NHL picks: 4 best bets for Friday night
Andrew Berkshire provides his best NHL picks and predictions for Friday night's action.
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The playoff teams are decided. The Vegas Golden Knights faded into the abyss with very little fight, losing five straight to end their playoff chase, including three straight in the shootout where they went 0-for-17. For a team that’s already over the cap heading into next season, and operated $10m over the cap this year, the Golden Knights have a lot of questions to ask themselves.
Meanwhile, the Florida Panthers clinched the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s best regular season team, and are back over +100 in goal differential. If they can maintain that they will be just the second team in the salary cap era to do so after the 2005-06 Ottawa Senators.
With only jockeying for position to motivate most teams, how does the last meaningful day of the regular season go?
The Panthers have nothing left to play for. They’ve locked up first place in the league, they have home ice throughout the playoffs, and they’re going to rest a lot of players.
The Canadiens are on the opposite side of the spectrum in last place, but they’re still looking to get Carey Price his first win since he returned from a 74-game absence while recovering from knee surgery.
As practice is underway in Montreal, it appears that all the worry about a setback for Price’s knee was a little overblown, and he looks like he’s set to start the last game of the season, closing out the Bell Centre against the best team in the league.
Even with some of their best players sitting out, the Panthers are vastly superior to the Canadiens on paper, but these final games of the season go to the underdog very often.
Sitting at 19 goals on the season, Anderson is playing spirited hockey lately, and searching for just the second 20-goal season of his career. He’s been close to that mark three other times, but not quite made it.
The Canadiens “clinched” last place in the NHL after the Arizona Coyotes won their last game, so that no longer looms on the players. There’s nowhere to go, and the Panthers will likely be resting a lot of players ahead of the playoffs.
Expect many Canadiens players to be looking to set up Anderson so he can get that valued 20-goal season. Players care about this stuff.
No other team entering the playoffs seems to be limping in as badly as the Pittsburgh Penguins. Neither the Dallas Stars or Nashville Predators have been impressive, but the Penguins have gone from an underrated, excellent team to one showing a lot of warts, especially with Tristan Jarry on the sidelines.
The Blue Jackets are missing a ton of players as well, but the Penguins have just looked vulnerable, which is how they’ve looked in the playoffs for several seasons in a row now as well.
Columbus is in the position to play spoiler and force the Penguins behind the Washington Capitals, where they would go from playing the Rangers to playing the Panthers in round one, which would be one heck of a change. The Penguins have a lot to play for, but they haven’t been anywhere near their best lately.
On the second half of a back-to-back as the Oilers head into the playoffs with home ice secured, the Oilers have been scorching hot recently, and so has Mike Smith. Going from some of the worst goaltending of his career earlier in the season to some of the best now, Smith will be the guy heading into the playoffs, so they won’t be risking his 40-year-old body on a back-to-back.
That means the Canucks will be facing Mikko Koskinen, who has not been good this season or lately, at all. Over his last three games, Koskinen has allowed 13 goals on 97 shots, with a .866 save percentage.
With Koskinen in goal, the Canucks with no pressure on them, and the Oilers with nothing to play for, this one has all the markers of a loss for Edmonton.