Saturday Picks makes its return and looks at some intriguing matchups in the opening week.
Welcome back everyone! It’s like going back to school when you were a little kid, you couldn’t wait to get back and see all of your friends… in this case for most of us in keeper leagues, we can’t wait to get back and see how our teams, with all of our off season acquisitions, are going to pan out this year. I apologize for the lack of depth and briefness of the picks this week. Short notice, lack of a sample size this season, preparing for a my 2-year-old son’s birthday party, and typing one handed with a 12 week old in my lap make it a little difficult. We’re also pumped to see who our kids will be cheering for this season (my wife is a Leafs fan) and the Avs and Leafs face off this Tuesday. Anyways, no more excuses, and on to the games!
Lightning @ Blackhawks
The Lightning have won the last three matchups in this series, but the Hawks looked impressive in coming back from behind against the Capitals. The top two scorers from the NHL last season were shutout in their season debut, so look for Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos to comeback with a vengeance. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have combined for 21 points versus Tampa Bay in the last 6 games, and if Lindback (4.01 GAA in 3 career starts) gets the nod, we could see more of the same.
Pick: H - Chicago
Oilers @ Canucks
Both teams look to avoid starting the season 0-2, if the Oilers fail to do so it will be the first time in the last 15 years the franchise has failed to secure a victory before the third game of the season. The Canucks meanwhile got manhandled by the Sharks, again. New season, new coach, same result. Luckily they’re 9-1-1 in their last 11 at the Rogers Arena. Despite allowing five goals in the opener, the Oilers should look to go back to Devan Dubnyk as he posted a 3-0-1 record with a 1.68 GAA versus the Canucks last season.
Pick: V - Edmonton
Panthers @ Blues
Florida continues to make their way through the Central Division as they look to follow up a good start to the season that saw Tim Thomas pick up where he left off a couple of years ago, and rookie Aleksander Barkov become the youngest player to register an NHL goal. The Blues looked impressive as well, chasing Pekka Rinne from the net after he allowed three goals on the first six shots he faced. A potential team Canada defensive pairing looked to be in midseason form as Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester averaged 24.5 minutes of ice time and combined for three assists. After only scoring six goals last season, David Backes tallied in the opener and looks to continue his goal scoring streak as he’s scored five goals in his last four against Florida, including a pair of two-goal games.
Pick: H+ - St. Louis
Coyotes @ Sharks
Both teams opened their seasons with 4-1 victories, including a hat trick from Radim Vrbata for the Coyotes. That would be back to back hat tricks for Vrbata going back to the end of last season and it was a great home opener for the Coyotes in front of their new owners. Mike Smith has played fantastic against the Sharks in his career posting a 7-3-1 record with a 2.01 GAA, .945 save percentage, and four shutouts. Unfortunately for the Coyotes Antti Niemi is 22-2-4 with a 1.75 GAA at home since the start of last season (including playoffs).
Pick: T (Sharks win in shootout) – San Jose
Capitals @ Stars
Looks like the offense won’t be an issue for the Capitals this season after coming together with Adam Oates’ system midway through last year, and the team has picked up right where it left off. However, their defense still leaves something a little to be desired. Despite being the starting goaltender, Braden Holtby has looked less than impressive in his first two starts of the season, and despite Michal Neuvirth coming in and picking up the victory on Thursday, Adam Oates will come back with Holtby in Dallas to start. The one-year contract signed by Mikhail Grabovski this offseason looks like a great move for both sides. Padding his stats playing with the Capitals and Alexander Ovechkin on the top power play unit should ensure that Grabovski will continue stuffing his vault this upcoming offseason. The Stars had a less than stellar opening game against the Panthers, that saw the team surrender a third period lead with three unanswered goals in the final 10 minutes of the game. Rookie Alex Chiasson (seven goals in eight career games) is continuing where he left of last season and his chemistry with aging veteran Ray Whitney seems to be intact. Once the Stars get the Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin duo going, and perhaps moving Alex Goligoski back to the top PP unit, it should bode well for them in the Central Division this season. The Stars are 8-1-1 in the head to head series dating back to 2002.
Pick: V - Washington
Senators @ Maple Leafs
Four days into the season and the Maple Leafs sit at the top of the Atlantic Division. Better start planning the parade route, but the last time the Leafs won the Cup they started the season 3-2-5. Nonetheless the team has played well to start the season, and we’ll get our first look at rookie Morgan Rielly, who will replace an injured Mark Fraser and start his career in the battle of Ontario. After losing Daniel Alfredsson in the offseason the Senators General Manager Bryan Murray immediately replied by trading for Bobby Ryan, who will also get his first taste of this rivalry. James Reimer should get the start for the home opener, as he’s been sensational in his career versus Ottawa posting an 8-1-1 record, 1.69 GAA, .949 save percentage and three shutouts.
Pick: H - Toronto