Season’s Greetings everyone!!
Last week was a marginal improvement over my debut, as I managed to split my picks down the middle. This week I’m looking to one-up that & continue my upward trajectory; hopefully surpassing the 50/50 barrier this time around. This will be the last time you hear from me until New Year’s Weekend, so here’s to wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays and an opportunity to spend some time at home with your loved one, hopefully fitting in a little extra hockey while you’re at it! Can’t go wrong with that!
Now let’s get to it...
NY Rangers @ Philadelphia (1:00pm ET)
Two winning streaks collide as The Rangers roll into Philly having won their past three, while the Flyers streak has now reached four games. It might now be time to end the Rookie of the year campaign for The Bob as he has begun his descent back to earth and possibly back to 3rs string/AHL duty once Michael Leighton suits it back up for the big club in the coming days. Philadelphia sits as Top Dog in the league at the moment despite Detroit have a few games in hand, but boy have they looked impressive of late. Earlier this week Philly crushed the Pens dominant winning streak and will look to end another streak in this matinee affair.
New York began their mini streak with a 7-0 shocker vs. Washington Sunday night behind the world class play of Henrik the King! However, as respectable as they have been of late, at 7-3 over their past 10, the Rangers are still batting .500 on home ice. That being said, the Broadway Blue Shirts surprisingly own the most road wins in the NHL! So this away tilt in Philly should be a walk in the park right?
Don’t count on it!. The Flyer’s winning streak will win the survival of the fittest title here.
Philadelphia – Home Win – H(ProLine)
Washington @ Boston (7:00pm ET)
This skid can’t continue much further now, can it?? Boudreau’s job might very well be placed on a slippery slope should a loss to Boston add to the running tally. I think it’s safe to say that desperation mode is now settling in, if it hasn’t already. Despite the Caps still being tied for 2nd in the East, they are on the verge of an ugly eight game slide. With Semin picking up a minor injury, even if he is deemed in game shape by 7:00pm, the heat is on undoubtedly on the other Alexander, as his personal slump is becoming increasingly problematic for the team (and poolies everywhere of course)!
However, with Marc Savard seemingly inching his way back to mid-season form, the Bruins are no slouches either-- despite sitting in an unfamiliar 8th spot in the East & having Timmy T’s level of play reduced to a mere Excellent down from Utterly Ridiculous..
All things considered, the defending President Trophy owners are surely looking to get back on track as they are facing a potentially elite team for the first time in this losing streak. After all, the Caps have been known to bring out the most in themselves vs. the best, in recent years.
Washington –Away Win – V(ProLine)
New Jersey @ Atlanta (7:00pm ET)
Another day, another high profile return! You can bet your house that Don Waddell isn’t all that demoralized anymore having had Ilya Kovalchuk spurn his 10 year- $102 million mega contract offer last season. Especially since in dealing him, he was able to acquire a bumper crop of prospects and serviceable players. Big Buff continues to be the best off-season acquisition in the league in 2010, pacing the circuit in defenseman scoring. Ondrej Pavelec continues to marvel after losing consciousness that scary October night in his crease, as Atlanta has been one of the hottest teams across the board in December going 6-2-2 in their previous 10.
The Devils, namely Kovy & Super Marty, appeared to finally break the ice Wednesday night at home to Phoenix as Ilya notched his 1st two-goal game as a Devil dating back to last spring. Meanwhile, Brodeur continues to carry on earning 60% of his victories so far in the shutout variety! Unfortunately for him, he’s only won 5 of 19 games, thus quickly putting things back into perspective! However, a back to normal Brodeur is always encouraging despite another offensively lacklustre performance by Jersey last night vs. Nashville.
I’m going a different route with this one, in which you may not agree. However, I’ve noticed that post- lockout, in nearly every highly-anticipated return of a former player, the boo-bird target usually gets the last laugh.
New Jersey -- Away Win – V(ProLine)
Toronto @ Vancouver (7:00pm ET)
The Maple Leafs are now minus starting goalie Giggy....Not that it matters all that much, as the Monster has filled in reasonably when given the chance. For the 2nd time in consecutive weeks, Toronto failed to use an inspirational win as a springboard for getting on any sort of a roll (After following up a comeback win vs. Washington and a blowout of the Oilers with 2 equally gutting losses to Pittsburgh last week & Calgary this Thurs.)
Vancouver has been very steady in the first couple months of the 2010/2011 campaign and have been especially tough to beat at GM Place, only having lost 3 times on home ice this season. Moreover, the ‘Nucks have only dropped one regulation loss on the month so far Bobby Lou has been half decent and surely primed to turn it up a notch as we inch closer to the new year. The Sedins and Kesler have been the main reasons Vancouver has managed to stay top 3 in the West since the season opener.
Vancouver shouldn’t have much trouble disposing of Toronto at home
Vancouver – Home Win – H(ProLine)
Dallas @ Columbus (7:00pm ET)
In rematch from last week’s bout where Columbus narrowly came out victorious, albeit by a small margin, expect this to be yet another close-knit affair. Mathieu Garon has a history of performing well when initially called upon after a considerable stint mostly on the bench watching. So expect him to be up to the task again, before he as usual, gets comfortable with more starts and assuredly fizzles back to backup status type play. The Jackets also should be happy about the return of Huselius, after potting a hat trick on Thurs.
The Stars for the most part have been playing admirable hockey for the most part of the season to date. However, The Stars have had a tough time with the Bluejackets only winning one of 5 contests with them over the past two years, though Brad Richards has been extremely consistent all year, and will look to continue his fine form and help Dallas earn some results against this Columbus squad.
Despite ranking near the bottom of the NHL in PP efficiency, Columbus will look to build back up to earlier season success have a mostly mediocre past month. Rick Nash has been heating up and will be searching for creativity, finally getting the chance to link up with Huselius to begin repair the team’s pitiful man advantage numbers.
Columbus – Home Win—H(ProLine)
Phoenix @ NY Islanders (7:00pm ET)
The Islanders actually won?? And Phoenix actually lost to Jersey?? What’s going on this week?! Ok realistically, both events were an anomaly. Although New Jersey on paper should be able to slowly climb toward mediocrity and away from patheticness.
However, the Isles who won on Thursday evening for just the 2nd time since October 21st—a span of 23 games, are not likely to mount any sort of a winning streak or run of respectability. They’ve already lost anyone’s respect. Maybe Garth Snow should back up Ricky D once Roloson gets traded to a contender as an insurance piece. After all, he couldn’t do much worse than he has in the GM’s chair so far. This is the same team who waited until their final game of November to avoid having lost every game in November.
NY should make it close based on the fact they got the monkey off their backs, but it will still likely be a close but no cigar scenario Saturday night with an all too familiar result.
Phoenix – Away Win – V(ProLine)
Anaheim @ Carolina (7:00pm ET)
Carolina pulled off the spirited come from behind victory via shootout Thursday, as the Thrash succeeded in blowing their 2-zip 3rd period lead. The Canes come into this one having won their past three and picking up points in their past four, with a stunning 45-save performance by Cam Ward who has looked every bit the Conn Smythe 06’ Cup Winner til’ this point.
Despite a slightly above satisfactory set of results so far this season, the Anaheim Ducks have offered a suspect Goals against problem having allowed a dozen more than they have scored. However, they’ve seemingly chosen strategic moments to strike, enabling them to possess an above .500 record. The dynamic Ryan-Getz-Perry trio has combined for 13 points in their past three games and 18 over the past five. Couple that with a steady near point a game pace by Powerplay quarterback- Lubomir Visnovsky, and an impending return from injury by the Finnish Jet, expect Anaheim’s top stars to ride this wave of production into Raleigh this evening
Shootout -- Tie – T(ProLine) ------- [Anaheim in SO]
Buffalo @ Tampa Bay (7:30pm ET)
Things just haven’t been the same in Sabre-land this season. Ryan Miller has looked decent behind an uncharacteristically non-competitive Buffalo team, sprinkled in with a few blowouts of his own here and there---see last night’s 4 goal 1st period breakdown & 1st intermission pull from the game. Tyler Myers is getting further entrenched in his sophomore slump. The Calder trophy winner must start contributing more on both ends of the ice if this team is going to have a chance of crawling out of the basement.
The Return of Vinny Lecavalier should surely add some pop into this already potent lineup. For the first time this season, or ever for that matter, the Lightning will be prodding out a healthy Vinny and Simon Gagne to compliment the dynamic duo lighting it up on the 1st line. This Powerplay is going to be fun to watch once Vinny gets back in full stride....If only T.Bay could get some timely goal-tending!!...Evgeni Nabokov anybody??
Tampa Bay – Home Win – H(ProLine)
Los Angeles @ Nashville (8:00pm ET)
It’s amazing that the Kings are in a 5-way tie for the last playoff spot in the west given that they are sitting on a not too shabby 17-11-1 record out of the gate. Although they have played the least games in the league, so one would assume that a mild rise in the standings should soon be in the cards. As long as Jonathan Quick has more games like the 5-0, 51 save effort vs. the might west leading Red Wings and less like the 5 he allowed vs. St.Louis in the following contest, the Kings should be able to improve on their position in the standings in due time.
Nashville continues to stun the hockey world with their underwhelming lineup...on paper! Although, one would be unwise, by now, to simply judge this team strictly by their on-paper makeup & realize that Barry Trotz has for the better part of a decade managed to turn chicken turds into chicken salad-- for lack of better term. Nashville should never be counted out. Well at least not until playoff time.
That being said, it should make for another close battle!
Los Angeles – Away Win – V(ProLine)
San Jose @ St. Louis (8:00pm ET)
San Jose has been rather mediocre the past couple of weeks treading around .500 waters. Jumbo Joe has played a significant role in that stat with only 1 goal on the month and just two markers dating back to late October, despite averaging a helper every other game, which even still, is far from Thornton-like assist stats. However, Logan Couture who has emerged as one of the legitimate early Rookie-Of-The-Year contenders.
St. Louis has managed to situate themselves right in the thick of the logjam in the West, where teams 8th through 12th are in a virtual tie. Even more eye-widening is their 10-2-2 home record!
However, you can go right ahead and adjust that home/loss record to a three. Count this as a road win for the visitors. The annual regular season contenders, and playoff choking Sharks are frankly due for a win after a series of hard fought losses as of late.
San Jose by 2 or more goals– Away Win Plus – V+(ProLine)
Minnesota @ Calgary (10:00pm ET)
Minnesota and Calgary sit neck and neck in the Northwest, though they’ve flip-flopped spots over the course of the past week, with Calgary having won their past 2 games including a bittersweet handling of former fan favourite Dion Phaneuf’s Toronto Maple Leafs.
Meanwhile, Minny has seriously struggled behind the usually automatic Nicholas Backstrom. So much so that Wild Coach Todd Richards publicly admitted this week that he feels his teams feels more confident and has a better chance to win behind backup Jose Theodore at this current stage!! Shocking stuff to say the least about the Finn, deemed Mr Reliable since the lockout. Marek Zidlicky continues to anchor the offense from the point in his comeback campaign as an elite offensive d-man.
This one should be yet another hard fought matchup with a post regulation appearance more than a possibility.
Shootout -- Tie – T(ProLine) -------(Minny in SO)