Last Updated: 2019-03-18
Fifteen of the league’s 31 teams played four games last week. Only 11 will do so this week. The closer we get to the playoffs, the more the games increase in importance, so it is good to see that fewer teams are up against a calendar crunch this week. Not everybody gets let off the hook, though, as there are still a bunch of compromising situational spots to discuss.
This isn’t a “please like my sport” type of thing, but tanking is much rarer in the NHL than it is in the NBA or can sometimes be in the NFL. Teams generally give a pretty solid effort night in and night out, even if their playoff prospects are long gone. Generally speaking, it is more about a lack of depth in the NHL when teams go into a shell this late in the year. So, be careful blindly fading the awful teams the rest of the way.
Here are the NHL situational spots to consider for the week ending March 24:
Monday March 18
Arizona Coyotes at Tampa Bay Lightning – One of the biggest weeks in recent history for the Coyotes begins with this trip to Tampa to take on the Lightning. Arizona is firmly in the wild card hunt, but the Coyotes have gotten lucky lately with some beneficial situational spots and a fairly modest travel schedule. That changes this week with four games in seven days in Eastern Time Zone cities. This will likely be a loss, but the Coyotes play Florida Thursday, New Jersey Saturday, and the Islanders on Sunday. Those two middle games are huge.
The equalizer here could be that Tampa plays Washington on Wednesday and Carolina on Thursday. Maybe the Bolts rest some guys here? The Coyotes will be catching a big plus money price and I might be interested in a half-unit on it if my speculation is correct.
Vegas Golden Knights at San Jose Sharks – The Golden Knights and the Sharks could very well meet in the first round of the NHL playoffs. The Sharks were one of the victims left in the wake of Vegas’s Stanley Cup Finals push last year, but did take the Knights to six games. Nobody else did that. The teams have split their first two meetings, but you know this will be a spirited affair. This is a back-to-back with travel for Vegas off of Sunday’s game against Edmonton, but I don’t see that as a hindrance. I just think San Jose is the better team here.
Tuesday March 19
Boston Bruins at New York Islanders – A couple of the Eastern Conference’s best meet on unequal footing here. This is the fourth game in six nights for the Islanders. Boston has not played any back-to-backs recently and won’t this week either. The spot would appear to favor Boston, especially because of the commitment the Islanders play with in the defensive zone. I might be interested in the road team here and I think that the quant crowd will be as well, so you may want to grab Boston early. It will be interesting to see if former Islander Jaroslav Halak gets the start for the B’s. Both he and Tuukka Rask have been terrific this season.
Florida Panthers at Dallas Stars – The Panthers are working their way back home, but they’ll stop in Dallas to see the Stars first. This is the fourth road game in six nights for the Panthers, who aren’t part of the playoff picture. The Stars are very much in the playoff picture. This is a fifth game in eight days for them, but at least they are at home and have been for the last several days. Dallas is definitely on my radar this week, though this will be a fairly steep price to pay.
Columbus Blue Jackets at Calgary Flames – The Jackets have to be wondering they’ll ever get an “easier” game again. It actually happens on Thursday against the Oilers, though no games are easy at this point in time. Columbus’s last six games have been Pittsburgh twice, the Islanders, Boston, Carolina, and Boston again. Now they face Calgary, a top contender in the Western Conference. The rest situation is the same, but this is a time zone difference and some travel for the Jackets.
Toronto Maple Leafs at Nashville Predators – This is a really interesting spot for Toronto. Litmus test games against the league’s best are always fun. The Leafs play the Sabres again on Wednesday. It feels like those two teams have played every third game for the last three months. In any event, Toronto won’t be looking past Nashville to get to Buffalo. That is the difference of being in the playoffs. If Buffalo played on Tuesday, they’d be a straight fade. The Leafs will give a good effort here against a Predators team back at home after a long road trip while the SEC Tournament invaded Bridgestone Arena. Might look at the Leafs here.
Wednesday March 20
Toronto Maple Leafs at Buffalo Sabres – The Sabres are not playing well. Can they rally here? At this point, these games against rivals and playing spoiler are all they have. The Maple Leafs do come in off of what should be a tough game in Nashville. The Sabres have two days off prior to this one. I’d like to think that Buffalo is a live dog here, but the way they’ve been playing gives me too much pause to fire.
Tampa Bay Lightning at Washington Capitals – The Bolts have quite a schedule this week. They’re playing four games in six days with really nothing to play for. This is a back-to-back for the Capitals off of Tuesday’s game in New Jersey, but they should be ready. Who knows what Tampa Bay’s mental state is this week or the rest of the regular season with the top overall seed effectively locked up. This is another game where I just don’t know what to expect.
Ottawa Senators at Vancouver Canucks – The Senators are in freefall mode. They start a run through western Canada with Wednesday’s game against the Canucks. Vancouver should get two points here. The Canucks have faded from the playoff chase, but this is a team building towards something bigger, so they should stay invested in the season. They may actually be a good underdog play against some playoff hopefuls as we move forward.
Thursday March 21
Tampa Bay Lightning at Carolina Hurricanes – A back-to-back. A three-in-four. Tampa Bay has to start sitting guys in some of these spots. There is no reason to push too hard until the playoffs start. You don’t want complacency to set in, but everybody has to understand. We’ll see if it happens here. Even if it doesn’t, the Hurricanes are a formidable foe and plenty capable of an upset over a full-strength Lightning team. They may even get some love here from the line-movers with the B2B for the Bolts. They may get my love, too.
Columbus Blue Jackets at Edmonton Oilers – Will the Blue Jackets be able to take advantage of this spot? Will overconfidence be a factor? These are the types of games that are really tough for teams under a lot of pressure. The Oilers have an uncertain future, but are playing free and easy with no concerns. Teams with nothing to lose are quite dangerous. I may play Edmonton here, just looking to take a shot. The Jackets sometimes play down to opponents and could very well do that here.
Winnipeg Jets at Vegas Golden Knights – Here’s my favorite spot of the week. I’m all about Vegas here. The Jets are playing a third road game in four nights and it is a big step up in class after playing Los Angeles and Anaheim. Winnipeg will host Nashville on Saturday. Vegas has two days off before this game and Detroit on deck. I shouldn’t have to pony up too much to take Vegas here, but this is a great spot.
Friday March 22
Minnesota Wild at Washington Capitals – There are only two games on Friday because of big cards on Thursday and Saturday. This is the closest thing to a situational spot. Former Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau returns to D.C. once again to take on his old employer. It’s the third game in four nights for Washington and first game outside the conference. Minnesota has two days off before the game. Not sure I’ll have any interest, but there are only two games, so I had to talk about something.
Saturday March 23
Arizona Coyotes at New Jersey Devils – The Coyotes get their first taste of an afternoon game on the east coast when they take on the Devils on Saturday. This isn’t a particularly bad spot for Arizona because of how spread out the early part of the trip is. It is a good spot for New Jersey, but the Devils aren’t very good and aren’t playing for anything. I’d expect the ‘Yotes to start slowly here, so maybe Devils in the first period, but I wouldn’t trust Jersey for the full game.
Ottawa Senators at Edmonton Oilers – The Senators are a fade team anyway, but playing a third game in 3.5 days isn’t going to do them any favors. This is a 2 p.m. local time puck drop in Edmonton and the third game of the road swing for the Senators. The Oilers will be a decently-sized favorite here, which is scary because they aren’t very good, but they’re surely better than their opponent here and the spot helps, too. Maybe a puck line to lower the cost makes some sense.
Chicago Blackhawks at Colorado Avalanche – Here’s a weird spot. The Blackhawks play Colorado in a standalone afternoon road game on Saturday. They’ll host Colorado on Sunday. This is a home-and-home with a super quirky schedule, so I’m not entirely sure how this one plays out. Both teams are on equal footing from a rest standpoint, so that won’t be much of a factor. Colorado is sliding well off the playoff pace and Chicago is trying, but dug too deep of a hole. I’m not sure what Saturday and Sunday bring.
Nashville Predators at Winnipeg Jets – A four-point game atop the Central Division. Both teams are on the same rest for this one and I don’t think there are any worthwhile situational spots here. I just think that we’ve got two really good teams putting it all out there in the quest to win the division. I think fading Nashville on Monday at Minnesota and Winnipeg at home Monday against Dallas makes some sense.
Sunday March 24
Philadelphia Flyers at Washington Capitals – The NBC 12:30 game is this one. Philadelphia is in a back-to-back with travel and a tough back-to-back at that with the Islanders on Saturday. The Capitals are rested. They get the edge here, but this line will price us out.
Montreal Canadiens at Carolina Hurricanes – The Canadiens are in a strange spot here. This is a back-to-back with travel for a standalone road game down in Raleigh. These two teams are vying for the same playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, so all hands should be on deck and ready to go. Look for Montreal to have rested Carey Price on Saturday against Buffalo to keep him fresh for this one. If that isn’t the case, Carolina gets a big edge.
Keep an eye out for these NHL situational spots every week at BangTheBook.com!
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