therock Posts:120 Followers:3
On 10/31/2011 12:28 AM in NHL

Pucking the trends: This week's best NHL bets

Every week, we update you on who's hot, who's not and situational betting spots in the National Hockey League.

HOT TEAM: San Jose Sharks

The Sharks usually wait until the postseason to disappoint their fans, but this year, with perhaps as much talent as any team in the Western Conference, they stumbled right out of the box.

San Jose dropped three games in a four-day span earlier this month, and found itself surprisingly in last place on Oct. 17.

But a road trip to the East Coast has been an effective elixir, as the Sharks have rolled up five straight wins headed into Monday’s tilt versus the Rangers in New York.

San Jose offense's has turned the corner on this trip, and after Saturday's 3-2 win over the Islanders in New York, Joe Pavelski had seven goals, Joe Thornton had eight points, and the Sharks were 6-3.

Perhaps the biggest key, moving forward for bettors, is the Sharks’ conditioning. In this win streak, San Jose has shown no fatigue, sweeping two sets of Friday-Saturday, back-to-back games. Keep that in mind.

COLD TEAM: Boston Bruins

No surprise here, as the Stanley Cup hangover has hit Beantown. And perhaps this one may last even longer than most, when you consider that the Bruins played three seven-game series in the postseason, and then partied for two months leading into training camp.

Headed into Tuesday’s tilt versus Ottawa, the Bruins had lost three in a row and four of the last five. They were swept by the rival Canadiens in a three-day span, ending Saturday, and managed just three goals in those two games.

Surprisingly, despite having one of the deepest goaltending situations in the league, Boston isn't exactly dominating in the nets. Tuukka Rask took the loss on Saturday and Tim Thomas took the loss on Thursday.

OVER PLAY: Philadelphia Flyers

When they acquired goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov in the summer, it seemed -- once and for all -- that the Flyers’ biggest problem had been solved. They finally had an anchor in net, and a superstar to play behind that deep, dominating set of defensemen.

Well, that lockdown, stifling system they had planned on still may happen. But for now, Bryzgalov is inconsistent, captain Chris Pronger is out with an eye injury and pucks are soaring into the net during Philadelphia’s games.

Saturday’s 5-1 win over Carolina was Philadelphia’s seventh consecutive over, and eighth in the last nine games. In many instances, the total wasn’t even close. On Thursday, versus Winnipeg, there were 17 goals scored, eight by the Flyers.

Offensively, Philadelphia’s doing their part as well. Jaromir Jagr, the summer’s other big addition, had five goals and Claude Giroux had 15 points heading into Wednesday’s game at Buffalo.

UNDER PLAY: Dallas Stars

Count the Stars among the surprise teams in the Western Conference. Without Brad Richards, and despite the bitter taste in the franchise's mouth for missing the playoffs at the final horn last season, Dallas has rebounded nicely.

And the Stars have done it with defense.

In their last six games, Dallas has gone 4-1-1 under, and it allowed two goals or less in five of those games. They ended Saturday’s action in first place in the Pacific Division.

Goaltender Kari Lehtonen has been tremendous. He stopped 31 shots in a 3-1 win over New Jersey on Saturday, and is now 8-1 with a 1.75 goals-against average. Sounds like the right recipe for unders.

SURVEYING THE SCHEDULE:

** Despite a loss to Toronto on Saturday, the Penguins are still cruising right along without Sidney Crosby, and now they have some time to catch their breath. While they have to make another West Coast trip in November, the fact of the matter is that Sunday began a stretch in which Pittsburgh will play just four games in 16 days. Expect some fresh legs on the Penguins bench, when they take on the Sharks in San Jose on Thursday.

** Give credit to the Jets for hanging in there on the road. Winnipeg is in the midst of a seven-game trip away from home, which continues Monday at Florida. Through Saturday, they were 1-1 and had recovered from a brutal start overall by going 2-2 in four games, three of which came against playoff teams from last season. The Jets won’t return home until Nov. 10, when they host the Panthers.