A whirlwind weekend in the NHL is behind us and we have some dandy games on tap for the upcoming week. The race for the final two wildcard spots in the Eastern Conference is about to get very intense as the Penguins, Red Wings and Bruins all sit with 95 points while the Ottawa Senators sit just two points behind this trio of contenders, with a monumental tilt against Pittsburgh on Tuesday night in Ottawa. This is certainly unfamiliar territory for the likes of the Penguins and Bruins as they have not been in a situation where playoffs were not a certainty in some time, while the Red Wings have slipped all the way back in to the last wildcard spot with three games remaining in the season. The Senators run over the last six to eight weeks is nothing short of spectacular and the fact that they are still very much in the hunt is quite the feat in itself. The Western Conference has a battle of its own going on as the Winnipeg Jets and L.A. Kings sit tied with 92 points, although the pressure is on the Jets as the tiebreaker of regulation + overtime wins will likely favor the Kings should these two still be knotted up after 82 games. This will be a great week of hockey as it is time to empty the tanks if you one of the aforementioned teams, so without any more hesitation let’s get in to Monday’s action which has five games on the NHL schedule.
Winnipeg Jets @ Minnesota Wild
My Pick – UNDER 5 (+105)
It’s time to buckle up if you are a Jets fan as the franchise is about to play it’s most important four games since they were relocated to Winnipeg with the team currently in a tie for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with the Los Angeles Kings who will be visiting the Vancouver Canucks later on tonight. The importance of this game doesn’t rest solely with the Jets as Minnesota can punch their ticket in to the postseason with a regulation win this evening and when they are playing on home ice that is often the case. The Wild have lost two games in a row and will look to avoid a third straight loss tonight, something they haven’t done since Devan Dubnyk was acquired on January 14th. Dubnyk will make his 37th consecutive start for Mike Yeo’s Wild, and his success since being dealt to Minny has been well documented and his name is subsequently being mentioned in the Vezina and/or the Hart Trophy conversation. In 36 games as a member of the Wild, Dubnyk boasts a 1.76 goals against average to go along with a 26-7-2 record and a .937 save percentage. Minnesota sits tied for 4th in the league in goals against as they surrender just 2.42 per game while their 86.7% mark on the penalty kill is the best in the NHL. On the flipside their powerplay is one of the worst in the league with a 15.6% clip despite having loads of talent at their disposal with the man advantage. For the Jets it is likely to be Ondrej Pavelec getting the nod this evening and he has played well in career against Minnesota. Despite just a 2-2-1 record, Pavelec boasts a 2.55 goals against average and a .920 save percentage in his career against the Wild. While I am looking for tonight’s game to be a low scoring game like many have been at the Xcel energy Center this season, I am also expecting a close one. All four of their games to date this season have been one-goal affairs, with three ending in overtime while the two teams have alternated wins entering the season series finale tonight. With Dubnyk being nearly impossible to solve since he pulled on a Wild uniform I have no choice but to roll with his success and look for a low scoring affair tonight. Take the UNDER 5 goals tonight from the State of Hockey and enjoy an entertaining game that has plenty of playoff implications.