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It’s strange to think of jockeying for playoff position before the season is even half over, but it sure seems like both the Western and Eastern Wild Card races are heating up. The Buffalo Sabres have turned on the jets to put pressure on the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders, and the Ottawa Senators are suddenly in the conversation too. Meanwhile the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues are starting to apply heat to the reigning Stanley Cup champions and Edmonton Oilers. Who wins out? It’s going to be a thrilling second half.

New York Rangers to beat Montreal Canadiens 

Until the Montreal Canadiens can get it together defensively, let alone get the offence going outside of Cole Caufield, you should be betting against them every game. It may not be huge returns, but they’re giving you every reason to back their opponents.

On the other side of the ice, the Rangers are finally playing up to expectations, and they’ve been red-hot the last little while, pushing them beyond the Wild Card area into a solid playoff spot for now.

William Nylander (Toronto Maple Leafs) to score 1+ points vs Seattle Kraken 

Lost in the heater that the Toronto Maple Leafs have been on for the last couple months has been that the usual suspects haven’t actually been carrying the bag.

John Tavares has actually been a little cold with just three goals and eight points in 13 games since the beginning of December, and while Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner are above a point per game, it’s been your uncle’s least favourite player pushing the offence.

That’s right, William Nylander leads the Maple Leafs in both goals and points the last month, and he’s actually leading both categories this season. Nylander has been a revelation in a season where the other Leafs stars have simply been good.

Alex Ovechkin (Washington Capitals) to score anytime vs Columbus Blue Jackets 

The Blue Jackets are another team that can’t seem to stop the bleeding they’re experiencing. It’s a disaster season for them, but at least it’s one in which they can get rewarded for with the incredibly strong top end of the upcoming draft class.

Ovechkin, meanwhile, has taken the Capitals’ reverse retro jerseys to mean that he’s the same 20-year-old kid he was when he last wore them. Scoring at a 57-goal pace, Ovechkin has destroyed any doubt that he will surpass the goal record set by Wayne Gretzky, once thought to be impossible to top.

Colorado Avalanche to beat Vancouver Canucks 

It’s been a bit of a rough ride for the defending Stanley Cup champs. Losing Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky to free agency was exacerbated by injuries this season, especially to captain Gabriel Landeskog, who hasn’t played this year.

However, now that Nathan MacKinnon is back, it’s time for the excuses to fade into the background a little for the Colorado Avalanche. Even with the free agency losses and injuries to Landeskog, Josh Manson, and Bowen Byram, they’re a way better team than the Canucks are.

Valuable points are available here, and the Avalanche can’t let them slip through their fingers.