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With the holiday season in full effect I have not been able to get as many picks out as usual, but with the New Year behind us I will be back to my daily NHL picks. The not-so-hyped 2015 version of the Winter Classic at Nationals Park in Washington displayed some late heroics as Troy Brouwer buried the winner with just under 13 seconds left in regulation time to ring in the New Year with the first NHL victory of 2015. Although the game was not as anticipated as some Winter Classic’s of the past, the on-ice play was certainly entertaining and the late game drama was very fulfilling. Now we will look ahead to the ultra-competitive hockey that accompanies the calendar flip as teams prepare for the second half of the NHL season. Eight games are on the slate tonight so let’s get back in to the action and grab ourselves our first winners of 2015.
Tampa Bay Lightning @ Pittsburgh Penguins
My Pick – OVER 5.5 (+105)
The third and final meeting between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning takes place this evening with the teams sitting 1-2 in the Eastern Conference standings. The Lightning seek a fifth consecutive victory tonight against a Penguins team who has overcome all sorts of injuries and illnesses to remain one of the league’s top teams. The talent on this Penguins team is well documented and has them averaging almost 3 goals per game and a powerplay that clicks at 22%, but the talent and depth of this Lightning team is unbelievable. Have a look at the numbers on some of these kids playing for Tampa Bay and you will know what I mean. I say kids because most of these guys are in their first couple of years in the league and are already putting up numbers that rival some of the league’s best veterans. Tyler Johnson has 40 points in his second season in the NHL and that leads the Lightning and also sits ahead of the world’s best player in Sidney Crosby. Nikita Kucherov is on Steven Stamkos’ tail with 17 goals so far and the Lighting have four players with 30+ points this season. Every single line is a threat to score on this team and we certainly know Pittsburgh boasts some elite talent that is lethal, especially with the man advantage. Both teams have shown they can defend better than year’s past but let’s be honest, this game is not about defense. There will be plenty of scoring chances tonight and if either of these teams get in to penalty trouble, then this affair will turn in to a track meet. I will take the OVER 5.5 at this price all day long so let’s lock this play in and watch what should be a very entertaining game from the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
Montreal Canadiens @ New Jersey Devils
My Pick – OVER 5 (+115)
The first of three meetings between the Canadiens and Devils will be happening tonight in New Jersey as the red-hot Habs come in having won four in a row and seven of their last eight games. The Devils will turn to Keith Kincaid tonight for his fourth career NHL start to try and put a half to the Habs recent string of success. The Devils are just 2-6-3 over their last 11 contests and are still searching for an identity after ousting Pete DeBoer and replacing him with Adam Oates, Scott Stevens, and GM Lou Lamoriello. This game features Carey Price who has not let in more than two goals over his last seven starts and a Devils team that is known for a trap-style defense and limiting opposing chances. However, New Jersey still gives up 2.69 goals per game which isn’t horrible but it’s certainly not shutdown territory. Although they aren’t scoring much they do have a powerplay that sits at a very respectable 20% and their usually solid penalty kill sits at just 79.3% on the year. The Habs are certainly capable of scoring goals against a backup goaltender and my belief is that tonight they will indeed put pucks in behind Kincaid. With a low total of just 5 in this one, I really like the price we are getting here. All you really need with a total of 5 is a 2-1 game in the third period. That way a tying goal guarantees us at least a push and hopefully more. Going under a 5 total is just too dangerous and I believe the oddsmakers are getting a little carried away with the odds for this one. Let’s take the OVER for this game as well and cash in on a low total at a high price.