Believe it or not, folks, this is the final week of the NHL’s regular season with playoff spots still up for grabs everywhere – although it may not matter because the dominant Tampa Bay Lightning are such big NHL betting favorites to win the Cup. Here’s a look at two intriguing early-week matchups. Check back for NHL odds.
Top NHL Betting Picks of the Week – April 1st Edition
Nashville at Buffalo
- When: Tuesday, 7 PM ET (NHL Center Ice)
Nashville still has plenty to play for as it battles Winnipeg for the Central Division title and No. 2 seed in the West. Buffalo started this season great but will miss the playoffs yet again.
The Predators try for the season sweep as they beat visiting Buffalo 2-1 on Dec. 3. Kevin Fiala scored the tiebreaking goal late in the second period.
Ryan Ellis also scored and Pekka Rinne stopped 21 shots. Rinne stopped eight shots in the first, five in the second and eight in the third. Five of the eight Rinne turned away in the third came in the final 1:17 with Hutton lifted for an extra attacker — including a stop on a slap shot by the Sabres’ Jack Eichel with 15.4 seconds remaining. Sam Reinhart had the goal for Buffalo. Carter Hutton had 23 saves. Hutton, who served as Rinne’s backup in Nashville for three seasons beginning in the 2013-14 season, dropped to 0-3-1 against his former team.
The Preds come off a 5-2 home loss to Columbus on Saturday. Juuse Saros allowed five goals on 32 shots. Most likely will be Rinne on Tuesday. He was last in net Friday and stopped 42 of 43 shots in a 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Rinne was about to collect a shutout, but Nick Bjugstad put an end to that with just over one minute remaining in regulation. Rinne has allowed one goal or fewer in four of his last five outings. He owns a 27-18-4 record with a 2.45 goals-against-average and a .917 save percentage this season.
One bright spot in Saturday’s loss was a shorthanded goal by Viktor Arvidsson. He forced a turnover at center ice before sniping one in behind Sergei Bobrovsky on a breakaway for the goal. It was Arvidsson’s 33rd goal of the season in just his 55th game, a tally that tied the Predators franchise record for goals in a single season.
“It’s awesome, especially if you look at how many games he has done it in,” Preds winger Filip Forsberg said of Arvidsson. “We have a couple more games to give him that on his own, and we will do everything we can for that.”
Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin led rookie defensemen and ranked third among all NHL rookies in points (41). His 33 assists ranked second among all rookies. With his assist on March 20 vs. Toronto, Dahlin passed Bobby Orr (38 points in 1966-67) for the second-most points ever recorded by an NHL defenseman before his 19th birthday, trailing only Phil Housley (57 points in 1982-83). With seven multi-point games so far this season, Dahlin has recorded more multi-point games as an 18-year-old than all but two defensemen in NHL history: Housley (13) and Orr (8).
St. Louis Blues at Chicago Blackhawks
- When: Wednesday, 8 PM ET (NBC Sports Network)
The Blues are also in contention for the Central Division title, while the Blackhawks still have faint wild-card hopes but likely will miss out on extra hockey. It’s the last road game of the regular season for St. Louis.
Some odd scheduling between these rivals as they played four times in the first month or so and not since. Chicago leads 3-1. The most recent matchup was Nov. 14, a 1-0 Hawks home victory. Corey Crawford made 28 saves to give Chicago’s Jeremy Colliton his first victory as an NHL coach. Colliton took over after Joel Quenneville was fired on Nov. 6.
Chicago got the game’s only goal after St. Louis star Vladimir Tarasenko was penalized for hooking in the second period. Toews set up Brent Seabrook for an open look that was stopped by Jake Allen, but Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester kicked it into the net at 4:05.
One major bright spot this year for the Hawks is defenseman Erik Gustafsson. He is tied with Calgary’s Mark Giordano for second among all defensemen with 17 goals this season. Gustafsson has piled up 56 points in 75 games during his breakout year.
The Blues’ comeback to clinch a playoff spot this season was quite impressive. They became only the seventh team since NHL expansion in 1967-68 to qualify for the post-season after being last in the NHL after New Year’s Day. If they win the Stanley Cup, they would be the first team to do so under these circumstances.
Jordan Binnington might win the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year. He has a 21-5-1 record with a 1.85 goals-against-average and a .929 save percentage this season.
Expert NHL Betting Picks
Back Blues and Predators.