Some teams are still shaking off some of the sand in their equipment after some well-earned time off over the NHL’s All-Star Weekend, which afforded most of the league a break in the slog that is the regular season, while some appear to be rested and ready to push the pace down the stretch drive of the season.
Colorado Avalanche to beat Tampa Bay Lightning
The Avalanche have been red-hot, or at least were going into the All-Star break, but often this season have struggled to close out games against teams they should definitely beat. Against their opponents from the Stanley Cup Final last year, though, I don’t think their attention to detail will be slipping during this game.
Similarly, Tampa was playing some strong hockey before the break, but got taken to the woodshed by the Panthers in their first game back, and then lost to the San Jose Sharks in overtime the next night. I expect a much better performance from the Lightning in this one, but it seems like they haven’t regained their focus yet after some time off.
Connor McDavid to score 2+ points vs Philadelphia Flyers
After just a single point in the Oilers’ first game back from the All-Star break, in a rare game where Edmonton’s depth scoring lead the team to a win, Connor McDavid will likely be up to his usual level of performance in this one against the middling Flyers.
For a stretch, it looked like the Flyers might be better than anyone realized under the coaching of John Tortorella, but things have evened out and the Flyers are about where expected now. They’re a team that’s just mediocre, with a bunch of injuries to very important players, and it’s difficult for them to handle superstars like those Edmonton can toss on the ice.
San Jose Sharks to beat Florida Panthers
This isn’t a game the Panthers can afford to lose, and really there aren’t many games they can afford to lose as their runway disappears quickly this season. With just 29 games remaining, the Panthers are still outside a playoff spot, and everyone around them is either winning games and accumulating points at a higher rate, or has played fewer games.
The Sharks, meanwhile, are primed to be elite-level spoilers as the sun sets on the regular season in the NHL. They’re a top-10 team in expected goals for percentage at even strength, and Erik Karlsson is still tearing teams to shreds. As long as they can stay away from special teams, they have high upset potential.
Calgary Flames to beat Detroit Red Wings
In a similar but less dire situation to the Panthers, the Flames can no longer afford to lose games, and this is one they absolutely have to win. The Red Wings have been in free fall in recent weeks after their hot start evaporated, and while the Calgary Flames continue to look like a strong even strength team under Darryl Sutter’s system, something has been missing all season.
Jonathan Huberdeau looks like less than half the player he was last season, and the Flames have dropped games against teams at the bottom of the standings all year long. After the rest afforded by the All-Star break, there’s no more excuses for this club, they need to figure it out and get on their horse now. This game has to be a win if they want to make the playoffs.