Notch is back again with his winners. Maybe his tips will help you with some tough decisions on your Saturday ticket.
Atlanta at Boston 1:00 PM EST
This is the 4th and final game of the season series with Boston leading 2 games to 1. All the games have been won by 2 goals or more with the average win coming by 3.33 goals. These teams have already played at 1:00 PM in Boston this year where the Bruins won 5-2. This will be the 7th early afternoon game for the Bruins this year compared to only the 2nd for the struggling Thrashers. The Bruins are the hottest team in the East and look to go perfect on their 3-game homestand after beating Ottawa and Pittsburgh by a combined 8 goals. Tim Thomas is white-hot and should get the start. Have a look at the Northeast standings and see how close Boston is to quietly leading that division.
Boston – H+
Philadelphia at NY Islanders 2:00 PM EST
Philly has won 3 of 4 so far against Long Island this year. Overall, the Flyers may have righted the ship after winning their last 2 games before being losers of 10 in a row and falling out the playoff picture temporarily. The Islanders are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and with a win can tie Philly with 71 points for a share of 8th in the East. Dipietro has a career record of 7-9-0 against the Flyers with a 2.88 GAA. Philadelphia is a better team on the road, but the Islanders are just as strong at home. This will be the 7th game in a row for the Islanders where they have had to travel between home and away games (H-V-H-V-H-V-H).
Philadelphia – V
Pittsburgh at Ottawa 3:00 PM EST
This has been an exciting series so far with Ottawa winning 2 of 3. The visiting team has won all 3 games - 2 of them have gone past 60 minutes. Pittsburgh will be very depleted after giving up 2 roster players to get Hossa, only to have him injure his knee in his first game with his new club. Marc-Andre Fleury will probably start in goal even though he is 2-4 with a 4.97 GAA against the Sens in his short career. Ottawa needs to make a statement against this potential 1st round matchup (4 versus 5).
Ottawa – H+
New Jersey at Montreal
Season series is tied at one game apiece. This will be the first game in Montreal. Something has to give here as each team has remarkable records when playing against teams in each others division (New Jersey is 10-4 against the Northeast, Montreal is 11-5-1 against the Atlantic). The Devils are hot despite losing their last game – they had points in their last 9 games, winning 7 of those. In Carey Prices’ first game against Brodeur earlier this year he lost 4-0, stopping only 25 of 29 shots. Both teams played last night.
New Jersey – V
Toronto at Washington
Toronto will be playing one of their Eastern Conference low 13th back-to-back games - this will be their 11th of those 13. They had to get out of their cushy schedule of playing every Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday by playing Friday night against Tampa. The 14 other Eastern teams average 15.85 back-to-back games a year…not Toronto – they only have to play 13. If you don’t think playing less back-to-backs means anything, consider that Toronto is 1-9 in the second half of back-to-back games this year. Imagine if they had to play as many B-2-B’s as everyone else in the East.
Washington – H+
Tampa Bay at Carolina
Tampa Bay are losers of their last 5 (maybe six if they lose to Toronto on Friday). This will be the 3rd game in 4 nights for the Lightning as well. Carolina continues to pile up the wins somehow (OK, maybe not pile up, but they do keep winning). The season series is 3-2 for Tampa.
Carolina - H
Los Angeles at Colorado
Cloutier had a great debut for the Kings this season, but in the 2 games after that, he has struggled. Although LA has played poorly on the road this year, they seem to enjoy skating at The Pepsi Center winning 4 of their last 5 in Colorado. Peter Forsberg may return for the Avalanche who are coming off a big, last second shootout win over Vancouver. The Avs started the season going 15-3 at home this year, but in their last 13 games at home they are 3-8-2.
Colorado – H+
Nashville at Dallas
Nashville leads the season series 2-1, but these teams are going in opposite directions right now. The Preds are losers of 3 straight, giving up 17 goals in the process. Their defensive problems go deeper than that – in their last 7 games they have surrendered 33 goals – an average of 4.71. That is not a good thing against Dallas right now. For the last 3 months, Dallas is the best team in the league, despite missing Zubov and Boucher for most of that time. Interesting stat – The Preds last 6 trips to Dallas have had alternating results with the last visit being a 1-0 win on December 31/2007.
Dallas – H+
San Jose at St. Louis
This is another game where the two teams are meeting up when they are on different streaks. St. Louis have lost 5 in a row and looked very uninspired in doing so, while San Jose seems to have found the chemistry we all thought they had winning their last 3. The Sharks are 11-4 against Central division teams this year, the Blues are 5-9-2 against the Pacific. The Sharks do have a couple things working against them in this game. This will be the 3rd game in 4 nights for San Jose and also played last night in Detroit. This is the final game for San Jose in a season high 8 game road trip as well.
St. Louis – H
Calgary at Phoenix
Calgary leads the season series 2 games to 1. This will be the second of back-to-back games for Calgary having played Anaheim on Friday night.
I don’t know why I thought of this but anyway – I figured Anaheim is a tough team to play against physically, so I went back and looked at the records of teams that had to play the Ducks in the first game of back-to-backs. I wondered what those teams’ records would be in game 2 after getting punished by Anaheim the night before. Surprisingly, in game #2, those teams are 8-6.
I am still going to take Phoenix in a shootout - T