NHL picks: 4 best bets for Saturday
Chris Peters makes four money line picks for Saturday night's NHL action.
Coyotes to beat Senators
In a battle of two of the NHL’s basement-dwelling teams, the Coyotes are playing the better hockey of the two clubs right now. With wins in three of their last five including stunning upsets of both the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche, Arizona is not helping the image that they’re tanking to try and get a higher draft pick this season.
The Senators, meanwhile, have lost three straight and five of their last six games. That was broken up by an impressive upset of the Minnesota Wild, but their current road trip has been a tough one so far. The Sens lost to Tampa and Florida in the first two games of this five-game road swing. While they’re more evenly-matched with the Coyotes, goals have been hard to come by for Ottawa.
That bodes well for the Coyotes who have suddenly become a stingier team of late. A lot of that has to do with the recent play of both Karel Vejmelka and Scott Wedgewood, who have been giving the Coyotes quality starts in net. Building off of their impressive 2-1 win over Colorado, I like the Coyotes’ chances at home, especially with an apparent goaltending advantage coming into the game.
Canadiens to beat Oilers
After watching the Habs waltz into the Saddledome on Thursday and come out with a hard-fought overtime win, it’s hard not to wonder if Martin St. Louis has sprinkled some Hall of Famer dust on the team that is making them play so much better since he took over. Montreal has won six of their last seven games and have looked more dangerous offensively overall.
Even the game they lost, they still scored four goals in a wild game against the Winnipeg Jets. To come out of Calgary with a 5-4 win, overtime or otherwise, is pretty darn impressive.
Meanwhile, the Oilers are limping back home after ending their five-game road trip with a thud, losing to the struggling Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 in overtime. They lost three of those five games on the road and now have to go home to play the Habs who were already waiting for them in Alberta after playing Calgary.
While the Oilers have been better on home ice of late and did beat Montreal 7-2 earlier in the season, I’m starting to wonder if this is the wrong time to run into the Canadiens. They’ve just been playing better hockey of late and that win against Calgary surely boosted the team’s confidence. So I’m sticking with the Habs here.
Maple Leafs to beat Canucks
I think this could be a great game between two teams that are battling for some postseason hopes. Toronto is pretty well safe in the playoff picture, but have been very inconsistent of late. Losing 5-1 to Buffalo on home ice has a particular sting to it.
Meanwhile, Vancouver has won six of their last eight games including two of their first three games on this four-game road trip out east. They’re going to be a little road weary after taking on the three teams in the New York metro area, but they’ve been a tough team to play against really since Bruce Boudreau came in. They’ve also gotten really strong goaltending from Thatcher Demko in particular.
Goaltending has been among the Leafs’ biggest problems after being a strength for much of the year. I’d have to think getting an extra day off since the Sabres loss on Wednesday night will allow Toronto to get themselves re-set in time for a tough matchup.
With the Canucks on the back end of a longer Eastern road trip and Toronto able to be at home and probably feel like they have something to prove after dropping that game to Buffalo, I think this game has Leafs bounce-back written all over it.
Avalanche to beat Flames
The Flames were stunned by Montreal on home ice on Thursday and now have to go into the building that has been toughest for the visitors to win in. Colorado is 23-3-2 on home ice this season, tops in the NHL. Even though Calgary is a respectable 17-10-2 on the road this season, they’ve got their work cut out for them.
The Avalanche are smarting after a rough road loss to the lowly Arizona Coyotes where they just couldn’t seem to get things clicking offensively despite owning the possession game. That game ended with a lot of frustration on the part of the Avs and particularly star center Nathan MacKinnon. If there’s any leftover aggression, the Flames might be on the receiving end of it.
That said, Calgary is no pushover and has been one of the best teams in the NHL since the calendar turned to 2022. This is going to be a fascinating game between two of the biggest powers in the Western Conference, where there’s not a ton separating them. The biggest advantage at this point is Colorado’s strength on home ice, which is why I give them the slight edge.