The NHL Weekly Road Map
Team to bet this week: San Jose Sharks (32-26-8)
The Sharks put themselves in a very tough position this past week after a loss to the Canucks at home on Saturday. They sit six points back of a Wild Card spot currently held by the Winnipeg Jets. They will now have to jump over teams like Calgary and Los Angeles to get into position with only 14 games left remaining on the schedule. The Sharks will know that they have to nearly win out to make the playoffs. San Jose gets three home games against tough teams in Nashville, Chicago and Pittsburgh this week and it is highly probable they are the underdog in all three matchups. Making them a good value home bet. I like the desperation side from the Sharks who are a talented team that needs to pick it up to make one last push.
Team to fade this week: Anaheim Ducks (42-18-7)
It is very hard to bet against the top team in the NHL right now but they are in for a tough week. The Ducks play four games–three on the road, all against playoff caliber teams. The three game road trip starts in Vancouver and ends with a matchup against the red hot Minnesota team on Friday. The Ducks will then return home to face the central leading Nashville Predators for a big Saturday game. The Ducks will be the favorite in every one of these games but with a 20-12 SU record on the road we should know that it is anything but sure thing. The parity in the NHL is one of the biggest strengths of the league but it makes it hard to go heavy on any one of the favorites.
Toronto Maple Leafs’ games have seen the UNDER total hit in eight-of-the-last ten games and if it wasn’t for a ton of goals from opposition St. Louis (5) on Saturday, it would have been nine-of- ten. The reason for the low total numbers is simple–Toronto just can’t put the puck in the net. The Leafs are averaging just 1.8 goals over this stretch of time. Star sniper Phil Kessel has just four goals this calendar year and that should tell you everything about the amazingly bad streak the Leafs are on to finish this season.
In probably the most painful but fascinating turn of events last week, the Florida Panthers suffered serious injuries to starter Roberto Luongo and backup
Al Montoya in the same game. Not surprisingly, the Panthers went on to lose to Toronto in a crucial home game where they needed the two points. Florida is four points back of Boston for the final playoff spot in the East and is having to go with minor league call-up Dan Ellis as their starting goalie. Roberto Luongo was quietly having a standout season for the team and backup Al Montoya was no slouch either. Their playoffs hopes rest with Ellis right now and that is pretty scary if you support the Panthers.
The Nashville Predators looked to be running away with the Central division, the Western conference and the even overall NHL points until going on this shocking six game losing streak. It doesn’t get any easier for the Predators this week as the team heads to the West Coast to face Anaheim, San Jose and Los Angeles on the road. They have a game against the lowly Arizona Coyotes to get the losing out of their system on Monday before heading out California. The biggest question surrounding this Nashville team has always been their ability to score enough goals to win games and right now that has dried up. It still is not a fluke they are where they are in the standings but we will see how the team responds to some adversity heading into this stretch drive.