NHL picks: 4 best bets for Saturday
Andrew Berkshire provides his best NHL picks and predictions for Saturday's action.
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We’re finally getting close to the NHL’s trade deadline and every day, as the games play out, we see shifting priorities for various contenders.
While the Maple Leafs may have thought they solidified their defence with the acquisition of Ilya Lyubushkin, the injury to Jake Muzzin has thrown a wrench in that idea and forced them to play Rasmus Sandin higher in the lineup with defensively porous Morgan Rielly, leading to some rough nights.
Games between playoff teams can also push managers in different directions, so there’s one game in particular to keep eyes on.
Take a drink if you’ve heard this one before. Brady Tkachuk is one of the league’s leaders in expected goals over the last month, trailing only two others, but he’s scored just five times in 14 games in that time.
There might come a time where we all have to admit that while Tkachuk is amazing at getting to the most dangerous areas on the ice, he’s actually a very bad finisher. But, at his age I’m just not ready to make that call yet, and he has run hot before and scored at closer to the pace his expected goals promise.
He’s on pace for his best goal scoring season - he's trending towards 28 goals - and I think it’s very likely he could eclipse that number this year. A game against the lowly Coyotes might be just the start.
The NHL’s leader in expected goals over the last month isn’t exactly slumping from a scoring perspective, but with how deadly McDavid has been playing offensively since the coaching change, scoring every other game is less than we expect from him.
McDavid has had such a sensational career so far that 20 points in his last 14 games seems like a bit of a slump, and against a team like the Montreal Canadiens who can struggle to handle speed off the rush, McDavid is going to get his chances.
Unlike last year, there’s no Phil Danault to shut him down.
J.T. Miller is red hot, the Maple Leafs’ goaltending has been an absolute mess, and Toronto has been running hot and cold offensively while struggling to string together wins for the first time this season.
Bruce Boudreau’s Canucks aren’t quite out of the playoff picture, but they’re unlikely to break in and leapfrog at least three decidedly better teams.
With that said, they’re playing like they want an invitation to the dance, and Toronto is starting to play mad with how things are going for them. They can see the likely scenarios of playing either the Tampa Bay Lightning or Florida Panthers in the first round, and in a do-or-die year they have to get on the level those teams are at.
Expect a high scoring affair.
After playing relatively loose against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday, the Flames lost a game in overtime that they should have won on paper, but ended up getting outplayed in. On the same night, the Avalanche dropped an embarrassing one to Arizona.
Two of the most talented offensive teams in the NHL face off in what could be a preview of the Western Conference Final, and I would expect this one to have a playoff atmosphere. The game between the Flames and Canadiens was competitive and fun, but didn’t have the intensity of a playoff game. This one should.
Expect both teams to play tight defence, look for an early lead, and grind it out.