NHL four-fold: Profitable picks for Friday's action on the ice
The Penguins to overcome in-form Blue Jackets, while the Panthers star center should be key against the Bruins...
Pittsburgh Penguins to beat Columbus Blue Jackets –
This will be an exciting match-up between two great teams.
The defending Stanley Cup champions Pittsburgh Penguins are currently leading the Eastern Conference standings and have been very consistent for the whole season.
Now they face a team that has been very impressive lately.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are on an amazing 10-game winning streak, and will put up a serious challenge here.
But the teams Columbus have beaten during this run haven’t been exactly top quality.
And shutting down Penguins’ offence will be a daunting challenge for any team.
Pittsburgh are the league’s leading goal-scorers, with a whopping 3.45 goals for per game.
They tend to barrage their opponents with shots, which is evidenced by their 35.2 shots per game – also the highest number in the NHL.
All great winning streaks will come to an end at some point.
And this match-up will be just too difficult for the Blue Jackets, even though they have the home-ice advantage.
Minnesota Wild to beat Montreal Canadiens –
If you enjoy watching great goaltenders, this is the game for you.
Montreal’s Carey Price is looking Hart Trophy-worthy again this season.
Price ranks third in the goals against average and save percentage, and second in wins.
But what about Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk?
He has been the Wild’s undisputed MVP so far and should also be mentioned in the Hart Trophy discussion.
Dubnyk is recording incredible numbers consistently – he leads the league in GAA (1.55), save percentage (94.8%) and shootouts (five in total).
The goaltender battle is certainly the number one talking point in this match-up, but there are other factors at play in this game.
The Wild have won eight consecutive games and don’t really have any major injuries to key players at the moment.
But the same can’t be said about the Habs.
They are 5-3-2 from their last 10 games and are unlikely to have the likes of Alex Galchenyuk, Andrei Markov, Andrew Shaw and David Desharnais in their line-up against the Wild.
Canadiens are vulnerable right now because of their injury problems, so The Wild will take an advantage of this situation and grab a big road win from Montreal.
Florida Panthers to beat Boston Bruins –
The Florida Panthers are finally improving after they fired head coach Gerard Gallant.
They are 3-1-1 from their last five games and their key players are beginning to regularly score.
In their last game, the Panthers managed to beat the Buffalo Sabres with Jaromir Jagr recording three assists and jumping to second place in the all-time point-scoring stakes to tie the great Mark Messier.
But watch out for the Finnish center Aleksander Barkov in this game.
The 21-year-old has registered six goals and five assists in the Panthers’ last 10 games.
And against the Sabres, Barkov assisted Nick Bjugstad, who finally scored his first goal of the season.
So the Panthers will certainly head into this game with confidence.
The Bruins, though, won’t have a similar situation.
They stunned by the New York Islanders in their last game, with number one goaltender Tuukka Rask getting pulled and switched for Anton Khudobin midway through the game.
The away team, too, have a disappointing 2-4-2 record from their last eight games.
The Panthers will most likely continue to improve and that’s bad news for the struggling Bruins.
St. Louis Blues to beat Tampa Bay Lightning –
The St. Louis Blues haven’t been a good road team this season, with their record away from St. Louis being 5-9-1.
But now, they have a great chance to improve it.
The Lightning are riddled with injuries.
They won’t have captain Steven Stamkos, leading-scorer Nikita Kucherov and other key players like Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan in their line-up against the Blues.
And now they might be facing yet more injury woe as goaltender Ben Bishop injured himself on Wednesday in a game against the Detroit Red Wings.
The Blues are a strong team with a lot of depth in their offence and that will likely cause some problems for the Lightning, who are missing so many top-quality players.
This won’t be easy for the Blues - the Lightning are still a competitive team.
Nonetheless, the away team will very likely pick up the win.