Predators to beat Canadiens
Until the Canadiens can climb out of this death spiral they’ve been in, there’s really no other play but to pick against them. They’ve had a ton of injuries to deal with and still can’t score with any amount of consistency. They have flashes of competitiveness and actually did hang six goals on Nashville in their last meeting, but Saturday’s contest is coming on the road where Montreal has struggled even more.
As of right now, Montreal’s roster is going to look a lot different to the Predators than the last time these teams met just two weeks ago. Nashville, meanwhile, has really struggled to string wins together and are coming off of a 2-0 home loss to Boston on Thursday night.
The Preds just have more depth at the moment and I would not anticipate Juuse Saros having another clunker like he did the first time against Montreal. He has a .923 save percentage this season and has been carrying the load in net for Nashville as the heir to Pekka Rinne who retired after last season. The young Finn is performing well, but just needs to get some more goal support. I think he will on Saturday.
Wild to beat Maple Leafs
The Wild and the Leafs are two of the NHL’s hottest teams right now. Toronto has won 10 of their last 11 games including five straight where they have scored three or more goals in each game. They’re getting great goaltending from Jack Campbell and even after shaving his famous moustache, Auston Matthews celebrated with a hat trick against the Avalanche. They’re rolling.
That won’t make things any easier against a Wild team that has also won five consecutive games by scoring three or more goals in each. Minnesota historically has not been an elite scoring team, but they have been this season. The Wild currently rank fourth in the NHL with 3.74 goals for per game. Only the Avalanche, Panthers and Oilers have been better so far. That’s big-time company for the Wild.
Minnesota has also been one of the league’s best teams on home ice with a 9-2-0 record. Their average goals for per game also goes up in St. Paul to a staggering 4.64 goals for per game. That’s second best in the league. Conversely, Toronto has been one of the NHL’s best road teams with a 7-3-0 record away from home.
I think we’re splitting hairs here. The Wild have been on an extended home stand, which I think helps them a little bit. The Maple Leafs had two days between their home win over Colorado and Saturday night’s tilt. It should be an excellent matchup between two of the NHL’s current heavyweights and I’ll give a slight lean to the home side here.
Avalanche to beat Senators
The Sens stunned us all by finding a way to beat the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday night. It was a much-needed boost in a season that has been rough to date. After taking down one of the league’s top teams, now they’ll have to take on one of the NHL’s most talented sides in the Colorado Avalanche.
The Avs are in the midst of an Eastern road swing and will be playing their third game in four days Saturday. They may be a little road weary, but have their top player in Nathan MacKinnon back. While Colorado does still have some injuries to contend with on their roster, including goalie Darcy Kuemper, whose status remains unclear, I still like their chances to outlast Ottawa.
Colorado has maybe underachieved compared to their lofty expectations, but they’re still among the league’s best teams. As impressive as Ottawa’s win was over the Canes on the road, they have not yet won consecutive games this season and I don’t see that starting now.
Penguins to beat Canucks
The Penguins are winless in their last three games and started their Western road trip with a pair of tough losses to Alberta’s NHL teams, being outscored 7-3 against the Flames and Oilers over those two contests. Now they’ll travel to Vancouver to take on a Canucks side that has appeared on the brink of major change for the last few weeks.
The Canucks managed to get some confidence-boosting wins over Canada’s two worst teams with a 2-1 victory over Montreal and a 6-2 trouncing of the Ottawa Senators. But they’re going to be taking on a different animal in the Penguins – a team they recently lost to 4-1 on the road.
Sidney Crosby is healthy and back in the lineup, while Evgeni Malkin remains out, as do Bryan Rust and Brian Boyle. Pittsburgh, however, has seen Jake Guentzel step up in a major way this season as he now leads the team with 20 points in 22 games. Tristan Jarry has also been giving the Pens a chance to win in every game with a .933 save percentage.
There is a lot of pressure on the Canucks to get a win here and I’m sure they’re going to have a good effort, but I just don’t see them hanging with the Penguins right now.