The grind of the NHL regular season is really just getting started for a lot of teams. The playoff push is on. As of last Saturday, there were three full weeks of the season left. That means that the schedule is condensed for a lot of teams. Many teams have 11 or 12 games left to play over the final 19 days of the season. That is a heavy workload and it is going to show in some of these spots. Furthermore, we all know about the “must-win” inflation put into some of these lines. Be very mindful of the schedule. It is so important at this time of year.
Without further adieu, let’s look at some NHL situational betting spots for the week ending March 26:
Monday March 20
Los Angeles Kings at Edmonton Oilers – This is a big game for the Edmonton Oilers. This is a young team closing in on its first playoff spot since the 2005-06 season. For Edmonton, this is the last game of a long homestand. After starting 1-2-1, the Oilers have won three straight and can end on a high note before a road back-to-back on Wednesday and Thursday in Anaheim and Colorado. They are catching Los Angeles in a tricky spot. The Kings visit Calgary on Sunday night to battle one of the hottest teams in the NHL. This is the only back-to-back in the NHL on Monday and no teams play the Friday/Saturday/Monday three games in four nights stretch, so this is our best spot of the night.
Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs – The Boston Bruins are in a bit of a weird travel spot on Monday. After playing three games in four nights in Western Canada last week, the Bruins had three days off to finish out the week. This now amounts to a standalone road game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto gave a whale of an effort in Saturday’s loss to Chicago, but came up just short. This is the front end of a back-to-back for Boston, as they host Ottawa on Tuesday night. We’ll have to see how Boston fares here. The Bruins are a tough matchup for a lot of teams, but this should be a spirited affair with a lot of offensive chances. The over would be a lean here, but it’s hard to count out Boston after three days off. Expect Boston to be the sharp side, so if you like Toronto, wait it out.
Tuesday March 21
Pittsburgh Penguins at Buffalo Sabres – It doesn’t matter what the standings look like because the Sabres always seem to get up for this game. The Penguins are dealing with a ton of injuries right now and have been for a while. At some point, that has to catch up with them. This week, the Penguins don’t play any of the top teams in the Metropolitan Division, so they can bank some points and wins, but it might be tough to be on top of things with all of those injuries. This is the first home game back after a long trip for Buffalo and it’s also a back-to-back after playing in Detroit on Monday. All of that will be built into the line. The Sabres as a +160 or +170 home dog isn’t a bad gamble with Dan Bylsma against his old team.
San Jose Sharks at Minnesota Wild – The Sharks take on the Wild in a big battle for both teams. Minnesota has been fading fast in the Central Division and San Jose’s lead is dwindling over the Anaheim Ducks with Saturday’s home loss to their division rival. Minnesota had a really tough stretch of games last week and it showed. They have the chance to bounce back here in this one against a very strong San Jose team that comes in late from Dallas after playing the Stars. I think this is a good spot for Minnesota and I think we get some line value because they have struggled and San Jose is the class of the Pacific Division. My guess is Minnesota somewhere in the -130 range with the back-to-back for San Jose bumping that number up a bit. I like Minnesota there.
Detroit Red Wings at Montreal Canadiens – This won’t gain me a whole lot of friends or followers, but I can’t help but think the Red Wings are a live dog on Tuesday. Detroit will probably be somewhere in the +230 or higher range because they are terrible and Montreal is playing well under Claude Julien. However, given the recent schedule for Montreal, this has potential to be a really flat spot and I think Al Montoya gets the start here because it should be a “gimme” game. The Red Wings don’t have much to play for, but they’ve been scrappy since Jimmy Howard returned from injury. It’s a back-to-back with travel, but don’t be surprised if Detroit can pull this one out.
Calgary Flames at Washington Capitals – The Calgary Flames leave Canada for the first time since February 26 to visit the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night. The Capitals are scuffling a little bit, but they’re going to turn this thing around and get ready for the playoffs. There’s a slight look-ahead factor here with Columbus in town on Thursday, but Calgary has enjoyed the spoils of home cooking for a while now. Their only road game since February 26 was in Winnipeg, which is just a short trek. This is a tough road trip to Washington, Nashville, and St. Louis. Normally, we’d look at Washington to possibly overlook this game, but given how they’ve been playing, that won’t be the case.
Wednesday March 22
New York Islanders at New York Rangers – This one is pretty important at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night. The Islanders are loitering around in the playoff hunt and the Rangers appear to be locked into the first wild card spot. They trail the Penguins by four points and it’s probably better to avoid playing Columbus or Pittsburgh in the first round when Montreal (or Ottawa) is the other option. The Islanders have cooled off after a hot stretch under new head coach Doug Weight. On a light night in the NHL, this is probably the highlight game and the one that could draw the most attention. I actually think the Rangers have been a bit undervalued in recent weeks.
Toronto Maple Leafs at Columbus Blue Jackets – Here’s an interesting little spot. The Blue Jackets visit the Washington Capitals on Thursday night and Columbus is in striking distance of the top spot in the Metropolitan Division. Overlooking Toronto is not a great idea, so we’ll have to see how this game plays out. It would be nice for Mike Babcock to give Curtis McElhinney a crack at his former team, especially with a game in New Jersey on Thursday, but I don’t think that’s the case. The desperation of both of these teams should make for a fun, up-and-down game. I think the over is the way to look. Columbus is a max effort team that loves to generate offense off the rush. Toronto is the same way. We could see a lot of shots here.
Thursday March 23
Edmonton Oilers at Colorado Avalanche – Here’s my hope. The Oilers beat the Ducks on Wednesday night because I think we have the premier letdown spot on Thursday. Young teams are inconsistent. Todd McLellan has fought with that throughout the year in terms of the Oilers. They’ve been extremely streaky. This game should be two easy points. Colorado is horrid. However, this is a back-to-back with travel for the Oilers, who just got done with an eight-game homestand. They’ll go right back home to face Colorado on Saturday, so they’ll be taking two points for granted there. Regardless of what happens on Wednesday, I’ll be looking to hold my nose so tight that it bleeds and make this play on the ugly, ugly home dog.
Columbus Blue Jackets at Washington Capitals – The last time these two teams met, Washington was at home and Columbus had won 16 straight games. Washington won 5-0 and it was over in the first period. I don’t know how concerned Columbus is with that revenge spot, but it’s safe to say that the Blue Jackets are playing better than the Capitals at this stage of the game. I think Columbus will be a very live dog on Thursday. We’ll see the back-to-back for the Blue Jackets built into the number a little bit, but I’ll be very curious to see how they are lined against the NHL’s best team. My guess is that Columbus is in the +130 or +135 range given the back-to-back and some of the skepticism of their season, but I may be overvaluing Washington there.
Calgary Flames at Nashville Predators – The Predators have lost some 50/50 games at home, but they have a point in 27 of their 35 games at Bridgestone Arena. Again, the Flames are outside of Canada for the first time in over three weeks. You can’t help but like Nashville in this spot and I think it will be a very reasonable number. Nashville is a challenging city for road teams with a lot of bars and a lot of food options. The Flames have been playing very well, so they may treat themselves a little bit, as well they should. With two days off prior to this one, the Flames should get Nashville’s best effort and I don’t know if they will have an answer.
Friday March 24
New York Islanders at Pittsburgh Penguins – Take a stab at the New York Islanders on Friday night. This is the third game in four nights and a back-to-back with travel for Pittsburgh. This condensed schedule and all of the injuries have to take a toll at some point. With a rivalry game against Philadelphia coming up on Sunday, the Penguins might be a little bit flat here in this scenario. The Islanders will be waiting in Pittsburgh for the Penguins and only traveled from Brooklyn to Manhattan earlier in the week, so fatigue shouldn’t be a factor.
Saturday March 25
Toronto Maple Leafs at Buffalo Sabres – I’ve talked about this before, but this remains a heated rivalry. Toronto has to be vigilant here because the Sabres would love to spoil Toronto’s season and this is the fourth game in six nights for the Maple Leafs. Buffalo, on the other hand, has three days off before Toronto comes to town. This looks like an ideal spot to play the Sabres. The Maple Leafs, again, are a young, inconsistent team. They’re clearly the better team, but there are a lot of hurdles to get over in this spot. You’ll catch Buffalo as a slight home underdog in all likelihood.
Philadelphia Flyers at Columbus Blue Jackets – Saturday’s game is a bad spot for both teams. After playing Toronto and Washington in a back-to-back, the Blue Jackets play a 2 p.m. puck drop on Saturday against the Flyers. The Flyers visit Pittsburgh on Sunday night and that’s the game that they will be more focused on. Sergei Bobrovsky faces his old team here, so the Blue Jackets should have a clear edge in that department. The early start may throw both teams for a loop, especially with Columbus playing a couple of up-tempo tilts against Toronto and Washington earlier in the week, so I’d look under and Columbus in this one. The Flyers are a notoriously slow-starting team this season and a 2 p.m. puck drop can’t help matters.
Vancouver Canucks at Minnesota Wild – The Wild will be a massive favorite, so a side play seems silly here, but this is a 2 p.m. ET puck drop. So it’s 1 p.m. local time. The Canucks will be playing basically their third game in four nights with that early start and Minnesota will be doing the same. This could be a very sloppy game between a bad team and a struggling team. The under makes some sense here.
San Jose Sharks at Nashville Predators – A rematch of the Western Conference Finals from last season features the Sharks and Predators in Music City. The Sharks have a weird travel schedule this week. They start in Dallas on Monday, go to Minnesota on Tuesday, have two days off, go back to Dallas, and then go to Nashville. The Predators are home all week. This is a back-to-back with travel for San Jose. Nashville has to be the side here. Their home ice advantage is quite good, though a back-to-back for a road team may negate that a little bit because they don’t have time to visit the honky tonks on Broadway. Still, the travel schedule is a mess for San Jose and that can throw guys off a bit.
Sunday March 26
New York Rangers at Anaheim Ducks – The Rangers start the California swing on Saturday night in Los Angeles. Here’s the back-to-back of the group with Sunday’s game against Anaheim. This start time is 90 minutes earlier than Saturday’s, which could present some challenges for the road team. Anaheim has a very light travel schedule this week, in that they don’t travel at all, so the Rangers are in a pretty bad spot here. The Ducks will be a modest favorite, but nothing too crazy, and I think that’s a play to consider.
Minnesota Wild at Detroit Red Wings – This isn’t a play for this week, but this is an insane spot. Because of Winter Storm whatever earlier this year, Detroit couldn’t play in Carolina. The Red Wings play three games in three days starting on Sunday. We don’t see this in the NHL. Detroit is fortunate to play at 12:30 on Sunday and will get to Raleigh at a reasonable time, but they will play a back-to-back in Raleigh on Monday and Tuesday. You’ll see this spot again in next week’s article.
Keep an eye out for those situational betting spots in the NHL right here at BangTheBook.com!
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Not a bad day on Sunday considering we were winging it on the fly and we’re back to normal, which may or may not be a good thing since we’re running into a big reverse line move in one of our two plays.
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