Thunder

 

My so-called “dominance” didn’t last for very long. Thunder managed to put me back in my place selecting eight of 11 winners, while a couple of inappropriate “+” picks see me at 5-6 for last week. Thunder is seven games ahead on the year, with an impressive record of 36-30. Wow, that’s a lot of ground to make up with only two weeks to go. I’m not overly concerned and usually favour the role of the underdog. Nonetheless, I have a really good feeling about this week... wait, I’ve tried that before and it hasn’t worked. Let’s try this angle - this week is going to...suck, so let’s get going with 11 games on the schedule...

 



NY Rangers @ Boston Bruins

The Rangers are winless in their last three road games and with last Saturday’s three-goal effort in a losing cause it bumps their GF/game in afternoon matinees to a whopping 1.77. They haven’t won a road game on a Saturday since January 10th in Ottawa. Boston is 6-0-1 in their last seven home games. Also, the Bruins will all be watching the Caps on Friday night, if the Caps lose in regulation the Bruins clinch the Eastern Conference, and based on their celebrating prowess this tilt could be much closer on the ice than on paper.

Prediction: T
Thunder’s Pick: H

New Jersey Devils @ Buffalo Sabres
The wheels appear to be falling off at the wrong time for the Devils. They’re 0-5-1 in their last six road games and their last six overall as well being outscored by a 22-7 margin. The Sabres on the other hand are battling for their playoff lives and have taken three out of the last four versus the Devils. Despite going 3-0-1 in their last four, Thomas Vanek may have given their season away Wednesday night with a horrid turnover to Ilya Kovalchuk that led to the game winner. The Devils have dropped their last four backend B2B games.

Prediction: H
Thunder’s Pick: H

Montreal Canadiens @ Toronto Maple Leafs
The Habs are starting to come around with four wins in their last five games, but will face another test on their way to the postseason against the Leafs. The Leafs hold the series edge winning three of five this year, and are 6-1 in the last seven Saturday night affairs played between these two at the ACC. Carey Price is 4-3 in his career with a 3.11 GAA and a .912 SV% versus the Leafs including a couple of rough outings in his only two matchups against Toronto, losing 5-2 and 6-3.

Prediction: H
Thunder’s Pick: V

Pittsburgh Penguins @ Carolina Hurricanes

One point separates these two teams in the conference standings and that is currently the difference between home ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs. The Hurricanes have won seven straight, and 10 straight at home. Carolina is 11-1-2 since the start of March, and identical record to the Pens for the same timeframe. Pittsburgh has lost three of the last four frontend games of B2B situations. Cam Ward’s career numbers versus the Pens are also reassuring: 8-3-1, 2.47 GAA .914 SV%.

Prediction: H
Thunder’s Pick: H

Philadelphia Flyers @ Ottawa Senators
Despite losing four of their last five games the Sens return to Scotiabank Place with a seven game home winning streak. The Sens are 2-1 versus the Flyers this year, but have yet to face Martin Biron. Biron is 4-1 in starting the backend of B2B games, while Philly has won four of six as a team. The Flyers have also managed to win five of their last six Saturday matchups. Special teams will be key in this one as Ottawa’s 7th ranked home PP goes up against Philly’s 7th best PK despite being the most penalized team in the league.

Prediction: V
Thunder’s Pick: V

Tampa Bay Lightning @ NY Islanders
This matchup should be renamed the Tavares Cup as both teams wither away battling out for cellar supremacy. Last week the Islanders did the unthinkable, they beat the Red Wings, actually shut them out, and in Detroit. If there is one bright spot to take away from this season for the Isles, defeating the defending Stanley Cup Champs would be it. I could get into the statistics, but plain and simple, both of these teams SUCK. Fine, want proof: remove that statistical anomaly (win over Detroit) and the Isles are 0-5-1 in their last six being outscored 30-15. Tampa Bay isn’t much better going 1-4-3 in their last eight and have scored more than two goals on only two occasions during that stretch (3 goals both times), they’ve also only won one of seven and five of 20 backend games in B2B situations. I can’t believe I’m actually taking the Isles.

Prediction: H
Thunder’s Pick: V

St. Louis Blues @ Dallas Stars
Two teams headed in opposite directions face off in Dallas. Dallas has only managed five wins in their last 17 games since the start of March. That’s a lot of hockey in 33 days, and perhaps it started to show as Marty Turco returned to his early season form posting a GAA over 3.00 during that stretch. St. Louis is 6-1 in their last seven and they have scored four or more goals in seven of their 10 wins since the beginning of March. The Blues’ special teams have helped sufficiently in their success as St. Louis has the 2nd best PK since the all-star break. The Blues look to sweep the season series and keep themselves entrenched in a playoff spot come next Sunday.

Prediction: V+
Thunder’s Pick: V

Columbus Blue Jackets @ Nashville Predators
Both teams are playing well lately battling for playoff position. Luckily Columbus has a few teams between them and the 9th place Preds. Columbus has only won four of the last 20 matchups between these two teams, however three of those four victories have come this season. Another Calder Trophy showdown between Rinne and Mason should keep this one a low scoring affair as they stopped 52 of 55 shots earlier this week. Nashville has lost six of their last seven backend B2B games. Nashville is facing some key injuries at the worst time of the year which has forced rookie Cal O’Reilly to centre the top line. Even with three pts. in his last three games, this may be asking too much of O’Reilly to carry the Preds into the playoffs.

Prediction: V
Thunder’s Pick: H

Anaheim Ducks @ San Jose Sharks
Speaking of injuries the Sharks have many of their own to worry about at the moment as they try to heal up for the playoffs. They have been playing playoff hockey going 3-1-1 in their last five games with all of them being one goal decisions. The Ducks are literally flying, their offense has scored 39 goals in their last nine games, of which they have won 8. The PP is HOT, going 15/34 in that span, and so is the three headed monster (Getzlaf, Ryan, and Perry have 13, 11, and 10 pts. respectively in that span). San Jose has won five of the last six H2H matchups, with the last three ending as shutouts (Nabokov 2, Giguere 1). Hiller will most likely get the start with his stellar play as of late, and despite being winless in four career starts versus SJ he boasts a 2.05 GAA along with a .937 SV%. With these teams concluding the home and home in Anaheim on Sunday and San Jose’s six pt. lead over the Wings look for Nabokov to sit one of the games.

Prediction: T
Thunder’s Pick: V

Vancouver Canucks @ Edmonton Oilers
The Canucks have the second best GF to GA differential since the all-star break at plus-25, second only to the Carolina Hurricanes (plus-27). The PP is tied for fifth in the league in the same timeframe, oh and I’m sure getting Luongo back helped too :) He’s 12-5-1 all-time versus the Oilers with a 2.34 GAA and .917 SV%. With three straight losses, three pts. behind the #8 seed, and giving up games in hand to teams above them in the standings the Oilers are realistically out of the playoffs. The Oilers have also lost six of seven overall, and Roloson has started every game since January 31st and the effects had started to show as he’d given up three or more goals in seven games straight before Thursday’s 2-1 defeat to the Sharks. Roloson gave up three or more goals in 12 of 15 March games compared to only five of 14 games in February. At this stage I’m not sure what’s worse... Roloson, or a backup goalie who hasn’t seen action in two months.

Prediction: V+
Thunder’s Pick: H

Phoenix Coyotes @ Los Angeles Kings

The Kings have only managed one win in their last seven games and newcomer Justin Williams is still looking for his first point since coming over in the three way deadline day deal. Well I guess it’s tough when your team has only scored nine goals in those seven games you’ve been back in the line-up. The Coyotes have dominated the season series winning four of five so far, and have strung together only their 2nd three game winning streak of the year, the last one was Nov. 8th – 12th. Phoenix has also won four of the last five meetings on Saturdays at the Staples Centre. Rookie Al Montoya has started his NHL career stopping 43 of 44 shots and will get the nod Saturday for his 3rd straight start. I think it’s time to go against the grain on this one and watch Williams bust out with a multipoint effort.

Prediction: H
Thunder’s Pick: V

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