Happy New Year Poolies!
Here’s to hoping that the first column of 2011 will enable me to continue to better my record for the fourth straight week (albeit by increments of one pick each time). Last time around I went seven-for-11, and I intend on continuing this upward direction. Without any further greetings, let’s get to it!
New Jersey @ Philadelphia (1:00pm ET)
In the second game of the home and home series, Philly hopes to continue having their way with Jersey. having doubled them 4-2 on Thursday as well as 5-3 in their previous meeting on December 4th. With Leighton out of the picture and Boucher going in the first of the two game set, it’s likely the other member of the tandem, The Bob will start between the pipes tonight.
Brodeur has already sat longer than he has in seven years, so expect him to be back in the lineup and at least show a closer resemblance to the king he has been over the years. However...it still won’t be enough.
The Flyers Will sweep the mini-series without much of a serious push from the NJ.
Philadelphia – Home Win – H (ProLine)
NY Islanders @ Colorado (3:00pm ET)
The Islanders have been much better as of late, winning 7 of 10 and earning 15 of a possible 20 points over this hot stretch. John Tavares has been slowly but surely breaking out of obscurity and has played a more productive role during this surge. However, with the recent departures of Wisniewski and Roloson, and Mr. Glass- Ricky D occupying his usual spot on the shelf, this one will prove to be quite the challenge
Colorado on the other hand, has been mediocre of late. However, they remain 2 goals back Detroit for the label of highest scoring team in the NHL, so a goal scoring binge is never really out of the question for the Abominable Snowmen of Denver. In the ridiculously tight West playoff race, they remain 1 point out of a non-playoff spot; however, they also remain one point out of owning a home ice advantage position. Either way you look at it, they have plenty of motivation to win their 2nd straight home game.
Colorado will chalk one up in an attempt to end their 3 week run of less than mediocrity.
Colorado – Home Win – H (ProLine)
Boston @ Montreal (7:00pm ET)
The Bruins will be hoping the 3rd time is the charm against their bitter archrival Habs, as the prior two meetings this season went the way of the Frenchmen. Zdeno Chara has been sputtering offensively this season despite his health and those around him rounding into mid-season form. Look for him to get back on the score board, as he’s primed for a breakout offensively just about now! As if he wasn’t already in your lineup, GET HIM IN NOW.
Although the Canadiens have been reeling as of late, there’s no doubt they always get fired up, especially at Bell Centre against their favourite team to pick on in the new millennium.
Montreal has been great at home this season, however the Bruins have been even more impressive on the road this year—even more so than at home in Boston!? Go figure. Look for that trend to continue and to get a jab back at Montreal, preventing them from sweeping the 1st half of the season series. But it won’t come easy. This one is no doubt going right down to the wire. Prepare for the dramatics!
Boston – Visitor Win – V (ProLine)
Tampa Bay @ Ottawa (7:00pm ET)
Talk about a roller coaster debut for your new team. After shutting out the high powered Washington Capitals on the road in his debut, newly acquired Rollie the Goalie was day dreaming about leading his new teammates to yet another inspired Stanley cup run. However, a rude awakening was fast in the cards...7 seconds fast to be exact as equally potent East leading Penguins pounded him early and often. After his backup Ellis didn’t fare any better he was thrown back to the lions for more! However, he will be in the cage again looking to put that ugly performance behind him ASAP. So long as Stamkos remembered to sharpen his skates, we should see a much more inspired effort from the Tampa Bay Beach Boys this evening.
Ottawa didn’t exactly out-do the Bolts performance in their last appearance, getting spanked 5-1 by the lowly Leafs in the latest Battle of Ontario instalment. However, they were gift-wrapped a 6 day vacation by NHL schedulers ending in last night’s contest in Chicago. They should be well rested.
Ottawa has been pretty mediocre all season, though the layoff may be just what the doctor ordered. Roloson will undoubtedly be better than vs. the Pens, but you’ve got to think he will be on edge a little. I’ll throw the nation’s capital faithful a bone here.
Ottawa – Home Win – H (ProLine)
Minnesota @ Pittsburgh (7:00pm ET)
Bitter rivals face off at Consol Energy Centre...err, on second thought, perhaps the former Stanley Cup finalists hatred has died down by now..after all they faced off for Lord Stanley a whopping 20 years/two decades ago now!! The only similarities Tom Barrasso would find if he pulled a Mel Gibson, awaking in a time machine today, are that the Pens are once again primed for another Stanley cup run and that Mario Lemieux is still skating (even if just for the alumni Pens) Anyhow, there’s no denying Pittsburgh has been hot, sitting at top spot in the conference. Even without Sid, they present a mighty challenge.
Minnesota has been better the past couple weeks late behind the stellar (backup) performances of former Hart& Vezina trophy recipient Jose Theodore. Backstrom is nursing back to health and there’s an outside chance he plays tonight.
However, it probably won’t matter much as the Penguins will take it. Time for Malkin to once again step up! Just like Channing Tatum. Well not quite, but you get the picture!
Ottawa – Home Win – H (ProLine)
Florida @ Washington (7:00pm ET)
Washington will be looking for blood in the 1st game of a home and home after being embarrassed by the Panthers on home ice, 3-0, in the only meeting between the division best & worst back in December. Washington has won 5 of 7 and gained points in all seven, including an inspirational victory in the Winter Classic at the Climax of the highly acclaimed 24/7 HBO Series.
Florida has been exceptionally mediocre of late. If not for Vokoun, this team would be tumbling right toward the basement. However, it is hard to be optimistic when your leading scorer is barely on pace for 50 pts!
Washington takes this once with ease!
Washington by 2 or more goals– Home Win Plus – H+ (ProLine)
NY Rangers @ St.Louis (8:00pm ET)
Here’s another tale of two teams where one has excelled on home ice and the other away from home ice—The Rangers being the latter. New York has been more than respectable all season, despite being without their top scorers for long stretches. However John Tortorella has seemingly set in place a system that the Blue shirts have bought into..except for maybe Alexander Frolov who’s apparently been spending more time down the street at Broadway taking in a few shows...On game nights!!
St.Louis showed plenty of character Thursday night in Toronto battling back from a 5-2 deficit in the 3rd period to take home a highly deserved point, despite ultimately losing in shootouts.
With neither Halak nor Conklin looking particularly sharp these days, and Henrik the King being his normal self, I’m leaning toward New York almost exclusively to recent goaltending prominence.
NYR– Visitor Win – V (ProLine)
Nashville @ San Jose (8:00pm ET)
The Sharks are in the thick of things in Western conference despite dropping their past two contests. However, they will be in search of a statement rebound effort after being goose-egged 3-0 Thursday vs. a white hot Ryan Miller-led Sabres team.
Nashville staged an exciting rally the other night in LaLa land, in the process ringing up their 4th straight victory.
However their undefeated January comes to a close here at the Shark tank this evening.
San Jose – Home Win – H (ProLine)
Buffalo @ Phoenix (8:00pm ET)
The Sabres have won three of four heading into this fixture in the desert, slowly climbing out of the Eastern conference basement. Ryan Miller is fresh off a shutout and finally looking to be the all world Olympian he was the past couple years.
The only problem is the red hot Jason Labarbera has been even better!-- also is coming off a Thursday night shutout performance, making that two SO’s in his last three starts! One of these goose eggs streaks are bound to break, most likely both. Although the smart money is on Labarbs to be the first victim as Buffalo has been generally gaining more steam in the bigger picture the last few weeks.
Buffalo to continue to their recent strong stretch with Tim Connolly returned to health and Tomas Vanek rounding into mid-season form.
Buffalo– Visitor Win – V (ProLine)
Detroit @ Vancouver (10:00pm ET)
What more can you say about the Red Machine from Motown!! Simply amazing, yet not entirely unexpected that they have been perched atop their familiar place atop the West Conference throughout the 1st half of the season! Despite giving up a couple points to this evening’s opponent, there’s no denying the magic Ken Holland and Jim Nill have pulled off in assembling THE Modern Dynasty.. tacked on to a more traditional dynasty at the end of the pre-lockout era. Not only are the Wings without their best player in Datsyuk, and until his injury, leading goal-scorer Dan Cleary, but they continue to lead the NHL in goals scored!
That being said, without much further ado, a myriad of props must also be sent across the Hall at GM Place to the Hometown Vancouver Canucks who are unequivocally the hottest team in the NHL right now! With have arguably one of the best starters in the league as well as one of the best backup tenders, and armed with an impressive in their own right offense, Vancouver has emerged as a legitimate complete system, Stanley cup contender.
Representing Canada’s best chance at ending the soon to be 18 year cup drought, the Vancouver Canucks look positioned to take a close one in the battle for top dog status in the West at home.
Vancouver – Home Win – H (ProLine)
Columbus @ L.A. (10:00pm ET)
Both teams sit in last place in their respective divisions and in more or less equal footing in the overall standings. Both teams are also 4-6 over their past 10 and have lost a combined seven games in a row!! Somebody’s going to have to end this stalemate. However, I have a funny feeling that this futility funk both teams are undergoing is going to be decided in a surprise! Surprise! NON-Convincing manner! This one will go the distance. Somebody will surely have to decide this game one way or another come the shootout....Right??
Shootout -- Tie – T(ProLine) -------(Columbus in SO)