Andrew Berkshire's picks for Thursday's action include wins for the Sharks and Senators.
With five straight wins, most of them decisive, the Edmonton Oilers have rocketed up the NHL’s standings over the last couple of weeks. With the teams ahead of them losing steam, the Oilers still have a chance to end up in the top half of their division this season considering their potential as a club, which likely gives them even more rocket fuel to burn in their charge up the standings. Are any other teams on the verge of a similar breakout? Let’s find out.
San Jose Sharks to beat Detroit Red Wings 3.60
The Red Wings are in almost the opposite situation compared to the Oilers. A rebuilding team that seems to believe that they’re ready to take the next step, but they’re 23rd in the NHL in expected goal differential at 5-vs-5, and 24th in all situations, hovering around 47.5 per cent in both areas.
Are the Red Wings better than the Sharks? Absolutely, by a long shot. However, the Sharks have been sneaking their way to wins more often than not lately, and the Red Wings are way overdue for a loss. Don’t bet the farm, but I think this one is a risk worth taking.
The LA Kings are the best even strength team in the league so far this season, and they are possibly the worst matchup in the NHL for the Montreal Canadiens in particular from a playing style perspective. The Kings are a team with excellent execution in all areas, a team the chokes the life out of opponents and keeps them from making fancy plays.
In a matchup like that, your physical players need to break through, and Anderson has a knack for putting his head down and ploughing through defensive coverage. Now that he’s finally broken the goose egg and scored his first of the season, on an empty net no less, maybe he’ll start to finish on actual goalies. The Canadiens will need him to in order to have any chance against LA.
Ottawa Senators to beat Toronto Maple Leafs 2.05
Has the first Battle of Ontario of the season come at the perfect time for the Ottawa Senators? It hasn’t been the start to the season they imagined, currently last in the Atlantic division, they’ve also played the fewest games in the league, so there is time to get back in the mix. Surprisingly, the Senators are ahead of the Maple Leafs in expected goal differential in all situation this season, thanks to dynamite special teams.
Both teams have actually been outplayed at even strength, though both teams have been above even there over their last 10 games. These two teams are much closer to each other right now than the standings might have you believe, so a bet on the Senators just makes logical sense.
The Vancouver Canucks have cruised their way into being a good team based mostly on vibes. They started the season playing terrible hockey, wildly outplayed almost every night, but scoring like it was going out of style, and leaning on Thatcher Demko’s resurgence as one of the best goalies in the league.
Now the Canucks are outplaying teams nightly, fully believing in themselves, but the luck has disappeared, and the losses are starting to hit more often. Running into the red-hot Minnesota Wild seems like another big challenge for the Canucks. I’m sure they’ll rise to the challenge and play a strong game, but there’s a very strong chance Minnesota notches their fifth straight win.