Did we just see a Stanley Cup Finals preview on Sunday when the Chicago Blackhawks, who have the most points in the Western Conference, beat the Montreal Canadiens? It’s quite possible as the Habs still have the most points in the NHL. Here are three interesting games to watch this week in the NHL and I would parlay the home clubs together on hockey odds.
Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals, Wednesday
This is an NBC Sports Network national TV game and it’s always interesting when rivals Sidney Crosby of the Pens and Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals face off as they remain arguably the two best offensive players in the NHL and perhaps of their generation. The Penguins beat the Capitals in last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals in six games. The Penguins and Capitals opened this season against one another in Pittsburgh and the Penguins won 3-2 in a shootout. With Matt Murray out with a broken hand, Marc-Andre Fleury made 39 saves in regulation and overtime then stuffed Ovechkin in the fourth round of a shootout. Patric Hornqvist and Evgeni Malkin scored as the Penguins capped a celebratory night in which they lifted their latest Stanley Cup banner. Andre Burakovsky scored twice for Washington and Braden Holtby made 28 stops but allowed three goals in the shootout. Crosby missed that game with a concussion.
Arizona Coyotes at Calgary Flames, Wednesday
The Coyotes are not a good team but could get back No. 1 goaltender Mike Smith from injury for this one — although I’d still back Calgary here. Mike Smith (lower body) is looking to return to action on Wednesday. The netminder has been sorely missed since suffering the injury on October 18 as the Coyotes have been getting mediocre efforts from Louie Domingue and Justin Peters most of the time. Smith has been practicing with the team and has been taking shots in the interim. He is 1-0 as he was injured in the Coyotes second game of the season. The Coyotes enter on a two-game losing streak. Radim Vrbata now leads the Coyotes with six goals and is tied for the team lead in points with 11. He has five points in his last four games and is one point shy of tallying his 300th with the franchise. This will be the second of a back-to- back for Calgary as it took a four-game losing streak into Minnesota on Tuesday. It’s the first meeting of the season between these division rivals but the Flames beat the visiting Coyotes 2-1 in a shootout in the preseason.
San Jose Sharks at St. Louis Blues, Thursday
It’s a rematch of last season’s Western Conference Finals, won by San Jose. The Sharks enter the week on a three-game winning streak and this will be Game No. 5 of a six-game road trip. Sharks C Joe Thornton played in his 1,382nd NHL game over the weekend, tying tie Trevor Linden for 41st place on the career list. The Blues, meanwhile, enter the week on a three-game skid. They were routed 8-4 in Columbus on Saturday. Jake Allen stopped eight of 12 shots and was pulled early in the second period. Carter Hutton finished with 14 saves. The Blues lost their fourth consecutive on the road by a combined score of 22-7. All St. Louis’ goals came on the power play. The Blues were eliminated from the West Finals with a 5-2 loss in San Jose on May 25. Captain Joe Pavelski scored an early goal, Joel Ward had two of his own and the Sharks advanced to their first Stanley Cup final in franchise history. The Blues haven’t made it to the Stanley Cup Finals since 1970. That would also be the final game in a Blues uniform for ex-starting goalie Brian Elliott as he was traded to Calgary this offseason.