NHL picks: 4 best bets for Saturday night
Andrew Berkshire provides his best NHL picks and predictions for Saturday night's action.
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Sometimes when you fire a head coach and hire a new one, you get a big bump. Just ask the Vancouver Canucks, who have had a renewed level of energy with Bruce Boudreau at the helm. He was serenaded by Canucks fans in his first game there, with fans chanting “Bruce, there it is!”. The same grace hasn’t befallen Mike Yeo in Philadelphia, though. Wearing the interim tag, he is likely just a placeholder until the Flyers can figure out what their future is.
Speaking of those Flyers, they’re on the second-half of a back-to-back set with travel on Saturday night, playing outside their own timezone as well. The Coyotes are also on the second-half of a back-to-back, but they’ll be hosting both games, which gives them a distinct advantage over a Flyers team that has been hopeless for a month.
The Coyotes haven’t exactly been playing well either, but they’ve won in the last few weeks at least, and they should be the slightly more rested of the two teams. The one advantage that would have gone the Flyers’ way normally would be goaltending, but Carter Hart is likely to start the game before against Vegas, and after a brilliant start to the year, Martin Jones has been looking like…well…Martin Jones the last few weeks.
Logically, everything is against the Penguins here. They’re on the second-half of a back-to-back, the Ducks are not, and the Ducks have been red hot. The thing is, I’m just not buying what the Ducks are selling. They’re very exciting, with a group of young players like Trevor Zegras and Sonny Milano who combine to score incredible goals like the alley-oop we were treated to recently, but the team is just barely hanging in at even strength, and getting incredibly lucky on special teams.
So far this season the Ducks are below 50 per cent in expected goals both at 5-vs-5 and in all situation, but outscoring teams anyway. Eventually that hot streak is going to end, and an all-business Penguins team that’s fourth in even strength expected goal differential and sixth by all situations seems like a place to start. The future is bright in Anaheim, but I don’t think this team is for real yet.
Losers of four straight, the Oilers had been playing a dangerous game of relying on Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl to score them out of deficits for a long stretch before this losing streak. They’ve continued to do their work, but the rest of the roster has struggled to chip in.
Against a legitimate Stanley Cup contender in the Hurricanes, I think we’ll see the strongest team effort by the Oilers in a long time, led by the two titans of course.
The Hurricanes have had some inconsistency in their own play to deal with, but are coming in on the right foot after dispatching two good teams in Winnipeg and Calgary, after starting a little win streak against Buffalo a week ago. They’re going to be a tough team to beat, but the Oilers definitely need a rallying point, and a serious team coming to town should help them play to the quality of their opponents.
Coming off of a shutout against the lowly Montreal Canadiens, the Blackhawks are playing with some pep in their step, but their defensive game has remained pretty much in shambles even after the coaching change.
Matthews, meanwhile, has been chugging along after a slow start, but just had his seven-game goal scoring streak busted by Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday. Expect him to get right back into his dogged chase of Leon Draisaitl and Alex Ovechkin for the Rocket Richard Trophy.