Find out who Marty Kwiaton likes this week in another edition of Saturday Picks.
Back for another instalment, after opening the season at a mediocre 3-3 there is plenty of room for improvement. I couldn’t have been more wrong on Devan Dubnyk two weeks ago, apparently the equipment changes have really affected him in a negative way; not only the shorter length of pads, but also the shorter stick. It’s been a tough adjustment for his mental psyche. Lots of good games on the schedule this weekend, and looking forward to some great action:
*article written before the conclusion of Friday night’s games
Oilers @ Senators
The Sens are finally home after starting their season with six games on the road that saw them come back at .500. They picked up points in four games and skated competitively against the Sharks (a 3-2 loss), which has been difficult for everyone else to do. Jason Spezza and Bobby Ryan lead the way up front with nine of the team’s 20 goals this season. In order to continue their winning ways the Sens have to reduce the amount of shots on goal against. With Robin Lehner facing 97 shots in back to back nights as Anderson got pulled in Anaheim, after surrendering two quick goals to start the game. Speaking of defence, the Oilers are the worst team in the league surrendering 4.38 goals against per game at the moment. With Sam Gagner out, Mark Arcobello has been a surprise with eight points in eight games, leading the team in +/- at plus-5, and is second amongst forwards in hits with 17. He seems to be doing everything Dallas Eakins wants out of a young player. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a team worst -9 through five games, ouch! Also, I don’t think the team signed Boyd Gordon to be the team’s leading goal scorer (4 goals thus far).
Pick: H (Senators win)
Avalanche @ Sabres
Despite their three goal “outburst” in a shootout victory over the New York Islanders for their first win of the season, the Buffalo Sabres are on pace to set the new NHL record for fewest goals scored in an 82 game season (currently held by the 97-98 Lightning, and led by Mikael Renberg and Alexander Selivanov with 16 goals apiece). Thomas Vanek is the only Sabre with more than one goal, and the team is shooting at an abysmal 4.7% at the moment. On top of their futile offense the Sabres also allow almost 36 shots on goal per game, causing the team to give Jhonas Enroth three starts in the first eight games of the season. Patrick Roy has been phenomenal in Denver to start the season, implementing systems that work to the strengths of his young and fast roster, and showing his players that he’s just as invested in defending and supporting his players on the ice. Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, and P.A. Parenteau lead the way up front with seven points in seven games each. The team receives balanced scoring and with three scoring lines and it seems that one of the three always steps it up when the others are being shut down. The Avalanche are surrendering just over 35 shots on goal per game, and their team .972 save percentage is unsustainable, however a lot of the shots have been coming from the perimeter. The Avs have only trailed for a little more than two periods in their first seven games, which forces their trailing opponents to throw the rubber on the net to try and get something going. With the old Joe Sacco regime, this would be a classic trap game, however not with the way the Avs have been flying so far this season.
Pick: V (Avalanche win)
Maple Leafs @ Blackhawks
The Leafs are off to a terrific start this season, and despite them getting outplayed, like their 4-1 win over the Wild while being heavily outshot, the team has found a way to win and to capitalize on their chances. Dave Nonis’ acquisitions this summer/fall have looked terrific so far, with Dave Bolland, Mason Raymond (tied for second on the team with eight points), and Jonathon Bernier all impressing early on. I was watching Hockey Central the other day and someone suggested the Leafs need a good butt kicking to give Randy Carlyle the necessary ammunition to clean some things up in their game. A visit to Chicago should do the trick. After putting up six goals against the Washington Capitals to open the season, the team has failed to score more than three goals in a game since. As long as the Hawks are able to shut down the Leafs 29% (3rd in the NHL) successful power play they should be able to come away with a win. The Leafs’ only two losses this year came when they failed to score with the man advantage.
Pick: H+ (Blackhawks by 2 or more)
Wild @ Panthers
The Minnesota Wild had their three game win streak snapped in Toronto, and it certainly wasn’t for a lack of effort. The team out advanced stat their opposition, but came up fairly short on the scoreboard, where it matters most. They’ll look to get back to their winning ways, and maybe extend their summer tans with a visit to the sunshine state. Matt Cooke is tied for the team lead in scoring (6pts.), game leads in winning goals (2), +/- at plus-5, second on the team with 20 hits, and he has just four penalty minutes. Let’s let all of that sink in for a minute. We’ve seen some bizarre things happen in the first few weeks of the season before, but this one almost takes the cake. The power play has been very effective, scoring nine times (tied for 1st with the Leafs) this season. The Panthers are sporting a 3.88 goals against average to start the season. It doesn’t help Florida that this game is sandwiched between visits from the Bruins and Blackhawks.
Pick: V (Wild win)
Flames @ Sharks
The Calgary Flames finally lost their first regulation game when they visited Anaheim (they haven`t won their in 18 games now), and continue their tough west coast swing with a stop in San Jose. The Sharks have scored four or more goals in all but two games this season, which has lead them to play in only two 1-goal games thus far. The Sharks had a similar start last season, winning seven straight before going 0-3-4 in their next seven games. Six Sharks are averaging over a point per game, which is bound to happen when you lead the league averaging nearly five goals per game. The Sharks have beaten the Flames by two or more only twice in their last ten head to head meetings. However, let`s not forget this is a team with a 3.12 goals against average and a .893 save percentage that will be playing visiting the Shark Tank.
My Pick: H+ (Sharks by 2 or more)
Stars @ Kings
After back to back losses to divisional foes the Dallas Stars beat the San Jose Sharks on Thursday and now head west to face the Kings and Ducks on back to back nights. Tyler Seguin has had a good start to his Dallas career with eight points (the team only has 14 goals total) in his first six games. The Stars will hope that Lethonen`s injury isn`t too severe as Dan Ellis is not the answer between the pipes, and to help this team from tumbling down in the Central Division standings (as of writing they`re in sixth, so I suppose there isn`t much tumbling left, but perhaps just more digging). Ellis is 7-2 in his career against the Kings with a 2.44 goals against average and .925 save percentage. However, Dallas’ defense is nothing compared to Nashville’s back in those days. The Kings find their offense again off to a poor start with only 16 goals in the opening eight games. Unlike years prior, Jonathan Quick hasn’t been his normal self to start the year posting a 2.58 goals against average and .910 save percentage.
Pick: H (Kings win)
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