KHL team, Metallurg, announced a mutual split as he had an opt-out clause for when the lockout ended. The problem is that O’Reilly has a foot injury, and his agent said O'Reilly is only coming back to North America for treatment on that. His KHL team said he might return to Europe to finish the season. This is all probably a power play, excuse the pun, to get the Avs to pay up.
Colorado opened the season with a 2-1 loss at the new-look Minnesota Wild but has followed with a 3-1 home win over the Kings and a 4-0 blanking of Columbus on Thursday. The difference? Goaltender Semyon Varlamov has been much better, for sure. He stopped 33 shots against the Blue Jackets, matching the most saves Varlamov has ever made in a shutout in his NHL career. Perhaps most important: The Avs allowed two power-play goals in the opener and have killed off all six penalties in each of the past two wins. Rising superstar Matt Duchene had two goals and an assist vs. the Jackets.
San Jose has looked dominant, winning 4-1 in Calgary, 6-3 in Edmonton (when San Jose had six first-period goals) and 5-3 against Phoenix in the Sharks’ home opener on Thursday as Marleau had his third straight two-goal game – he leads the NHL with six -- and had the game-winner with 1:53 left. The Sharks were down 3-1 in the third before a four-goal spurt. San Jose did catch a break when Phoenix had to scratch No. 1 goaltender Mike Smith with an injury. Smith posted three of his eight shutouts against the Sharks last season. It’s the first time San Jose has opened with three straight wins since 2008-09.
Avalanche at Sharks NHL Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BookMaker, as of our deadline for this article, San Jose is a -165 favorite – Colorado at +145 -- with the total at 5.5. The Avalanche are 1-1 as an underdog this season and 1-2 “over/under”. The Sharks are 3-0 as a favorite and 2-0-1 O/U.
Colorado is 1-4 in its past five road games dating to last season. The Sharks are 6-1 in their past seven following a win. The under is 4-1-3 in the Avs’ past eight against Pacific Division foes. The over is 4-1-2 in San Jose’s past seven after a win. Colorado is 1-5 in the past six meetings. The under is 10-4 in the past 14 in San Jose.
Avalanche at Sharks Picks and Betting Predictions
San Jose beat Colorado in three of four meetings last season and scored at least three goals in every game – the lone loss was a 4-3 shootout in Denver. Thornton led the Sharks with six points (all assists), while Marleau had four goals. Duchene had three points in the four games but was minus-3. Varlamov started three of the four games and was 1-2 with a 3.93 GAA and .879 save percentage.
I have zero doubt that San Jose is a better team. But I think this is a trap game for the Sharks as they will be pumped to face the preseason Western Conference favored Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night. Thus, I am taking the Avs because it’s great value at that price. Also going with a rare over.
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