Leafs Face Florida Test
The Toronto Maple Leafs face a stiff test this week as they look to keep their Eastern Conference playoff hopes alive. The Maple Leafs make their second of two trips to the Sunshine State this season, visiting the Florida Panthers in Miami on Tuesday before heading off to Tampa for a Thursday date with the Lightning. Toronto was successful in its first trip to Florida, winning both games in extra time; things were a lot worse prior to this season, with Toronto going just 3-9-0 SU and 5-6-1 O/U in the previous 12 games in Florida dating back to the start of the 2013-14 season.
We’re Going Streaking
Two of the hottest teams in the league do battle Thursday night in the Canadian capital as the Ottawa Senators square off against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Senators come into the week riding a six-game winning streak that has lifted them into a tie with the Montreal Canadiens atop the Atlantic Division. Even more impressively, the last three victories have come on the road, where Ottawa is now a red-hot 20-12-0 on the season and 16-15-1 O/U. But the Sens might have their hands full with a Chicago team that won 12 of 13 games over a five-week stretch (before dropping games on both Thursday and Friday of last week) and has an impressive 20-11-1 road mark of its own entering the week.
Don’t Forget the Flames
The Calgary Flames have gone from postseason afterthought to Western Conference powerhouse as they enter the week on a league-high nine-game winning streak. But the Flames have a difficult week ahead; they’ll face the defending-champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night, then host a Boston Bruins team with wins in 10 of its previous 13 games Wednesday. A game against the always-dangerous Dallas Stars’ offense follows, while the Flames end the week with a contest against a Los Angeles Kings team that has prevailed in five of its last six meetings with Calgary.
* The Florida Panthers have struggled mightily without the services of starting netminder Roberto Luongo, who hasn’t played since March 2 due to a lower-body injury. The Panthers have lost all four games since Roberto Luongo went down, and have allowed a whopping 17 goals over that span.
* The Ottawa Senators might be without talented winger Kyle Turris for their pivotal Thursday night tilt with the Blackhawks. Turris has missed the previous three games with a finger injury and is questionable to return Tuesday versus Tampa Bay; luckily, the Sens haven’t missed a beat, scoring 12 goals in his absence.
* No player has been more prolific this month than Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel, who has five goals and five assists in six games so far in March. While that scoring run hasn’t exactly helped the Sabres in the standings – Buffalo has lost four of the six games – it has done wonders for the total, with Buffalo going 5-1 O/U in that span.
* The Penguins are once again reminding teams that they have big scoring threats beyond Sidney Crosby. Second-line center Evgeni Malkin is scorching opposing goaltenders so far this month, racking up six goals in six games while adding three assists; it’ll come as no surprise that Pittsburgh is 5-1 SU over that span with 21 goals in their last five games.
* On the flip side, new Florida Panthers forward Thomas Vanek isn’t exactly having the kind of impact his new team was expecting when it acquired him from Detroit at the trade deadline. Vanek has just one goal and zero assists in five games with the Panthers, and his minus-9 rating is the worst of any player in the league over that span.
Stanley Cup Futures
* The Blackhawks’ scintillating February has put them near the top of Sports Interaction’s Stanley Cup futures odds. Chicago comes into the week at +600 to win the title, and looks like one of the strongest plays on the board. It is worth noting, however, that the Blackhawks will play nine of their final 14 regular-season games on the road.
* So how has a six-game winning streak helped the Senators’ Stanley Cup odds? They’re listed at +2000 to take home their first NHL championship in franchise history. But the road to a high postseason seed is still a rocky one for Ottawa, which has three more games left against the rival Canadiens in the regular season.
* The Bruins looked like playoff afterthoughts once upon a time, but are surging back up the Eastern Conference standings and are within striking distance of both the Senators and Canadiens in the Atlantic. The Bruins enter Monday at +2200 to win the Stanley Cup, and have a favorable sked down the stretch with eight of their final 10 games played at home.
* Few teams in recent memory have been as allergic to the Over play as this year’s edition of the San Jose Sharks. Going into Sunday, the Sharks were 1-7-1 O/U in their previous nine games and have played just 16 Overs through their first 67 games, easily the lowest total in the NHL.
* The Minnesota Wild have been all over the place from a totals perspective, playing four straight Overs to close out the month of February – and following that up with four straight Unders to open March. An 11-goal slug-fest with the Tampa Bay Lightning followed, putting the Wild at 33-25-8 O/U going into Sunday.