NHL picks: 4 best bets for Saturday
Chris Peters makes four money line picks for Saturday night's NHL action.
Blues to beat Canadiens
The St. Louis Blues are dealing with some roster issues of late due to players in COVID protocol and injuries. It hasn’t bitten them too badly in terms of on ice performance yet, but it’s not exactly sustainable. After beating the Detroit Red Wings Thursday night pretty handily, I’m not sure how many more times the Blues can do something like that when they’re missing their top two goaltenders, a top scorer in Robert Thomas and a number of valuable players from throughout their lineup.
Montreal, meanwhile, continues to look lost and has been abysmal on the road. They’re in the midst of a five-game losing streak and picking them is awfully risky. You’d have to think the Habs are going to pick off some teams here and there, but with so many players out of the Montreal lineup as well, it’s not looking good. Josh Anderson and Christian Dvorak are among the players out of the lineup currently.
The Blues simply have more options available to them at this point that can help them pull out a win. They showed against Detroit the other night that they can play shorthanded and still compete. Going head-to-head against a poor team like Montreal and having the benefit of being on home ice may offset some of the concerns about their depleted lineup.
Maple Leafs to beat Blackhawks
The Chicago Blackhawks have looked a lot better lately, but there’s still a pretty wide gap between them and the NHL’s top teams. Toronto has lost three of its last four games, but still is very much in the conversation among the league’s top teams. Toronto did beat Chicago earlier this season in OT.
The Blackhawks are coming off of an emotional 2-0 win against Montreal that also counted for goalie Marc-Andre Fleury’s 500th career victory. Additionally, Jonathan Toews scored his first goal of the season finally. It felt like the kind of game a team could build off of, but going into Toronto is not ideal to keep the momentum rolling.
The Maple Leafs are 11-4-1 on home ice this year and have a plus-12 goal differential in Toronto. Chicago, meanwhile is in the bottom 10 in the NHL in terms of their road record. With Toronto’s healthy stars like Auston Matthews and John Tavares still making a positive impact in the absence of others like Mitch Marner, the Maple Leafs look a lot better to come out with two points in this one.
Hurricanes to beat Oilers
All teams go through them over the course of the season, but the Edmonton Oilers are in a funk. They’ve lost four straight including the first three games of this current six-game homestand. The Hurricanes, however, have been surging a bit. They’ve won three straight including the first two on their Western road swing, including a 2-1 OT win over Edmonton’s Albertan rival, the Calgary Flames.
The Hurricanes have been very comfortable on the road with an 11-3-1 record over 15 road contests. It’s allowed them to become one of the top teams in the entire league. While I don’t expect the Oilers downturn over the last few weeks to continue, I don’t like their chances against a disciplined Hurricanes squad that has managed some of the recent roster losses to COVID protocol quite well.
Another reason I like Carolina in this one is the incredible play of Sebastian Aho in the month of December so far. The Hurricanes star has nine points over his last four games. On top of that, I think the Hurricanes are just a deeper team right now and also have the advantage in net, which is not a great mix for the struggling Oilers.
Flames to beat Bruins
Meeting for the first time since Calgary earned a 4-0 win in Boston a few weeks ago, both teams have had their ups and downs since. The Bruins have lost three of their last five games, while the Flames have lost three straight. Boston is coming off of a hard-fought 3-2 win against the Oilers, however, which should provide a nice little boost, but this will also be their third game in four days.
The Flames have lost some tight games of late, including a 2-1 OT loss to Carolina on Thursday. The three-game losing streak matches their longest skid of the season, but they’ve been playing well enough to win, so I would not anticipate the streak continuing much longer, especially against a potential road-weary team.
Tonight’s game will also be a battle between two outstanding top lines. Calgary’s, featuring Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm has been consistently deadly throughout the year, posting a 66 per cent expected goals-for percentage. Boston’s “Perfection Line” featuring Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Devid Pastrnak has a 63 per cent expected goals-for percentage. Pastrnak’s goal scoring has been down this season, though.
Goals are hard to come by against the Flames, especially for a team that’s playing a compressed, busy road schedule like the Bruins have the last week. I like the Flames to end their skid and get back on track against a quality Bruins club.