NHL picks: 4 best bets for Thursday night
Chris Peters makes four money line picks for Thursday night's NHL action, including the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and Calgary Flames.
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Lightning to beat Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs are restoring some faith in their season after losing five of their first seven games. A three-game winning streak with wins over Chicago, Detroit and Vegas doesn’t necessarily impress, but it's allowed the Leafs to get into a rhythm. Both Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner got on the scoresheet in the last game with some big goals, too, which is very helpful.
Meanwhile, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning are similarly hitting their stride with three consecutive wins of their own, including a hard-fought victory over the Washington Capitals. With two full days off to rest up before their brief Ontario road trip, the Lightning are actually road underdogs for this one. Even though sniper Nikita Kucherov is out for an extended period, Tampa still has the depth and star power to overtake Toronto on the road.
The X-factor is Andrei Vasilevskiy, who is rolling a bit now after a rocky start. His save percentage has risen to a more respectable .915 after allowing just four goals on 87 shots against.
I feel a lot more confident in how Tampa is playing and like that extra day of rest they got at home before meeting a surging Leafs squad. Meanwhile, I like the value on Tampa as an underdog as I write this.
Islanders to beat Canadiens
Montreal has managed to pick up a few wins in the last two weeks and is starting to get a little more scoring than it had been previously, but two of its three wins this season have come against the rebuilding Detroit Red Wings. Even though the Habs are at home, they’re welcoming in a team that has had four full days off since its last game, a 3-2 shootout loss to Nashville.
The Islanders have finally surpassed the halfway point of their season-opening schedule that has them on the road for their first 13 games as their new stadium nears completion. It’s not the ideal way to start the year, but the NHL schedulers did manage to get them that nice little bit of time off to allow the Isles to get home for a few days before getting back out on the road. Plus the league just gave Barry Trotz several days to get his team on the right track after a so-so start to the season.
The Islanders are 3-2-2, but have had plenty of bright spots, the brightest of which may be second-year netminder Ilya Sorokin, who has appeared in all seven games to date and has a .931 save percentage, including a pair of shutouts. Don’t expect this one to be a high-scoring affair as a result, but the Islanders seem to have every advantage coming into this game.
Senators to beat Golden Knights
The Golden Knights have been decimated by injury with William Karlsson, Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, Nolan Patrick, Alex Tuch all out of the forward lineup. Defenseman Zach Whitecloud missed the last game, too. They’re really beaten up at the moment and are coming off of a 4-0 loss to Toronto on Tuesday. I’m just not sure where the goals are supposed to come from.
Ottawa has not found its game or any sort of consistency at this stage of the season. They’ve lost five of their last six games, three of which came on the road. Two of their three wins this season have come against the Dallas Stars. But I think they might be catching Vegas at a vulnerable time. On top of that, Ottawa gave the Minnesota Wild all they could handle in a game they ended up losing in overtime, 5-4.
A big question for the Sens at this point is who will be their goaltender. Filip Gustavsson has been their best option, with a 2-1-1 record and .916 save percentage. If he’s in, I really like Ottawa’s chances against a battered Vegas squad as a home underdog.
Flames to beat Stars
It is not often you can say that a Darryl Sutter team is fun to watch, but these Flames are. They’re getting incredible production from Elias Lindholm, Johnny Gaudreau and Andrew Mangiapane. Their goaltending has been ridiculous, with Jacob Markstrom playing at an especially high level with a 4-1-2 record and .947 save percentage.
After a disappointing 3-2 OT loss to Nashville on Tuesday, I would not be surprised to see the Flames bounce back, especially after they were rolling with six consecutive wins. Calgary has only lost once in regulation so far this season.
On the other side of the ice will be a Dallas squad that hasn’t gotten it together. They’re 3-4-2 without a single regulation win at this point. The Stars lost in a shootout to Winnipeg on Tuesday to push their winless streak to four straight. The only guys seemingly pulling their weight in Dallas right now is defenseman Miro Heiskanen and goalie Braden Holtby, who has a .924 save percentage through seven games.
So you’ve got one team in Calgary that is scoring in bunches, while the Stars can’t seem to get any sort of consistent production from even their best forwards. With the Flames on home ice and playing better overall as a team, I have a hard time seeing Dallas coming out of their with two points.
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