NHL picks: 4 best bets for Saturday
Chris Peters makes four money line picks for Saturday night's NHL action.
Panthers to beat Oilers
After winning their first five games under new head coach Jay Woodcroft, Edmonton has been humbled with a pair of losses where they allowed 12 goals to the Minnesota Wild and Tampa Bay Lightning. It gets no easier Saturday afternoon as they take on one of the NHL’s best home clubs in the Florida Panthers.
While the Panthers have been dominant at home, they are coming off of back-to-back home losses where they gave up 12 goals themselves. It was an uncharacteristic couple of games for Florida, which has been among the league’s best teams overall all season. They have not lost three consecutive games since mid-December.
The Panthers have advantages in just about every position, most notably in goal. The Panthers will turn to No. 1 goalie Sergei Bobrovsky in Saturday’s game. Edmonton’s starter hasn’t been named yet, but Mike Smith appears most likely to start and he’s been inconsistent at best.
Both teams need to get themselves back on track and I think the Panthers are better equipped to do it, especially on home ice.
Canadiens to beat Senators
The Montreal Canadiens have won four straight games and are playing like a completely different team. Among these four wins are two against playoff teams in the St. Louis Blues and Toronto Maple Leafs. In their last game, the Habs shut out the Buffalo Sabres.
New head coach Martin St. Louis has been a breath of fresh air and his players are thriving. Rookie Cole Caufield has magically started scoring goals with four over his last four games. Nick Suzuki has looked more like the Suzuki from the playoffs last year and the Habs are just playing better overall as a team.
Additionally, they will turn to Andrew Hammond in net as “The Hamburglar” returns to Ottawa, the scene of his greatest success as an NHL goaltender. That should be an emotional game for him, but he should come in with confidence after earning his first win since the 2015-16 season with a 30-save performance against the New York Islanders.
Ottawa, meanwhile, is coming off of an impressive win over the Wild and have had three days off between games. They should be well rested and will have home ice advantage. They’ve had a harder time stringing wins together, though, as they’ve only won consecutive games three times this season.
I think the Habs are rolling right now and will keep up their improved play under St. Louis and Hammond will pick up the emotional win over his former team.
Maple Leafs to beat Red Wings
After three straight losses, the Leafs halted the slide with a 3-1 win over a solid Minnesota Wild club. The Detroit Red Wings have been tougher to beat of late with wins in five of their last nine games. Toronto, however, has pretty much owned the Red Wings this season, winning each of the previous two meetings between the two sides.
The Maple Leafs, most recently, earned a 7-4 win over Detroit in late January. Rookie Michael Bunting scored a hat trick in that game, while both Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews had two points.
Goaltending has been a problem lately for Toronto, but Jack Campbell will get the net against Detroit. He was playing at a Vezina-caliber level earlier this season and this game could provide an opportunity to get back on track. The Michigan native is 2-0-0 against the Red Wings in his career and has a .935 save percentage in those games.
With Toronto’s offense clicking and Campbell playing as well as he does against his hometown club, I like the Leafs’ chances in this one.
Flames to beat Wild
With losses in four of their last five, the Wild have sputtered a bit. They’ve particularly struggled on the road against Canadian teams. They beat the Oilers, but have lost to the Jets, Senators and Leafs over this recent slide.
The Flames, meanwhile, saw their 10-game winning streak end with a thud against the Vancouver Canucks. Calgary lost 7-1 on Thursday. That’s a bit of a wakeup call for a team that was just cruising prior to that big loss.
I don’t anticipate the Flames to miss the message on that one. They have to take care of business at home, where they’ve gone 14-4-4 this season. The Flames are currently leading the Pacific Division by three points, though they do have two games in hand.
The Wild, meanwhile, are on the verge of slipping further down the Central Division standings. They’re currently in third, but have the Nashville Predators nipping at their heels and are losing ground on St. Louis in the race for second place. Every game at this stage of the season, especially in the Western Conference, feels bigger as teams jockey for playoff position.
Minnesota has picked a bad time to swoon a bit and I think they’re running into a Flames squad that is wide awake after getting absolutely pounded by the Canucks. I’m going with the home team in this one.