Maple Leafs to beat Penguins
Winners of 10 of their last 11 games, the Maple Leafs are rolling and finding different ways to win. About to play their third game in five days, they’ll welcome a Penguins team that is starting to get key players back, including Sidney Crosby, who scored his first goal of the season Thursday as Pittsburgh ended a three-game skid with a convincing 6-0 win over the ailing Montreal Canadiens.
As of right now, the Leafs just look like a well-oiled machine. They can win the high-scoring games and they can keep the opposition to low goal totals. Jack Campbell has a lot to do with how well they’ve played as he’s 10-3-1 with a sterling .944 save percentage. Meanwhile, John Tavares looks like he’s playing some of his best hockey as a Leaf with 16 points through 17 games. Mitch Marner’s slow start to the season seems like a distant memory at this point as well.
The Pens have struggled with inconsistency, but a lot of that has to do with never really having a full roster. They’re about as healthy as they’ve been all season with Evgeni Malkin the only significant injury at the moment. Tristan Jarry has played well, owning a .922 save percentage after his first shutout of the season at Montreal. So the Pens are coming in strong, but I still don’t see them escaping the steamrolling Leafs at this point.
Predators to beat Canadiens
I have had a bad habit of betting against the Preds and it’s burned me the last few times. They have battled some consistency issues, but Nashville has won eight of their last 11 games and they’re starting to get bigger contributions from Matt Duchen who has nine goals and 16 points in just nine games. The club has desperately been waiting for him to turn it up like he has this season.
The Habs, meanwhile, continue to look dreadful. Coming off of a 6-0 loss to Pittsburgh, they’ve lost four straight and slipped to 4-13-2. They simply cannot score.
Nashville has not been exactly lighting up scoreboards, but they’re much better when it comes to goal prevention. They are top 10 in the league in fewest average goals allowed per game at 2.63. They’ve managed to win a lot of tight games, with Juuse Saros doing very well between the pipes for them. The 26-year-old goalie has a .928 save percentage in 13 starts.
Because the Preds are better at finding ways to win close games and I have next to no faith in the Habs to right the ship anytime soon, I’ll go with Nashville here.
Islanders to beat Flames
The Isles will be opening their new building Saturday night as UBS Arena is finally ready. New York went 5-6-2 on their season-opening 13-game road schedule. Now they’ve had three days off to prepare to open the new facility and attempt to make some new memories in Belmont Park.
They won’t have an easy time with it, though. The Calgary Flames have shutouts in two of their last three games and have allowed two or fewer goals in each of their last four contests. Jacob Markstrom has been excellent in net for them, while stars like Johnny Gaudreau and Andrew Mangiapane have been absolutely on fire to start the season. Mangiapane has 11 goals on the road alone.
Despite all that, the Islanders are going to be well-rested and even though there’s a ton of pomp and circumstance that can distract from the actual game when opening a new building, Barry Trotz will have his team focused. The Islanders desperately need to go on a run here after that difficult road schedule saw them outside of the playoff picture. A team that many viewed as a Stanley Cup contender, the Isles are currently last in the Metropolitan Division. I don’t expect them to stay there.
It starts with this first game. The building should be rocking and that energy, plus the extra days rest with time to prepare put the Isles over the top for me.
Oilers to beat Blackhawks
The Chicago Blackhawks have been on a bit of a roll now with four straight wins since head coach Jeremy Colliton was fired and D.J. King was given the interim title. The game in Edmonton will be their second in a four-game Western road trip and they’ll have to contend with the most potent scoring attack in the league.
The Oilers pulled out a gutsy win over the Winnipeg Jets on Friday, winning in a shootout thanks in large part to the goaltending of Stuart Skinner and the one-man highlight reel that is Connor McDavid. While Chicago has been playing better, I don’t know if they’ll have an answer for McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, who make matching up against Edmonton a bit of a nightmare.
The Blackhawks have not faced a team quite like Edmonton in the midst of their current winning streak, which leads me to believe this is where their recent good fortune runs out. On top of that, Edmonton has been excellent at home with a 7-1-0 record. It’s hard to pick against the Oilers on home ice, so I won’t.
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