Sharks at Wild Picks and NHL Betting Odds
by Alan Matthews - 3/23/2013
“Winning” the offseason in terms of free agency more often than not doesn’t lead to a championship. In the NFL for example, I give you Dan Snyder’s free-spending Washington Redskins. They only got good by drafting Robert Griffin III. In the NHL, you can include the New York Rangers in that group. Sure, the Blueshirts have been a good team in recent years and reached the East Finals last season, but they still haven’t been back to the Stanley Cup Finals since 1994 despite always adding big-money free agents.
I mention this because the Minnesota Wild clearly won this offseason by signing free-agent forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter to 13-year, $98 million contracts. You will almost never see an NBA superstar sign with a small-market team, but the Wild were able to land Suter and Parise because Parise is from Minneapolis and recruited his buddy Suter to join him there.
So far the money appears to be well spent. Last year the Wild were by far the lowest-scoring team in the NHL and finished 12th in the West with 81 points. So far this season, Minnesota is tied with Vancouver atop the Northwest Division and currently No. 3 in the conference. No team is hotter than the Wild in the West as they enter Saturday’s game against San Jose on a four-game winning streak – longest in conference -- and winners of nine of their past 12.
Sharks at Wild Betting Story Lines
San Jose looked like the West’s best team outside of Chicago early in the season but has floundered since and is currently eighth in the conference with 32 points. The Sharks are the only current playoff team in the West with a negative goal differential at minus-6. San Jose did win 4-3 in a shootout at Edmonton on Wednesday, but that was only its second win in the past eight games. How can a team with Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and Martin Havlat rank No. 28 in goals at 2.3 per game?
The biggest culprit for San Jose’s offensive woes is right winger Ryane Clowe, who missed his second straight game Wednesday with a shoulder injury. He has yet to score this season after totaling 41 goals the past two years and is minus-7. Clowe, who is officially day-to-day, has been rumored as a possible trade chip should the Sharks decide to sell, as has top defenseman Dan Boyle (perhaps to the Rangers). Boyle is still very good and leads the team in ice time but has a year left on his big contract and a cap number of $6.66 million. San Jose may not be able to afford him when the cap drops in 2013-14.
Minnesota isn’t exactly an offensive powerhouse this season, ranking No. 19 at 2.6 goals per game, but that’s clearly a huge step up from last season. Suter ranks No. 2 among defensemen with 24 points (two goals) and leads the league in time on ice at 27:12 per game. Parise also has been good with 11 goals and 12 assists and leads the team with five power-play goals. The hottest player on the team is former Shark Devin Setoguchi. He had two goals for the Wild in their 4-2 win over the Red Wings on Wednesday and has found the net six times in the past five games. Setoguchi had only three goals in 19 games through the end of February but has eight in March. That matches Setoguchi's career high for goals in a calendar month.
In addition, 19-year-old defenseman Jonas Brodin is emerging as a Calder Trophy candidate. . His two goals and three assists aren’t much to look at, but he leads all rookies in average ice time (22:26) and has been terrific on the top blueline pairing with Suter. Thanks in large part to those two, goalie Niklas Backstrom is third in the NHL with 15 wins to go along with a 2.32 GAA and .917 save percentage. He made a season-high 36 saves in Wednesday’s win.
Sharks at Wild NHL Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BookMaker, Minnesota has been opened at -135 and San Jose +115 with the total at 5. San Jose is 10-15-4 “over/under” and 6-6-4 on the road. The Wild are 11-15-3 O/U and 5-7-2 at home. They have won three of their past four as a favorite. The Sharks have dropped their past five as a dog.
San Jose is 1-5 in its past six after a win and 1-7 in their last eight games when their opponent allows two goals or less in its previous game. The Wild have won four of their past five Saturday games. The under hasn’t hit in San Jose’s past nine games (three pushes) or in its past seven road games. The over is 5-1 in Minnesota’s past six games after allowing two goals or fewer in its previous game. The home team has won seven of the past eight meetings.
Sharks at Wild Picks and Betting Predictions
Somehow these two teams are meeting for the first time. The Wild have won the last three overall in the series, each by one goal, and have won four straight at home vs. San Jose. The Sharks aren’t very good on the road this year at 5-9-2, and Antti Niemi’s GAA is almost a full goal higher away from home. Backstrom’s GAA, meanwhile, is almost a half-goal better at home. The Wild are 10-3-1 there overall. Take them and the over.
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