Toronto’s Divisional Dominance
The Toronto Maple Leafs will happily welcome a game against a divisional opponent as they look to end a five-game losing skid. The Maple Leafs return home from a dismal Western road trip and look to strengthen their run at an Eastern Conference playoff berth as they entertain the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night. Toronto enters the week just outside the wild card picture, but has a major advantage in this one as they carry a 12-6-3 divisional record into the tilt. The Red Wings, by comparison, have just six victories in 21 games against Atlantic Division foes as they appear set to miss the playoffs for the first time in a quarter-century.
Max a Non-Factor vs. Flames?
Max Pacioretty has blossomed into one of the most gifted scorers in the NHL – but he hasn’t quite figured out the Flames, as he and the Montreal Canadiens visit Calgary in an all-Canadian Thursday night tussle. The Flames have been a bit of a thorn in Pacioretty’s side during his career, as he has just three goals and three assists with a minus-8 rating in 14 career meetings with Calgary. The Flames won seven of eight meetings with the Canadiens between 2009 and 2013, but Montreal has responded with wins in four of the last six encounters between the 1986 and 1989 Stanley Cup finalists.
Sid Struggles in Van City
Speaking of guys from Eastern Conference teams that struggle against a particular West foe, look for Sidney Crosby to improve his career stats against Vancouver as he leads the Penguins against the host Canucks on Saturday night. Crosby hasn’t done much in his career versus Vancouver, scoring six goals while adding four assists in 12 games while posting a hideous minus-9 rating. On the plus side: the Penguins have yet to lose in regulation against Pacific Division opponents, coming into the week with a 7-0-4 mark. And the Canucks haven’t been that great against the Metropolitan Division, boasting a 3-8-3 mark entering Monday.
* The Buffalo Sabres are hoping forward Kyle Okposo doesn’t miss much more time as he deals with a rib injury suffered in Thursday’s 6-3 triumph over the Arizona Coyotes. The Sabres have dropped both games since losing Okposo, who was heating up with a goal and three assists over his previous two games.
* The New York Rangers will once again be without goal-scoring winger Michael Grabner, who will miss Monday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning with a hip injury that has sidelined him the previous two games. The Rangers have split a pair of contests without Grabner, who leads the club with 26 goals.
* The previous week, it was Jonathan Toews that lifted the Chicago Blackhawks near the top of the Central Division. Last week, it was Patrick Kane that kept them there. Kane scored five goals in three games – all Chicago victories – and now has nine goals over his previous five contests, helping extend the Blackhawks’ win streak to seven.
* The Lightning might havean eye toward next year, but Nikita Kucherov isn’t ready to let this season go by the wayside. Kucherov extended his point streak to six games with an assist in Saturday’s 2-1 shootout win over Buffalo; he has seven goals and seven assists during the run. Tampa Bay is 4-2-0 SU and 3-3-0 O/U over that stretch.
* The Washington Capitals are cruising to a top seed in the playoffs, but they wouldn’t mind seeing Alexander Ovechkin light the lamp more often. Ovechkin is mired in a deep slump that has seen him score just two goals over his last 13 games. But Capitals fans needn’t fret, as their team has gone an astounding 10-2-1 SU in those contests.
Stanley Cup Futures
* The addition of forward Martin Hanzal has the Minnesota Wild sitting pretty as the top Stanley Cup play from the Western Conference. According to Sports Interaction, The Wild enter the week at +550 to win the first title in team history, behind only the Capitals (+375). Hanzal, acquired prior to the trade deadline, has three assists in four games with the Wild.
* The Edmonton Oilers didn’t make a huge splash at the deadline, but remain a hot ticket at +1,700 – the fourth-best odds among Western Conference teams. Edmonton comes into the week having won back-to-back games and still employs the NHL’s leading scorer in forward Connor McDavid, who has 74 points in 65 games and is on a five-game point streak.
* The Detroit Red Wings are still in play, but only barely. Having made the playoffs every season since 1990, the Red Wings will likely see that streak come to a crashing halt – and even if, by some miracle, they go on a run and make the playoffs, putting anything down on them at +50,000 would require as much faith as you can muster.
* The NHL’s worst Over play continues to reside in San Jose. The Sharks have played to the Over just 15 times in 64 games so far this season, and are presently on an 0-5-1 O/U run; the good news is, the team’s stalwart defense has played a major role, with the team going 4-1-1 over that span.
* Nashville has become “Cashville” to bettors who have laid money on the Over. The Predators have been a red-hot 16-3 O/U over their last 19 games, a stretch that includes 11 straight Overs from Feb. 7-28. That run has moved Nashville to 36-25-4 O/U for the season, giving them the second-most Over plays of any team in the league.